As it becomes clear that rehiring former employees is effective both in cost and in time-to-effectiveness, recruiters begin to wonder how do we know which former employees are best for the job?

After all, it’s well-documented that, when attempting to rehire certain groups of former employees–those who were fired or laid off, for example–businesses run the risk of bringing on negativity and resentment both from those boomeranged employees were let go and those who’ve stayed with the organization and see their former peers jumping ahead of them in the promotion structure.

But, that said, if you’re able to pick the right former employee–one who has a good report with other employees, who doesn’t harbor resentment, and who’s grown since they’ve left–you’re able to jump right over the lengthy on-boarding time and potential culture misfits, and bring highly effective, already-integrated employees to your workforce.

You just have to know how to do it.

And that can be the problem: after all, if you’re part of any business of any substantial size, tracking every single employee that leaves can be an enormous, time-consuming task. Yes, there are tools that make it easier to track your employees and to foster a strong alumni network, but even still, you can’t track every single former employee.

Instead, constructing an exit-score, something that will allow you to identify desirable employees you’d like engage in potential rehire, will allow you to target potential rehires, maintain strong relationships with them, and, when the fit is right, bring them back in with ease.

How to Evaluate Exiting Employees for Rehire

The first thing I want to make clear is that this is a living document. Though I’ve constructed a framework below, we need your feedback on refining it, identifying the most effective tools, and really making this a useful tool for HR going forward.

Tools for Evaluation

  • Reason for leaving: Understanding why an employee is leaving is paramount in deciding whether or not they’re willing to return / will return effectively. But marking this on a scale of 1-5, 1 being angry/ready to get out and 5 being a better opportunity came along isn’t going to cut it. If the employee is angry, you need to understand what brought them to the point, what would need to change for them to be happy, etc. Similarly, if a better opportunity came along, you’d want to understand why they didn’t feel that opportunity was available with your business. It’s not always the case that the most enthusiastic exiting employees are the ones you want back. It’s often the case that those who’re angriest are most invested in the company and feel that things need to change.
  • Employee Growth Track: Though it’s true that some people will up-and-change careers, it’s not terribly difficult to predict the career track of a particular employee, exiting or not. Within each specialization, there are only so many ways an employee can go, and it’s often easy to determine the route they’ll take by the tasks they most emphasized while working with you. A short interview about job tasks with both the employee and their supervisors will help you predict how that employee will grow and, given that, the future of your business, and the changing demands associated in a largely digital business landscape will make it evident whether this employee’s most probably career track is something that will be valuable for your business. Then, use a tool like CircleBack for Business to track that employee’s career changes and, when they get where you need them to be, pounce.
  • Contact Network Strength: Though we don’t like to admit it (or maybe we do), a well-connected employee is more valuable to our business than a less-connected one. Contact network strength is often a strong indicator of how seriously one takes their career and, of course, is useful to businesses when running cross-promotions, launching partnerships, and generally maintaining B2B relations. Unfortunately, this bit of data can be difficult to uncover. Currently, no tools exist to demonstrate network strength (aside from LinkedIn, which cuts it off at 500+ and allows users to hide their connections from others), and the process can be very manual. It’s for this reason that having smaller pool of former employees you’re tracking is vital; otherwise, this can literally become your job. Right now, you’ll track this by searching LinkedIn, speaking with that employee’s colleagues, and reaching out to any shared connections between the two of you.
  • Peer Relations/Culture Fit: Obvious is the fact that you don’t want to bring back an employee who wasn’t a good fit the first time around, or who’s made a lot of enemies. Discuss with colleagues, managers, whoever’s worked with your exiting employee to get a good sense of whether or not bringing someone back will be disruptive to the culture that’s been fostered since they left. Does their attitude fit the new team dynamic? Does they joke around in a way that’s conducive to the staff you have on hand?
  • Goal Alignment: It may be obvious that an ex-employee is a good fit, but what about their goals? And how they mesh with yours? When bringing back a former employee to fill a new role, it’s important to know that goals are aligned; otherwise, you’ll soon be looking to fill this particular position again. While some of this can be determined in a quick interview with the candidate (and, of course, I encourage you to do that too!), you can also make these judgments based on where they’ve worked (and in what capacity) since they left. Are they climbing quickly through a variety of startups? Really digging into to a particular element of their job? Can your business support the kind of growth they’re looking for?

The Bottom Line

It’s difficult knowing whether it’s worth while to try and catch a boomeranging employee, but by knowing a bit about where they’ve been–their goals, their career path, their contact network– and how they were when with you–were they happy? a good fit?–you can make a fairly informed decision.

If the above is useful to you, or if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments. With your feedback, CircleBack plans to develop an accurate scoring system (complete with printable forms) that can be implemented into your HR process and allow you to easily determine / track former employees you’d like to get back!

In the meantime, use the CircleBack app for iOS or Android to keep you informed about major job changes of any potential rehires you’re connected to. In additional to keeping your address book clean, complete, and updated, CircleBack lets you know when major changes occur and when might be a good time to reach out.   

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