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Submitted by tlbeckner on


I'm hiring for a professional position that was vacated 4 months ago. The person who held the position resigned for another with a slightly higher salary that was a shorter commute. He's applied for his old position.

It's been my practice to not "go backward" by rehiring someone who's left. He was however, extremely competent and an excellent performer, assuming responsibilities as assigned, meeting deadlines, and getting along well with others. 

I decided to interview him and was seriously considering rehiring him. Today I learned that his exit interview was negative about several areas, including me as the director, his coworkers, compensation, benefits, and overall organization policies. This completely surprised me.

Should I still consider him a valid candidate? Do I discuss this with him? I'm anxious to fill the vacancy, but not desperate.

tlhausmann's picture
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Hmmm. Skilled employee leaves, burns bridges, and now wants to come back. I see your dilemma.

There is a cast covering "boomerang" employees:

In this cast, the MT advice is to consider boomerangs first when you have stayed in touch. However, in this case the employee mishandled the exit interview by going negative.

If you rehire him the retention risk is high. You may have answered your own question "anxious, [...] but not desperate."

Have you considered a second interview or follow-up phone call about the exit interview? A frank discussion of the exit interview would be a teaching moment regardless of whether you rehire.


asteriskrntt1's picture

Good advice from Tom as usual.  You should also consider that MT recommends against doing an exit interview if at all possible. We are not trained in doing exit interviews and most people do them badly, as they think the company wants me to be honest, so I will be brutally honest and take off the filters.

That being said, please consider this - the entire time that "He was however, extremely competent and an excellent performer, assuming responsibilities as assigned, meeting deadlines, and getting along well with others," he was still thinking everything he spewed out in the exit interview.  You just did not know it.  So if you can deal with he error in judgment on the interview, are you willing to get back a quality employee?


cyhelm's picture
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I'm wondering about the word "negative." Is that your characterization, or the HR rep's? If it came from HR, I'd want to know the exact questions and answers. If the questions were about "how can we improve?" then ALL answers could be construed as negative, even if given with the honest intention of helping the organization. That's just a more charitable way of saying what Asteriskrntt1 stated. Rather that being brutally honest, the employee could be thinking, "I'm only saying this because I care about this company."

Do you have other potential hires available?

mjpeterson's picture

The reality is that most organization have issues and often changing companies means getting a new set of issues instead of a smaller or better set.  It would be interesting to discuss his comments with him and if he now feels differently having experienced another organization.  People who leave and want to come back of their own volition may now see the good things at your company, and not just the problems.  This may make them less of a flight risk.  Assuming he would come back at his former salary, he is now willing to take a longer commute and lower salary to come back.  That in itself says something.   

tlbeckner's picture
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Good point. I wasn't sure until I saw the form. It was overall neutral or helpful, except for the questions that rated his supervisor - me. His assessment consisted of 18 "no" answers and 1 "yes", as well as a written comment that I am unequal in supervision and created a hostile work environment. Wow. That's a really deep cut.  Obviously I was unaware of this. I'm having serious second thoughts about how effective renewing the relationship would be, as well as the potential of poisoning others in the organization.

cyhelm's picture
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Wow! Slam the supervisor in the exit interview, then ask to be re-hired to the same position. This person really did think the exit interview would be kept confidential. Here's my fantasy script:

You: Can I give you some feedback?

Re-hire: Sure.

You: When you leave to work for another company, disparage me in the exit interview,and then ask for your job back, I wonder about your maturity and judgement. What could you do differently next time?

Re-hire: Uh, look for a job somewhere else?

You: Right. Be careful, the door has stronger springs than before.

Sulmi's picture

Excellent question, tlbeckner!

My take is: what if you were at the time a bad manager? Is this totally out of the question? Maybe he was right/partly right? Did you have OOO with him? If you did and he never mentioned any ways to improve the relationship, I would judge this as non-mature and a reason not to rehire.

If you did not ask him for his opinion, or did not have OOO, the situation is different and everything depends on the competition: Do you have other candidates that fullfill the criteria. If not - rehire him. Otherwise you put your ego above the good for the company. Again -this is based on your description of the person as a high-performer.

mgoblue0970's picture

The replies here leave me perplexed. 

How exactly did this person burn bridges?  Consider the hiring manager was willing to bring this person back.  Seems to me, if one burns bridges, they will not be looked upon favorably regarding a rehire.  Right? 

In fact, this candidate is looked upon favorably -- "he was however, extremely competent and an excellent performer, assuming responsibilities as assigned, meeting deadlines, and getting along well with others."  I don't know about you but I wouldn't characterize someone who burns bridges as someone who gets along well with others or elicits favorable memories from the hiring manager.

There is one dilemma in the post though which hasn't been addressed from all angles -- the exit interview.  Regardless of one's take whether or not an exit interview should be done, it was done, it cannot be taken back, and I'd prefer not discuss that point further as it clouds the greater issue.

The employee gave a negative exit interview.  Big freaking deal.  It's hardly a shock or error in judgment to say that sometimes unsatisfied employees leave an organization.  The phrase "be careful what you wish for" comes to mind right now.

The original poster feels disparaged?  How?  One thing he said is ultimately you don't enforce standards equally.  Which I think a lot of people would have a problem with.  That's not disparaging, that's feedback; and the very thing your org is probably trying to gather considering they do exit interviews in the first place.  Saying something like "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny" is disparaging; nothing in any of your posts are (especially if he can give you examples of where you favored one employee over another and those actions were detrimental to group dynamics).

Nobody likes it when our warts are displayed in public.  I'm certainly not the perfect leader and thus I feel compelled to constantly work on "stuff".  When more than one person can see my faults or shortcomings, I don't like it.  Given some of your comments I suspect you feel the same way. 

So... the question about the rehire is actually a red herring in this instance.  I think you're ticked that someone had the "nerve" to give you negative feedback about your leadership style.  After all, you were willing to interview this person until you read the exit interview -- that in and of itself makes this more about you than the candidate to me.  If it were me, I'd swallow some pride, find out why this person answered 18 "no"s, and look at those as opportunities for improvement.

Good luck!

cyhelm's picture
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It's been two months since your original post. What did you decide about the re-hire?

tlbeckner's picture
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Just went back and revisited this.

BLUF - I did not rehire the individual.

Several points to make. I was doing one-on-ones and had every reason to believe that I had an outstanding relationship with the individual. We worked well together on projects, I gave positive feedback (wasn't up to doing adjusting feedback yet) and even hand wrote a very kind and appreciative note to him when he left, wishing him well in his new position. There was a lot of evidence of professional and personal immaturity in him and while he was developing in this area, it was evident to most people he worked with.

I held a second interview, at which time I brought up the exit interview. I approached it from the perspective of whether or not his opinions were the same and the need to build a relationship. He got visibly upset and didn't want to discuss it. He subsequently withdrew his application. I heard from another person that he couldn't believe I had called him out on it.

I believe the immaturity was still prevalent and I've heard that he's changed jobs multiple times in the past few years. The young lady who was eventually hired is a superstar and I'm glad to have her on board.

Thanks all for your comments and suggestions. I'm always looking at ways to improve and I appreciate the feedback.






smudgejet's picture

 This goes down as a text book example for great hiring practices. 

#1 Willing to look at a boomerang employee

#2 Determine both the reasons for leaving and the reasons for returning.

#3 Red flags on the reasons for leaving

#4 Follow up interview, professionally stating management position and working to determine the risks of rehiring.

#5 Through the interview process, the applicant determined they were not a good fit (who cares who determines the fit)

#6 Icing on the cake, the actual hire is a superstar.