Re-hiring an Employee That Quit Your Startup

ryan-gosling-back-at-your-doorWhat I’m about to write is NOT going to resonate with the millennial Gen-Y crowd and that’s ok. This post is written for the startup founder, entrepreneur, and small company CEO. This topic is looking through the lens of the person that created the company, started the company with their own money, and pretty much has everything on the line if this company doesn’t succeed. Much of this post was inspired after reading “Never Hire Job Hoppers, Never, They Make Terrible Employees“.

The millennial Gen-Y crowd mostly are job hoppers.
In six years of running this company I would have to label all employees who can’t stay in a company for more than 2.5 to 3 years as a job hopper. I get it that those people are just starting jobs after college are going to make a 1000 different decisions on what is best for them and their career. So, that said, I look back at my own track record as a Gen-X and see that I was with the same company for 3.2 years. Not every day in those three years was great, but, I didn’t quit at the first sign of hardship. I always think about the “fight versus flee” mentality and at the first sign of trouble are you a person fights or runs out the door? I do realize that we just came out of the worst recession our generation has ever seen and there are going to be reasons out there why the economy impacted a person’s career path. If that’s the case, make sure that your resume reflects that the company went bankrupt which is why you left your job.

I quit my job because my manager sucked.
In Mark Suster’s blog he said: “I was working for a lame boss.  I had to get out of there.”  What I hear, “You’re difficult to work with.  You don’t have gravitas.  Anybody with any common sense would know not to talk badly about a prior boss.  What will you say about me after you’ve left?  What will you say about me to your peers in my company when I make difficult decisions?”.

I quit my job because I was recruited away.
Again in Suster’s blog: “I was recruited away from that job.  The new company was willing to pay me more money / give me a title increase” – what I hear, “Three times?  You were recruited away three times?  You aren’t loyal.  The first company that offers you a higher check means you going to jump ship.  You’re only about the money and yourself.”  Believe me – people WILL offer your employees more money.  Job hoppers take it. I’ve personally been there, considered it, but I’ve turned it down.

They ran away from home.
A good employee that quit. One and a half years later they come back and say they would like to be re-hired. What do you do? Assuming that they left in good standing you have to ask them the hard questions. I’ve come up with questions to ask an employee who quit and is asking to be re-hired:

    • In what ways have things changed for you and the company so that those reasons that you left are still not reasons why you would leave again? [This is non-negotiable, if the reasons why they left the first time have not been exterminated then this employee will leave you again. Be the first person to offer and help them find a company to work for where that problem doesn’t exist.]
    • In order to build a great company, which is a huge challenge for startups and small companies, what are you going to do help me attract and retain great employees? [A lot of the momentum in your company is built upon hiring great employees, when someone great leaves the can destroy that momentum. They can even recruit other employees away on your team, and being a small company or startup it is devastating to your company. I’ve had this happen and it causes an incredible amount of pain. The flip side is when you hire great employees, it attracts more great employees, and I’m fortunate to be in that cycle right now! A-Players love it when you hire more A-Players. B-Players get scared and turn into C-Players.]
    • You’re back on my team for a month and someone that used to work with you gives you a call and recruits you to come work with them, what are you going to do in that situation? [You already question their loyalty and because a persons network is only so large, they are likely to be recruited by someone from within their network. You’re looking for loyalty and the opportunity for them to recognize that you’re giving them a second chance.]
    • What new skills have you learned in the company you are working for that you didn’t have when working at your company? [If they left your company, hopefully, they have learned something new that they will bring back to your company and improve your business. If not, then they aren’t worth re-hiring.]
    • Their life plans and goals have changed. [Find out how have those life plans changed. You have every right to understand how and why the stage in their life is now going to impact further life decisions such as finding a new job. The reasons why they left in the past, is no longer valid.]

With that I would have to say that if you’re going to take a risk on re-hiring someone that quit, the absolute number one reason to not re-hire them is if the reason why they left has not changed then they will undoubtedly leave you again. Don’t waste your time with that. You’re investing in people that believe in your company, it’s mission, and even when the tough gets going (and I’m 100% sure that it will get tough) that they are not the person that will run out the door. One of my best decisions, which was also a hard decision at the time, was making a decision on going with a new employee who really wanted to work for me rather than re-hiring someone who would have been excellent but probably not in it for the long run. I trusted my gut and now I have someone I can build the company around rather than have questions in the back of my mind.

No take back policy

I’m a person that believes that people need to be shown more grace. With that I think that if they get through those questions then it’s worth the chance that they can become exceptional loyal employees. One of my favorite blog posts that I’ve ever read comes from my advisor Annie Duncan, who wrote this blog post: Maybe the Grass is Greener on the other side. Annie says: “Instead of being jealous or threatened by greener grass, see it as an invitation to water the grass you’re standing on”. What are your thoughts on re-hiring people that have quit? What other questions have you asked to test their loyalty?

Some other good blog posts on this topic:
Never hire job hoppers. Never. They may terrible employees
Why job hoppers make the best employees (I have to say I totally disagree with this blog post)
A Gen-X Managers Advice to Millennials
Confessions of a job hopper
Job Hopping Is the ‘New Normal’ for Millennials: Three Ways to Prevent a Human Resource Nightmare

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *