9 questions to ask before you rehire an employee

He cleaned out his cubicle and went through an exit interview. Now, after three weeks (or three months or three years . . .) this former employee wants to return to your organization. Should you be welcoming or apprehensive?

Before thoroughly thinking about whether or not rehiring this person is in the organization’s best interest, start by figuring out the ex-employee’s status. The case may be closed from the get-go. Not all former workers are eligible to return. Company policies often prohibit rehiring individuals who failed to provide two weeks notice before leaving. Likewise, human resources usually slaps a “no rehire” label on the file of someone fired for stealing, cheating, bullying, harassing, or other serious misconduct.

Once you establish that the job seeker meets the qualifications of your rehire policy – perhaps because of an involuntary layoff during downsizing or because she was in good standing when she voluntarily quit to pursue a different job – the matter moves to pondering if you want the person back. Just because someone is available to hire does not automatically mean the company should extend a job offer. Rather, it pays to explore answers to these nine questions:

1. Was the person good at the job?

Are you looking at top talent or a former worker who failed to generate much excitement the first time around? Bringing back a superstar could enrich your staff. But in the latter case, passing on someone with previously mediocre or poor performance may be preferable unless really pressed to fill openings or truly seeing evidence that the applicant has acquired new skills or otherwise improved since the initial go-around. Examine past annual reviews if your memory needs jogging.

2. Why did this employee leave?

Someone who quit to move in with his fiancée who lives 200 miles from your office but now is back in town because she jilted him at the altar presents a far different scenario than someone who discovered after a month that working for your competitor down the street at Company XYZ isn’t his cup of tea. The factors surrounding why the person left in the first place can play a significant role in the decision to rehire.

Interview Bootcamp D

A word to the wise: Be leery when an ex-employee comes crawling back quickly with claims that her other job “fell through.” While this situation could have legitimate reasons that have nothing to do with the worker, the possibility also exists that the person failed a drug test or had something disturbing revealed during a background check. Do your own investigation before rehiring.

Similarly, proceed with caution if a fired employee comes back down the line with claims that she has changed. Consider the offenses, and look for evidence of improvement. It is possible that a person let go for always being on her phone or constantly coming in late may have matured over time. How does her level of professionalism seem now?

3. How did this employee leave?

Departing employees sometimes “go out with a bang.” They publicly air their grievances, tell off a co-worker, or otherwise burn bridges. A hiring manager really needs to think hard about allowing back someone who acted this way. A return may cause tensions between team members. It also may make staff members question the organization’s integrity.

4 How has the department been without this person there?

Some employees enrich company culture. Others contribute to a negative environment. Think about whether or not the workplace atmosphere changed after this person left. For instance, if gossip subsided or morale improved, his absence may have led to these positive developments. Be cautious about disrupting this better status quo.

5. Are you willing to take the chance that the person will leave again?

Many managers rightly express concern that employees who seek their old job may simply be biding their time until the next promising opportunity comes along. The person sheepishly claiming to have made a mistake by leaving may still be scouring the job boards after being rehired by you. After all, the reasons why he sought alternate employment in the first place likely still exist. (And, sitting down to address those concerns before rehiring might be in everyone’s best interests.)

On the other hand, many managers rationalize that job hopping is commonplace among the modern workforce. A new hire may leave at some point, but so may his colleague two cubicles down. If applicants are hard to come by or this former employee added value during his first stint, the risk may be worth taking.

6. Could rehiring this person solve staffing issues?

Especially if your organization is experiencing difficulty with talent acquisition, the return of a former employee might prove a godsend. Already familiar with company culture and procedures, onboarding should take less time. Having someone who can quickly get up to speed enhances productivity and can ease burdens experienced by overtaxed current workers. Cutting recruiting time and costs is another benefit.

7. Do you have an open position?

When the employee left, perhaps you promoted someone from within to her position. Or, maybe you decided to redistribute tasks among staff and eliminate that role. When an ex-staff member inquires about coming back, don’t get far into the rehiring process without critical examination of whether or not a place to return to actually exists.

8. Does the person fit your current vision of the position?

Companies change their objectives over time. Even if the former employee’s role (or a similar one) is available, its job description may have evolved since the person last stepped foot in the door. Skills that initially got the person hired may no longer seem as attractive. Perhaps extra tech abilities are desirable or some supervisory duties are now among the responsibilities. How does her current resume match up?

Or, maybe you simply would like some “new blood” that could bring fresh perspectives to the table. You are under no obligation to rehire and might want to examine your options from the candidate pool. Find the best match for where the organization wants to go, not where it has been.

9. Do the two of you agree on terms of rehiring?

Finally, if you do get to the point of wanting to rehire a former employee, lay out exactly what returning means. Will the responsibilities be the same? Is there a probationary period? How are things like seniority, vacation time, and benefits eligibility handled? What new training needs completion? The rehired employee may expect to resume like she never left. The company may have other ideas. Better to get on the same page from the start or to part ways if both sides cannot agree on terms.