The Complete Guide To PDQ Boomerang Re-Recruiting – Getting Recent Quits To Return

PDQ boomerang re-recruiting is the most powerful undiscovered opportunity in all recruiting.

I find that to be true because 72% of the employees surveyed in 2022 said the position or company was “very different” from what they were led to believe during the hiring process. And 48% said would try to get their old job back if they felt that they were misled. So it makes sense to immediately re-recruit your disenchantment departed top talent. I call this powerful approach PDQ boomerang re-recruiting. It focuses on re-recruiting top performers who recently quit but suddenly suffer from “buyer’s remorse.” 

That remorse is widespread. The likelihood of success from this program is extremely high because an even greater number of departed employees, an amazing 72%, said that they would return to their company if the opportunity arose. The areas of disenchantment discovered in the survey were in descending order, employee morale, job responsibilities, work hours, the boss’s personality, career advancement, senior leadership competence, salary, and company culture. 

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Imagine If You Could Get A Majority Of Your Top Performers Back? 

Unfortunately, most in recruiting are not aware of their high rate of unhappiness during the first 90 days of their new job. And because today’s job disenchantment and the willingness to summarily quit have never been higher. A company might quickly recruit a majority of its recently lost top performers.

This PDQ re-recruiting approach (where PDQ stands for Pretty Damn Quick) is especially impactful because it improves recruiting. However, during these record turnover times, it also lowers turnover (rehiring the departed lowers your turnover rate). Program success primarily requires only keeping in touch with your recently departed and learning when they become disillusioned and frustrated.

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Its Many Advantages, Makes Boomerang Rehires The #2 Highest Quality Hire 

There are numerous reasons why you should develop a formal effort to quickly re-recruit top employees. Some of those powerful reasons include:

  • The rehired are better performers – because you are only targeting departing employees that have recently performed well. You won’t be surprised to learn that one major international conglomerate found that Boomerang rehires measurably better performers than the average recruit.
  • The rehired get up to speed quickly because they already know the organization and its culture. They don’t need any onboarding. And they will get “up to speed” faster than traditional new hires that have to learn new politics, culture, and processes. And because they were previously members of the team, the manager won’t have to spend any time training, acclimating them, and getting them up to speed.
  • Their skills and fit are known because they were a top-performing employee within their last days. You know in advance that they will produce because they have current top-level skills, competencies, and fit.
  • They have a low failure rate – returning top talent are “safe hires” with a much lower chance of failing. Because you already know their performance capabilities and their ability to produce results. Since they have now learned that the “grass is not greener on the other side.” They are much less likely to leave again.
  • There is a short time to hire – they offer an opportunity to acquire a top person you already know quickly. The search and the assessment take little time, and you don’t have to fight to match counteroffers. In addition, the position won’t be open for very many days, so there is less lost team productivity.
  • After their return, they might help discourage others from leaving – these returnees have already seen the “color of the grass” at another company. They may be able to help in your retention effort because they will spread “negative stories” to other employees about “life on the outside.”
  • Their return might also have a PR value a high immediate return rate among notable employees might improve your employer brand image and secure good PR in the industry and community.

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A Quick Example – Buyer’s Remorse May Be Triggered In A Single Day 

Years earlier, I was an angel investor for a startup led by Brian. He was an innovative genius, so he started a new job at a growing Silicon Valley tech company. I naturally called him and asked how he was doing. He enthusiastically responded that everything was great. And that he had a highly innovative team, and he couldn’t be happier. Literally, a week later, I had to call on another matter. Instinctively I repeated my “how’s it going” question. Well, you can imagine my shock when he answered in a direct and serious tone. He was “experiencing buyer’s remorse” about his new job and that he had just quit. His decision shocked me. But he explained that he had just heard today from senior executives that his team was to receive “a zero-budget increase” next year.

Being a state employee used to budget cuts, I asked him how much they had cut his budget. He quickly corrected me and noted that they didn’t cut anything. They are just not giving him any additional funding. He further explained most logically with no concern about his security. He was hired to innovate and lead the industry. It was laughable to expect him to do that without significant additional funding each and every year. The lesson to be learned is that buyer’s remorse can arise almost instantly for top performers with high expectations. So the smart companies keep in touch with the recently resigned employee so that it’s easy for them to seize the opportunity with an offer to return home! 

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There Are Many Reasons Why Top Talent May Be Willing To Return Immediately

Many managers are reluctant to re-recruit departed top employees because they don’t fully understand how these former employees can quickly become disillusioned with their new job. This disillusionment is strong because almost ¼ of those that quit later regret their decision to leave. Here is a list of the eight most powerful reasons why recently departed top talent may be willing to return almost immediately.

  • The job isn’t close to what was promised given the intense battle for top talent, some recruiters and hiring managers tend to oversell important jobs. However, in other cases, without knowing why the person they are replacing left. The former employee may be moving into a shitty situation that will take months of extremely hard work to improve (i.e., no budget, hiring freezes, high turnover, or boss micromanages). In many cases, an outside person had to be chosen because no one inside the firm that could do the job would want this job. Finally, among the eight factors that were most misrepresented, two were a complete surprise. They were employee morale and the boss’s personality. Since these two factors are seldom discussed with candidates, recruiters need to be aware that they should provide accurate information on them to their finalist candidates.
  • They underestimated how much they would miss their team – top performers usually love the team and colleagues that aided them in becoming so successful. However, most assume that they can get over the remorse of missing their boss, the team, close colleagues, and their friends. After they experience the discomfort of separation, remorse for abandoning their invested commitment, and that they have let their team down, the former employee may quickly begin regretting their decision to leave.
  • Many fundamental things have likely changed – because the recruiting process and the employee’s two weeks’ notice will take up so much time. In a volatile VUCA world, many foundation things will have likely changed about the job, the new company, or the business environment. These changes might include the CEO leaving, the stock crashing, a return to office policy, a major ethical scandal, or their new boss’s departure. Unfortunately, the former employee may not fully know about or understand the impact of these major foundation changes. It will be too late to reverse their decision until they start their new job. 
  • Almost every departing employee experiences buyer’s remorse – even when they make a good choice to move. Many departing employees still experience buyer’s remorse. And as a result, they will begin worrying about whether they made a mistake even before they depart. That remorse will likely increase dramatically if the new job and the situation isn’t close to what was promised. Of course, managers should take advantage of this anxiety. To get them to reconsider leaving before they make their final decision or consider returning after the decision has been made. 
  • Their onboarding experience was their first factor to trigger their concerns – a disappointing onboarding experience may be enough to raise serious concerns about their decision to accept this job. For example, most are instantly disillusioned when their boss doesn’t greet them in person on their first day. And of course, many top performers will see this weak onboarding as “an early warning sign” of many upcoming negatives at their new firm. This one early warning sign may begin to make them open to returning.
  • Once they resign, their former manager may suddenly regret losing them – most managers have large egos (I don’t know why I say most when there are almost no exceptions). And because of their ego, most managers assume that they will easily be able to handle the repercussions caused by the departure of any employee. However, after a top person has been gone for a while (even during their 2 weeks’ notice period), the manager may change their mind and decide that they want/need this person back. And that sudden intense regret will likely increase a manager’s willingness to reach out and re-recruit them. 
  • Any relocation problems may raise serious concerns – in the cases where the new job requires the physical relocation of the new employee and their family. Everyone knows that many things can go wrong during the planning and the execution of the move (i.e., the children resist it, high housing prices, or bad schools). That unanticipated discomfort and uncertainty may cause the former employee and their family to question their decision to move to a new geography. In an international assignment, the odds of disenchantment will increase dramatically.
  • The former employee may not enjoy retirement – for those employees that took early or regular retirement. It’s not unusual for them to realize that they can’t handle the boredom and the repetition of retirement in a few months. So if they are approached, they may be willing to return on a full or part-time basis. 

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The Sabbatical Story – A Compelling Way To Treat Departing Top Employees

When I was Chief Talent Officer years ago, I sat in on the exit interview of one of our top employees. I was completely surprised when I heard our manager instantly correct the departing employee (after she stated desire to quit). The manager interjected instantly and loudly with the phrase, “No, you aren’t quitting. You’re just going on a sabbatical.” The puzzled departing employee then quickly blurted out, “But you don’t understand, I’m quitting.” 

The manager then quickly explained that our research discovered that everyone who left our company for a new firm had, almost immediately, become disillusioned. So just in case this disillusionment also happened to her, her manager was informally treating her departure as “a sabbatical” (we had no sabbatical program). And that if she became disillusioned, she could instantly return within 30 days, with no questions asked (she did return). The lesson to be learned here is don’t wait for 6 to 12 months to start your boomerang rehiring pitch. Instead, highly desirable employees make it part of their exit interview process. 

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Recommended Actions For Developing A Successful PDQ Re-Recruiting Program

Some re-recruiting targets may be willing to return with an informal effort. But in most situations, a formal PDQ re-recruiting process will be required. So if you want a formal program, below you will find many action steps that will help lead you in the right direction. 

  • Focus PDQ efforts on top performers, diverse and key talent – to ensure high-performing PDQ re-recruits and save manager and recruiter time, I strongly recommend that you limit your PDQ boomerang efforts to top performers, the diverse and those that work in mission-critical jobs. In some cases, it may be a good idea to require HR approval before the program can start re-recruiting a particular targeted former employee. In addition, every company should have a standard boomerang rehiring process that keeps in touch long-term with all above average corporate alumni.
  • Start re-recruiting during the exit interview – it’s a mistake to begin re-recruiting after they have departed. Instead, immediately if you expect that top employee is looking. Write up and present a compelling argument covering why they should stop their external job search if you fail in that effort. During their exit interview, tell each targeted employee that you would like them to consider returning at any point. Finally, ask for their permission to contact them after their departure.
  • Find out what each target would need to accept your return offer – when you’re sculpting your “return to us” offer. It makes sense that you directly ask each candidate specifically what they need to return. 
  • Appoint someone to assess each departed’s job situation periodically – the whole PDQ re-recruiting process works better if you have accurate and up-to-date information about the departed employee’s disenchantment. You can strengthen that knowledge-gathering process by assigning a “keep in touch person” who might be a friend of the employee, a recruiter, or a close colleague. The first call/contact should be to wish them luck on their first day at the new job. And then, the assigned employee should continually keep in touch at least once a month during their first 90 days on their new job.
  • Have a recruiter call whenever a major negative event occurs at a poaching company – if you’re losing a significant number of employees as a result of poaching from a specific company. Have a recruiter contact all recently departed employees that work at this poaching company. Specifically on the days surrounding a major negative event at their company (i.e., a stock crash, product failure, a merger/lay off, or the CEO’s departure). These negative events will increase your recent former employees’ chances of wanting to boomerang back.
  • Utilize the “best days” to execute PDQ re-recruiting contacts – everyone involved should realize that there are “best days” to make re-recruiting attempts with a targeted employee. Those days include their last day at your company, two days before they start their new job, the day that they begin their new job, and the Friday afternoon of their first week. This last time is particularly important. Research has shown that a large percentage of new hires realize how much they are already totally disenchanted. On Friday afternoon, they are contemplating what happened to them during their first week. 
  • Keep a list of your Boomerang returning employees – have recruiting compile and update a list of the employees that have boomeranged back to your company. And have everyone use those numbers and examples when re-recruiting other former employees. It may also be helpful during retention efforts.
  • You may have to designate a PDQ boomerang recruiter – many managers don’t excel at PDQ recruiting. HR may decide that they need to designate and train a recruiter that specializes in PDQ re-recruiting. Then recruiters should be recognized and rewarded for both the quality and the quality of PDQ returnees. 
  • Get everyone on the team to participate in boomerang re-recruiting – you want the designated “keep in touch person” and their former manager to periodically contact their target former top performer. But it’s a good idea to get every employee (from team members down to benefits admin) to agree to help if a former top performer contacts them or meets them at an event. That help should include letting the targeted employee know how much they are genuinely missed and needed.
  • Consider giving them a “return home pass” – if you find that your boomerang targets are uncertain about your verbal promises concerning the return. Consider giving them a 30/60/90 day “return home pass.” This lets them formally know that you will have a job for them (which may be the same, similar, or a better job). 
  • Proactively act to minimize future turnover – and finally, PDQ re-recruiting recruiting focuses on former employees. It also makes sense for the HR function to take actions to prevent any of your other employees from wanting to depart to the companies that have hired your employees away. Those retention actions might include putting together and widely sharing a compelling negative story covering why your employees shouldn’t even consider going to the same firms. Also requiring “stay interviews” for all highly desirable employees would be an excellent idea. Finally, consider shifting to delayed post-exit interviews, which provide more accurate “reasons for leaving” answers to why your top employees left than the standard exit interview process.

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You May Also Encounter A Few Problems 

Three of the most commonly occurring problems you should anticipate are listed below.

  • Some managers may label the resigning as disloyal – managers have large egos, and the departure of a top employee will genuinely hurt some. This may turn into anger and labeling each departed employee as either “a traitor or disloyal.” And this negative label may have to be overcome before a manager will even agree to consider the PDQ re-recruiting anyone.
  • A few roadblocks will slow their return – if any top performers left because of real job concerns. Their issues or problems will likely have to be addressed before they consider returning. One roadblock may be that their former manager will want them to admit that they made a mistake when they decided to leave. And when the employee wasn’t happy when they left. Their former manager may have to be willing to mend fences and reach out to them personally and ask them to return. In other cases, past problems with the team will have to be fixed. For some former employees, the ability to maintain their years of service and retirement and seniority issues will have to be resolved in cases where they departed primarily for more money or a promotion. The manager must decide in advance if they are willing to come close to “matching” the other firm’s offer. And yes, you may think that a few other employees may attempt to “play the manager.” Quitting in the hopes of getting a bump when they return. However, in practice, this rarely happens.
  • Expect some general resistance to PDQ re-recruiting – you may be surprised to find that your company may even have an HR policy restricting the rehiring of former employees. In almost every conservative firm, some business and HR executives will completely resist the concept of re-recruiting. They consider those that left “disloyal traitors.” This is difficult to overcome. However, you can seek out the more understanding employees’ managers who quit as years out of date. 

If you can only do one thing – simply try a pilot on one of your former top employees to prove that the PDQ recruiting concept does work at your company. Alternatively, ask one of your well-liked managers to survey each of the top performers that left your company during the last year. Have them simply ask each former employee a simple question. “Would you have seriously considered a counteroffer to return during your first 6 months after you left us?”. If the yes percentage is more than 25%, you should institute a companywide PDQ boomerang recruiting effort. 

Final Thoughts

Both PDQ re-recruits and standard Boomerang rehires have been proven to be an easy to execute recruiting source. It is inexpensive, fast, and produces dependable quality hires that won’t likely leave again. In addition, getting these former employees to return also essentially lowers your annual employee turnover rate. And you should know that at best-practice companies like DaVita, well-designed boomerang programs have generated as many as 17% of all hires. Combined, these benefits make Boomerang recruiting the #2 best source for high-performing hires. So in my view, now is the time to realize that Boomerang recruiting is a win-win opportunity that is also literally “the lowest hanging fruit” in recruiting. 

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Why new-hires (one study found 61%) feel that they have been misled about their new job.

Here are the eight factors that are most misrepresented 

  1. Employee morale (40%)
  2. Job responsibilities (39%)
  3. Hours expected to work (37%)
  4. Boss’ personality (36%)
  5. Career advancement opportunities (27%)
  6. Senior leadership competence (23%)
  7. Salary (22%)
  8. Company culture (22%)

The Top Reasons Why Candidates Are Misled During Hiring

  1. There is no list on what needs to be covered – because there is no required checklist containing things that must be accurately covered with the candidate. And three of the factors, (employee morale, the boss’s personality, and senior leadership competencies) in particular are seldom ever brought up by the recruiter or hiring manager.
  2. Hiring is all that matters – recruiters, interviewers, and hiring managers are only measured and rewarded on their number of hires. Even future coworkers might misrepresent a candidate because adding a staff member will ease their workload.
  3. No one formally checks for misrepresentation – no data is collected on candidate misrepresentation and who was responsible for each area of misrepresentation. A neutral party doesn’t ask the new hire during onboarding or after 30 days. What were the areas that they were misled on? And most don’t formally ask during exit interviews. If the misrepresentation during hiring was an issue that either caused the early new-hire failure or early new-hire turnover?
  4. Candidate misrepresentation has no negative consequences – because there is no tracking, criticism, or penalty for misrepresenting information to the candidate, no matter how severe it is. The candidate generally says nothing formally about the omissions during hiring. Because no one wants to hear it. And after you are hired, criticizing your manager or the recruiter can’t be a positive thing for any new-hire’s future career
  5. There is no code of ethics that must be followed – you might be able to find one somewhere on the Internet. But in reality, almost no organization forces recruiters to read and agree to a written code of recruiting ethics.
  6. Everyone assumes that recruiting is a type of liars’ poker – it’s kind of accepted that everyone misrepresents things during interviews. The candidate tells us what we want to hear and we tell them what they want to hear (even what is not fully true).

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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