Human Resources News & Insights

Why you shouldn't rehire a quitter

A valuable employee resigns. A year or two passes, and he or she asks about an open position. Should you rehire this person?

No, says recruiting expert G.L. Hoffman of

His logic: Taking back an employee who quit tells other employees they can leave and keep your company as a safety net.

Of course, not all experts share the same opinion. There are several good reasons to re-hire a former employee — most importantly, the company will know what to expect from the person’s work. When candidates have a good track record and the skills you need, it may not be smart to punish them for leaving.

But some managers and HR pros worry about potential retention problems — if this person already left once for another employer, should you expect the same thing to happen again?

The best way to find out is to get the details on why people are leaving their current employer. They may have been fired and really are just using your company as a safety net. That person likely will only stick around until another opportunity arises.

What do you think? Has your company rehired employees who quit? Did it work out? Let us know your experience in the comments section below.

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  • We’ve hired many boomerangs with very good results. As you say, it’s all about why they left. Many times it was to take a promotion but they miss the culture of our organization so they return.

  • Pam

    Some of our best employees are re-hires. Most left because they thought the grass was greener elsewhere and found out that it wasn’t the case. We had one person who was begging for a job only one week after starting at the new place. She was lucky that we had an opening and she has been with us ever since. (we currently have 201 employees, and out of those, 18 are re-hires. We don’t regret re-hiring any of them)

    When employees are rehired we find that they are more committed to the company and very grateful for what they have. One note though, when they come back they start from scratch when it comes to benefits and perks. Their time worked starts from their new first day. When it comes time for things like 5 year and other anniversary celebrations (which include increasing monitary awards), we do not count their past time with us. If they had 10 years of previous employment with us and hit their new 5 year anniversary, they get the award for the 5 year and not the 15 year.

    With re-hires, you already know what what their work ethic is like, they already know the culture of your business and the training time is so much faster. If they were a good employee before and just left to explore other options, you would be crazy not to have them come back. Just don’t reward them by reinstating benefits. If you leave, even for a day, you can expect to start at the bottom again. 🙂

  • We have hired quite a few people that left on good terms and bad terms. I have yet to see one backfire. I thoroughly believe in understanding the reason they left and the reason they want to return. We don’t let them through the doorthe first time they know either. If someone one wants to return they have to contact me several times before I even consider discussing this option.

  • dritchie

    We have rehired a number of former employees and it has almost always worked out well. Sometimes they come back with additional skills and experience that makes them even more valuable than the first time around. And hiring someone who already knows the job and/or expectations can save a lot of time, energy, and potential frustration over hiring someone completely new.

  • Penny

    My husband left his company several years ago as we left to go to my home state due to ill grandparents. When we returned a couple years later he was rehired. I think rehiring should be dependent upon the circumstances.

  • Kris

    I’ve had good results re-hiring former employees. Sometimes they leave because they think the “grass is greener” somewhere else, then they realize how good they had it before and want to come back to something familiar. In that kind of situation, they’ll usually stay put. I actually returned to a company I had formerly left, and I was so glad to be back!

  • Mike

    In 30 years I’ve rehired many many employees who’ve left the company because I’ve found them to be the best hires. Many times they’ve been laid off or left through no fault of their own, family relocation or some similar situation. When they did resign some found that they had made a big mistake in the move they made and I was happy to get them back and those people were even more loyal to our company than before because the company showed compassion and loyalty to them. Someone else said it but in California everyone is ready to jump ship for a better opportunity. However, in an odd way the people who return have more loyalty and are less likely to bail out a 2nd time.

  • bsea

    There is a lot to be saved by re-hiring an former employee. They know your location, expectations, and hopefully already have the skillsets needed for the job. However, when we have an employee who continually quits and returns, at some point you have to say it isn’t worth your time. It does become a case by case situation and the employee truely is a large part of the decision making factor.

  • Randi G

    I am a rehire myself, and have been here 7 years this time around. I’ve moved up in the ranks and consider myself a good employee, with no intentions of leaving again. I think you shouldn’t make a blanket statement about this issue, that each company and each employee is different and should be evaluated on an individual basis.

  • We’ve had a few bad experiences, however most have been good in terms of re-hiring. You must consider the circumstances and I never fault an employee from trying to better himself. I always tell my new hires to leave on good terms. A notice is nice and a good exit interview is also a good idea. We board all rehire applications and get recommendations from the former supervisor, safety and plant manager with HR Director the final and deciding vote. This review process works for us and has reduced our turnover rate significantly.
    Yes, we can say that we know the re-hire appicant but it goes without saying that he also knows us as well and has a general idea of what to expect.

  • Anonymous

    You do have to look at the circumstances. Some of our best employees are ones that thought it was “greener on the other side of the fence” and after 6 months, they came back. When they did, it was almost a testimonial to “things aren’t always better elsewhere”. On the other hand… If someone (even a GREAT employee) either quits without notice OR they make a big deal to their coworkers about how glad they are to be leaving and how much they don’t like working here; you shouldn’t hire them back! (At least not until enough time has passed that they “mature” or their bridges with the company have time to “mend”.) This article states rehires that have been gone 1-2 years. That’s a long time. I’d think we’d even consider the “quit with no notice” employee if it was 2 years after the fact and circumstances have changed. (Assuming they were a good worker PRIOR to quitting…)

  • Mel

    I am not a fan of doing this and have seen it happen a few times at a former employer. It seems like they are always looking for a better deal. It’s hard to believe someone could have such specialized skills that no one else could fill the position. I think hiring managers go with a comfort level of familiarity rather than working to find another good fit.

  • wallofvoodoo

    I left a company because I was very underpaid for my position. At the time I took the job I was willing to take any job for any amount of money. Unfortunately the money came to a point where I couldn’t make ends meet. I went to a horrible company, job, boss. I always regretted leaving that job. I also wonder if that company ever would have seen my value & paid me what I was worth.

  • Lucy

    I don’t think there’s any cut and dry answer to this. I really has to be dependent on the circumstances of their departure as well as the employee. I once had a previous employee literally on bended knee begging to return to his position with the company but I refused to bring him back. While on the outside he appeared to be a stellar employee, his departure was an abandonment of his job. In addition, I heard through the grapevine that he was badmouthing the company. Had he not disappeared with no word and had he not spoken so poorly about the company, I probably would’ve brought him back. However, those two facts were the nails in his coffin.

  • Peggy

    We’ve re-hired many staff (including some who’ve resigned for a “better” position) and have rarely regretted the decision. We encourage staff to improve themselves and applaud those who have moved on to positions of more responsibility in other organizations. We’ve found that when they do return to us, they are coming back in supervisory positions with additional skills and happy to be back with us!

    Many of these returnees have stayed on until they retire.

    There are, of course, times when it is not appropriate to re-hire someone. In those instances it’s fairly obvious that it is not a good idea to bring someone back (they were unhappy in their previous job with us, it’s clear that we are a stop on the way to another position, their track record was not a good one, etc.).

    I agree that the decision to re-hire needs to be on a case-by-case basis.

  • Diane

    I think a company has to consider their location – our TN employees leave and come back much more frequently than our WA employees. I have been told it is part of the culture. In TN we try to limit the rehires but some of the employees really know our parts and we take them back as often as we can as long as they follow our procedures while they are working for us – this includes a two week notice (no notice, no rehire) For both our plants rehiring still depends greatly on how the employee left and like Lucy considered in her decision, how they talked about the company while they were gone.

  • We used to re-hire people who quit or were terminated until it became, as some above put it, a safety net. Now we CONSIDER re-hiring a person 12 months AFTER his/her termination, and then it has to be approved at upper mgmt level.

    If the ex-employee attempts to come back within the 12 month period, we say “Sorry.” If after that time, s/he must complete an application and, if the super of the dept is interested, go through an interview. Upper manager is then consulted. We look at the reasons for the original termination, what the person has been doing since, and whether the receiving super wants to take a chance. If upper mgmt approves, we extend an offer. They do start all over again, like a newbie off the streets. We do consider their work experience, as we do all applicants, when deciding salary.

  • michael

    From my experience it has good influence on other empoyees-returning means you chose to come back to the best alternative.
    It depends of course on the quality of the employee and the time he worked before(at least 3-4 years)

  • Retention in our business can be difficult, and we, along with our clients hate a revolving door. Although we have a certain number of employees leave for a variety of reasons, there are some that we welcome back with open arms, because we know their work ethic and skill level. The ones who have come back to us seeking employment have stated that they were always treated with respect and treated fairly by management. That even goes for those former employees who are not eligible for rehire because they have been terminated or quit without notice. Perhaps that is because we not only have an open communication policy – we practice it.

  • Lori

    Over the past several years, we’ve had more than a few employees leave and ask to return – usually they didn’t realize how good they had it with our healthcare company. Typically they miss the people, the culture, and the autonomy they had among other things. Some we’ve rehired and some we haven’t – it depends on the circumstances of their departure. If we were sorry to see them leave, sure we’ll hire them back in a heartbeat. But we’ll also have a conversation about why they left and returned and what our expectations are going forward. In general, the rehires have worked out very well – I can only recall one regretable situation.

  • We rehired a worker who left to raise her children. Now the children are in school during the day. This person is the same wonderful contributor now as she was 8 years ago and we are thrilled to have her back.

  • Loretta

    Our office has around 55 employees. 13 of those are rehires. Some left because they relocated and then returned. Some had what they thought were better job offers, and some left because of prior management. We have had many more who wanted to come back, but we only rehired those who did an excellent job the first time around. Sometimes a person has to try something else to realize how good they had it to begin with. This time, they truly appreciate the work environment they have here and they are some of our best employees.

  • SS

    I did the re-hire thing once. The company had gone through a buyout which wasn’t handled well. I left because I couldn’t abide by the shabby treatment of our employees and customers. After several months, the company asked me to come back. They had more or less hit rock bottom and were trying to rebuild. They knew & appreciated my skills and I knew exactly what to expect. It was a win-win. I stayed with them for another two years before moving out of state for family reasons.

    Each situation has to be addressed individually. The circumstances and reasons have to be right. Coming back to a former employer does have a little bit of that “I couldn’t make it on the outside” feel to it. That can be tough to overcome, for the employee and the company.

  • john

    I think that being an employer, in small community especially who does allot of rehiring is very dangerous. It gives off the imprecation that you are desperate and will take anyone that comes through the door even if that person has walked in and out of that door before. Sure they might have the skills that it took to do the job when they left but companies evolve and change everyday. I have rehired people that stay a week and they say I just can’t handle working here because things are so different. However no applicant should be turned away without consideration. After all, this person took enough time to consider your company. The way they leave and the attitude they come back with is everything. If a former returns as an applicant, with the attitude that you would be lucky to have them back. Watch out there not worth rehiring!

  • Doug

    It depends on which side of the fence you are looking. There are valid reasons for leaving, and again for returning (like “Your company is such a great place to work, I would work there free.”)
    I would consider returning to a former employer – it was that great of a place to work.
    So often, we don’t really understand why people leave. Each case should be considered on the merit of their history/experience and the potential contribution.

  • Tonia Porter

    trying to make this rehire decision right now. will post later how it goes.