When the labor market gets tight and skilled candidates for employment are scarce, employers often wonder whether they should rehire former employees. No perfect answer exists to this question.

The correct answer depends upon the circumstances of each situation. This article outlines the pros and cons of rehiring former employees and some practical steps if you ultimately decide to rehire a former employee.

Before diving into the pros and cons of rehiring a former employee, you must realize that the reason the employee left the company’s employ is critical to this analysis.

Some of the good reasons an employee left an employer in the past may include: going back to school, joining the armed forces, relocating with a spouse or to care for an ill relative, accepting a promotion or significantly more compensation or even just improving a difficult commute. Employees who left under these or similar circumstances probably should not be barred from returning to work for the employer.

On the other hand, employees who left under "bad" or questionable circumstances should not generally be considered for rehire. Some of the "bad" reasons for leaving may include termination by the employer for misconduct, poor performance or some other "cause."

Similarly, if the employee was disgruntled or unhappy or if the employment came to an end based on a mutual agreement to part company because “things just weren’t working out,” rehiring the employee may not be such a good idea.

Assuming that the reason employment ended in the past is not a reason to disqualify a former employee from consideration, other pros and cons still need to be considered.

Pros: Reasons to Rehire a Former Employee

Many good reasons may exist for rehiring a former employee who left under good circumstances. From the employer’s perspective, the search process may be cut short if you know a former employee is available.

Moreover, a former employee is presumably a "known" quantity. The employer knows — or at least thinks it knows — what skills, attitude, work ethic and other traits the former employee brings to the workplace.

The former employee should already be familiar with the employer’s systems, procedures, people, customers, culture, etc. That familiarity would seem to allow the employer to shorten the orientation or the learning curve of the returning employee.

The returning employee may also have acquired skills or experience that inure to the benefit of the employer. For example, the employee may have acquired additional training, education or degrees. The returning employee may also have enjoyed promotions in another organization that enhance the ability to contribute to the past employer.

The returning former employee may have seen "life on the outside" and realize that the "grass outside is not always greener." Thus, the returning employee may be more appreciative and compliant with the employer’s rules and procedures.

Similarly, the returning employee may realize that every workplace has some problems and the problems of the new workplace are no different and not nearly so dramatic. All of these benefits of having been "outside" may result in the returning employee actually being more loyal than long time employees who have not been on the "outside" for many years.

Cons: Reasons Not to Rehire a Former Employee

Many reasons may also exist that warrant not rehiring a former employee, even if that employee left on good terms. Because of these reasons, some employers historically maintained a strict “no rehire” policy, either in writing or just as a longstanding practice.

Some of the reasons for not rehiring a former employee include a realization that the employee already left the employer in the past. One may conclude that the employee was unhappy or unsatisfied in the past and therefore the employee may be more likely to feel that way in the future. Similarly, one could conclude that the former employee may not be as loyal or likely to become a long-term employee as other employees who stayed through rough times and persevered with the employer.

Other employers have tried in the past to rehire former employees only to have the former employee leave again and they don’t want to repeat that cycle.

Some employers who refuse to rehire a former employee may even want to send a message to current employees that if you leave here, you can never return. Theoretically, they believe this message reduces their turnover.

Some Considerations if You Decide to Rehire a Former Employee

If you decide to take the risk of rehiring a former employee, consider taking the following actions to increase the likelihood of success:

  • Closely examine the reason for the employee’s departure from the organization last time. Make sure you understand all of the dynamics and circumstances.
  • Follow your normal hiring procedures. In other words, don’t assume you know everything about the returning employee and short circuit your normal vetting procedures.
  • Fully explain and define the role or position so that the returning employee knows what will be expected. Don’t just assume the returning employee automatically knows the role or how it may have changed since he or she left the organization.
  • Go through your normal orientation and new hire training. Procedures or policies may have changed since the employee left or the returning employee may just need a refresher. Either way, it will not be time wasted!
  • Communicate the positive aspects of the employee’s return to other employees. Give the returning employee help to succeed within your organization.
  • Make sure you update the returning employee about relevant changes that have occurred since his or her departure. In addition to policies, this update may include orientation to new goals, systems, people, customers, etc.
  • Follow up with and monitor the progress of the returning employee to make sure he or she is properly acclimating to the return.


Rehiring a former employer may make good business sense under the right circumstances. However, rehiring a former employee is not always a good idea. In fact, if you have any doubts about a particular individual, the best choice might be to say, "no thanks."

In any case, employers should carefully evaluate the pros and cons of rehiring former employer under the circumstances of each situation.