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6 interview questions for boomerang employees

An interview with a boomerang employee requires some extra questions to determine if they'll be a good fit now. Learn what to ask boomerang employees.

Some HR leaders and managers are recognizing that former employees are one of the best "new" sources of talent.

Indeed, boomerang employees -- workers who leave but return to the company -- offer a number of benefits. However, HR leaders should make sure the employee is a good fit for the current company culture before moving forward with a hire. One important way to determine that is to encourage the hiring manager and the employee's potential new manager to ask the right questions during the job interview.

Interview questions for boomerang employees

The hiring manager and potential future managers who interview the boomerang employee can ask some of the same questions they would ask a new hire. But interviewing a former employee requires some extra consideration to make sure their transition back into the company would be as seamless as possible.

Here are six interview questions for boomerang employees as well as some best practices for onboarding boomerang employees.

1. What are you expecting when you come back?

The hiring manager or employee supervisor conducting the interview should evaluate whether the boomerang employee has realistic expectations about returning to the organization.

Boomerang employees may view their time at the company with nostalgia or hope for a hero's welcome, said Kristopher Potrafka, vice president of human resources at Ambiq, an electronics manufacturer located in Austin, Texas.

"We've had boomerangs come back and get frustrated, because it's not the same way of working," he said.

2. What is your long-term goal?

This question can give insight into whether the boomerang employee views their return to the company as a temporary one.

"You have to be careful because if they left the first time around, would they leave the second time around as well?" said Nick Shah, CEO of Peterson Technology Partners, an IT technology recruiting firm located in Park Ridge, Ill.

Asking this question can help determine if the boomerang employee will commit long-term, he said.

You have to be careful because, if they left the first time around, would they leave the second time around as well?
Nick ShahCEO of Peterson Technology Partners

3. What have you learned in the time you've been away?

One potential advantage of hiring a boomerang employee is that they've likely upskilled in the time they've worked for another company.

The boomerang employee's answer to this question can reveal how they've grown as a worker and any potential new value they'll bring with them, said Robin Schooling, director of talent strategy at Humareso, an HR consultancy located in Vero Beach, Fla.

4. How do you plan to reintegrate into our company?

Bringing back a former employee can potentially be awkward. Employees who have stayed on at the company while a boomerang employee left, then came back, may feel unhappy about the decision.

Asking how a boomerang employee plans to reintegrate into the company culture may help prevent problems, Potrafka said.

During this portion of the interview, the hiring manager or employee's potential manager could give the boomerang employee insight into current team dynamics to help them answer this question. For example, the head of the employee's potential new team could say something like, "Since you left, Donna has taken on a managing role, so team dynamics have changed somewhat."

5. Have you kept in touch with any of your old team members?

The boomerang employee continuing to communicate with their former co-workers could be a positive sign for their coming back on board.

Asking this question can reveal whether the boomerang employee is still attuned to the company's culture, Shah said. Team dynamics may have changed as people rise through the ranks or leave the company, but if the boomerang employee is talking regularly with their former co-workers, they may already have learned about this and still want to return.

6. Would you consider returning on a temporary or consultant basis?

Bringing a boomerang employee back for a short period of time or as a consultant could be a good way to see if the employee is still a good fit.

Shah's company found success with bringing back a former employee as a contractor first, then hiring them full-time, he said.

Best practices for onboarding boomerang employees

Once the company has determined that the boomerang employee is a good fit, it will need to onboard them. Before that happens, the onboarding team should keep these key considerations in mind.

Review company policies for boomerang employees

Since some companies used to forbid employees from returning, HR staff may need to reexamine company policies to make sure they align with the reality of employees with two separate company tenures.

For example, HR may need to review rules for how to determine an employee's length of service, accrued PTO and benefits eligibility, Schooling said.

Provide the same messaging to all candidates and hires

While onboarding boomerang employees may be easier because they already know the company, returning employees shouldn't get special treatment. For example, a boomerang employee should still receive all the same information about organizational values rather than HR staff assuming they know it already.

Ideally, HR staff should provide the same messaging to boomerang employees and new hires, Schooling said.

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