Boomerang Recruiting — Bring Back the Stars Who You Let Get Away

You could reduce the pain from today’s record turnover by getting some of your very best to return. And that’s often possible because 72 percent of past employees would return to the company if the opportunity arose and almost one quarter regret their decision to leave. And because the top reason for their regret is that “they miss their boss and their coworkers.” A simple call from a former manager or colleague urging them to consider coming back may be enough to stimulate a boomerang rehire.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a potential boomerang is a desirable former employee who is proactively courted to return by a former manager or employee. This recruiting source has become even more viable today (it is currently the No. 2 trending topic on Because there are so many more former employees to target, now that the median employee tenure is now down to only 4.2 years. 

The Many Advantages of Boomerang Recruiting

All organizations should have a systematic boomerang re-hire program. First, my research has found that they’re often the N0. 2 quality hire from all sources. These former employees result in quality hires because you only target the best performers to return. As former employees, they are known quantities. You know what to expect in terms of their on-the-job performance and cultural fit.

They also now have more experience and they bring with them best practices from their previous company. And, their experience with your firm means that once on board, they will get up to speed much faster than any other hire. Since they already know and like your firm, they usually can be rehired quickly without a lot of recruiting effort. They’ve already learned that working outside your firm is no panacea. Once they return, it is unlikely that they will leave again anytime soon. Known as “corporate alumni,” maintaining a relationship with former employees may provide the added bonus of having them provide a significant number of customer referrals on the business side.

Why Is Boomerang Recruiting So Hot?

Today’s leaders have an increasing interest in boomerang rehires for a variety of reasons. The first is as that more firms now measure their quality of hire; they quickly realize the impact of the source. Next, because of the current record-low unemployment rate, the number of available passive prospects from other sources has plummeted. And because of the increasing popularity of LinkedIn profiles, it’s now extremely easy to learn where each of your ex-employees ended up by using the LinkedIn group tool. If you get their permission during “offboarding,” it’s now inexpensive and easy to create a “boomerang prospect pipeline.” Maintain a “someday you might want to return” relationship with your most-desirable former employees.

Incidentally, boomerangs work especially well with diverse ex-employees. Numerous companies like Deloitte, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, EY, SAP, Booz Allen, McKinsey, Bain, and especially DaVita have successfully used some variation of the program. There are even vendors (e.g. Conenza) that can help your company build and manage their alumni networks.

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Final Thoughts 

If you’re looking for a source that is inexpensive, fast, and that produces dependable quality hires, look no further than boomerang rehires. Boomerangs are a win-win opportunity and literally “the lowest-hanging fruit” in recruiting. A well-designed program can generate as many as 17 percent of all hires. If you need more details on how a boomerang program works, read this. 


Author’s Note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, follow or connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to the ERE Daily, and hear me and others speak at ERE’s Recruiting Conference in October in Washington, D.C.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.