forbesWho says you can’t go home again?

I’m talking about returning to work for a former employer. Since it’s Labor Day, I thought there’s no time like the present to remind jobseekers of yet another avenue that’s often overlooked when it comes to landing a new job.

If you’re like most people, when you part ways with an employer, your instinct is to brush your hands together, move on and don’t look back.

But hold your horses. Sometimes circling back can be a win for everyone.

Last week, I spoke to David Almeda and Dan Schawbel, a career guru whose worked with the Workforce Institute at Kronos to release a new study: The Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study. Schawbel’s also the author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules to Career Success. David Almeda is the chief people officer at Kronos. I will get to our conversation in a minute.

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According to the study, there’s “a changing mindset about boomerang employees, someone who left an organization, for whatever reason, and then rejoined that same organization at a future date, and the organizations they once left.”

In the national survey of more than 1,800 human resources (HR) professionals, increasingly alums are returning to the fold and being greeted with open arms.

“You have a better chance now than ever of getting into company where you formerly worked,” says Schwabel. “Maybe your original job was not a good fit. Something new may have opened up since you’ve been gone that’s a better position for you and your current skills.”

What’s changed? Based on survey results, nearly half of HR professionals claim their organization previously had a policy against rehiring former employees – even if the employee left in good standing – but 76 percent say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past. Managers agree, as nearly two-thirds said they are more accepting of hiring back former colleagues.

While only 15 percent of employees said they had boomeranged back to a former employer, nearly 40 percent said they would consider going back to a company where they previously worked.

In the past five years, 85 percent of HR professionals say they have received job applications from former employees, and 40 percent say their organization hired about half of those former employees who applied.

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When we spoke, Kronos’ Almeda identified “four flavors “of boomerang employees:

1. Those who left to further their career. These are folks who worked for an employer for a number of years, but saw an opportunity to add new skills and progress and then came back at a higher level and higher pay, he says. They may have been gone three to five years.

2. Folks with a career itch to scratch. They’d been at a company a fairly long time. Their colleagues may have moved on to do something different. They saw an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. Or they came to the conclusion to try something different, maybe an opportunity to change industries or follow a passion. They thought, ‘if not now, when am I going to do it?’ Sometimes that works out well, but sometimes it doesn’t. “Whoops, it looked better on paper, or in my head then when it got to be reality,” he says. So they circle back and reach out to their former boss and say, humbly, ‘I’d like to come back if opportunity arises.’ And the dance begins.

3. A life event forced them to leave. A spouse may have relocated, which required them to leave their job, or they took time off to take care of sick parent. Now they want to return as a contract worker, or work remotely with some flexibility.

4. Those who boomerang on purpose. Almeda calls these, “See you next year workers.” Periodic planned boomerangs are increasingly popular, particularly with “retired” boomers, think seasonal workers, who take on positions at National Parks, ski mountain resorts, or even amusement parks. They routinely work a season, and then return the following one. Snowbirders also fit into this category. I identify several of these kinds of jobs in my book Great Jobs for Everyone 50+

Why you should consider boomeranging. Boomerang hiring makes perfect sense to me. Sending a resume blindly out to job postings where you have no connection to the employer is, generally speaking, a futile and frustrating effort. I pull my hair out when I hear jobseekers telling me how many resumes they have zapped off to faceless hiring managers, computer program scanners, or HR gate screeners once removed.

Yes, there are now intermediary firms hired by employers to screen applicants via online and virtual interviews, so you’re one step removed from the decision maker from the get go. It’s daunting and demoralizing, and oh so impersonal.

In truth, landing a job these days is not all that different as it used to be. Employers hire people they know, or people they know know. Simply put, it’s less risky for them and it’s all about rolling the risk.

What’s the attraction for employers and employees alike: For you, its knowing what you’re getting into, so it removes the fear of the unknown, plus for both you and the employer, it’s an easier training ramp up than if you’re a brand new employee. And on some level, the employer, too, has less worries if you already past muster the first go-round.

Here are some things to consider if you’re job-hunting right now… or think you might be before too long.

Join employer alumni groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. According to the Kronos Workforce survey, HR practitioners say they use several strategies for keeping in touch with former top employees, including alumni groups (27 percent). Facebook is the platform of choice for alumni groups according to HR professionals (42 percent) and LinkedIn (33 percent) close behind. Comment on posts from others and add your own. It displays your expertise to prospective employers.

Keep an eye on former employer job postings. If you had proven yourself at a company, you’re a commodity coveted to rehire, says Almeda. In other words, step on up. Don’t shy away from reaching out to a former manager, or someone you know at your ex’s place, if there’s a position that catches your eye.

Make graceful exits. Never burn a bridge. If you’ve parted ways on good terms, you have no reason not to check back in with an ex. Moreover, if you’re considering leaving a job right now, remember, always depart in the right way and establish relationship that will allow you to return. If done properly, no one is going to kick you out of the family. I’ve resigned from five jobs during my career. I’m still regularly hired to work as an expert columnist and writer for former employers and bosses from my previous staff positions, and I love it.

Do you know an insider at the company where you want to work? Current employee referrals are a key pathway in the door. According to CareerBuilder, a whopping 82 percent of employers rate employee referrals above all other sources for generating the best return on investment; 88 percent of employers rated employee referrals above all other sources for generated quality of new hires.

And an analysis of over 441,000 job interview reviews posted on Glassdoor since 2009 reinforces the idea that “employee referrals have long been a preferred hiring method among employers, allowing companies to tap the personal networks of current employees as a talent pool for recruiting,” wrote Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist for Glassdoor in a blog post on the research.

“Of the six job interview sources we examined, employee referrals performed best, boosting the chances of a successful job match by a statistically significant 2.6 to 6.6 percent.”

Dig deep into you Facebook and LinkedIn contacts and search out who you know currently working at the firm that interests you, or who someone you know who might be connected to someone who does, and ask politely for an introduction to him or her. (For more advice on how to do this delicately, check out, my new book, Finding The Job You Want After 50 for Dummies).

Checkout open positions with a former client or customer. According to the Workforce Institute at Kronos survey, 75 percent of HR professionals say that customers have also applied for positions at their organization, with 60 percent saying they have hired at least one former customer.

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Network like crazy. Boomerang or not. It comes down the human touch. Networking, as I like to say, is just one letter off from not working. If you don’t establish any personal connection to the company, you’re probably wasting your time even applying.

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