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July 26, 2007
To Rehire or Not to Rehire? That is the Question

By Susan Schoenfeld, JD
Senior Legal Editor

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Parting is such sweet sorrow--especially when it comes to a valued employee. But, when that employee calls you a year later and wants to come back, do you welcome her with open arms, or do you wonder if rehiring her is a good idea?

When Two Cents Is Worth a Lot

When the topic of whether to rehire came up on BLR's HR Forum recently, some forum members offered their two cents:

The first thing I would consider is why did they leave . . . if they took time off to get an advanced degree, or to travel, or for personal/family reasons, and they are fully prepared to return to the workforce, then why not? Former employees require significantly less training , and, if they were good employees in the past (which presumably they were since you want to rehire), then you are dealing with a known quantity -- a real bonus in this time of shortages in qualified candidates.

Another had this to say:

[T]hese days a lot of employees leave an employer only to return later. . . . [I]f the person was a good employee, how good was he or she?[W]ill your company benefit more by re- hiring the former employee (the main risk being he or she could leave again after a short period of time) or by hiring someone else (the risk being a bad hire and/or the employee leaving just as quickly as the former employee possibly would)?  [Y]ou should also look at what your company's retention efforts.  [W]hat will your company do to keep employees and get the most out of employees while they are there?

What Works with Rehires

So why are rehires so desirable? As an HR Forum member pointed out, the cost per hire is very low and little time or effort must be invested in getting to know the candidate. Rehires also bring back new skills and ideas for improving business strategy. Rehired employees may also be great advocates for the organization ­ ­ telling current employees what brought them back. They can also bring back important information about competitors and how business can be improved.

What Doesn't Work

Although the benefits of rehiring former employees are many, there are a few questions to consider before you make an offer:

  • Is the employee realistic about what the organization has to offer them, or are they harboring overly optimistic illusions that could lead them to disenchantment if rehired?
  • Is the employee being rehired in a different, better position, at a higher pay? If so, what will the reaction of former co-workers be if the employee is rehired?
  • Is the employee looking for a permanent position, to stay, or just to land somewhere familiar while looking for the next job?

As the workforce shrinks and finding qualified employees becomes harder and harder, remember that former employees provide a valuable talent pool. But before you dive in, check the water!

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