Recognise This! – Sometimes, the best employee for the job is “the one that got away.”

Who are the top candidates in your recruiting pool? The obvious answer is people who know your industry and business, already have deep experience in the role, and are a culture fit. Some recruiters call these candidates “Purple Squirrels” – highly desirable, perfect in every way, and therefore very hard to find.

That’s what makes alumni employees (a term I prefer to the more standard “boomerang” employees) strong recruiting targets. A recent article in The Boston Globe points out why:

“The benefits for any company are clear: The costs of training and immersing a new hire—which can often be quite high for somebody entirely unfamiliar with a new company—are significantly cut down when somebody is already familiar with the company. Beyond that, companies also perceive ‘boomerangs’ as known quantities, taking some of the risk from hiring. There’s also a chance the employee picked up new skills since leaving that they could not have gained in their former position.”

Recruiting alumni has its own unique needs, however. Keep these three tips in mind when pursuing “the one that got away.”

1) Remind alumni of the successes and key contributions of their time with your organisation.

Who knows the kind of culture the alumnus walked into in their new organisation? If you’ve built a strong culture of recognition in a positivity-dominated workplace, be sure to remind your target about the joy of working in that kind of culture. Draw on your recognition data and share explicit past messages of praise, commendation and appreciation the alumnus received while with your company. Of course, this is much easier with any easily mined recognition system of record in place.

2) Address the reasons why alumni may have left.

Take a hard look at yourself. The alumnus left for a reason. What was communicated in theexit interview? Lack of challenging work or no understanding of the deeper meaning of the work? No clear career path? A difficult relationship with a direct manager? Address these concerns honestly (as they likely affect more employees who remain, too), and be sure to tell the alumnus how you’ve done so.

3) Prepare a strong path for their return and re-integration.

When talking with the target alumnus, map out a clear path for their potential re-integration into the organisation. Speak specifically to any remaining concerns, and lay out the advantages of rejoining your team. If the alumnus agrees to return, prepare teammates, too. Let them know, where appropriate, why the alumnus left, reasons for the return, and how remaining team members continue to play a critical role in ongoing success.

What other tips do you have for recruiting alumni employees?