Recruiting Alumni

Posted by Vincent Fabello on July 27, 2016


Growing up in Texas, High school Homecoming was very big deal.  Even if you could escape the all-powerful force of Texas football, which you can’t, there were dances and mums and pep rallies.  This purpose, theoretically, centered on alumni coming back from college, service, wherever their path had taken them to impart wisdom and thoughts to the upcoming classes.  They were fondly greeted by former teachers and peers, would share their new experiences, and even admit when the counselors and mentors were right or when they wronged someone.  These days, returning employees, sometimes are viewed with skepticism as well as handled with great care, are often viewed more like alumni during homecoming.  However, they and their benefits stick around longer. 

Alumni have much to bring back to an organization.  Depending on the path they took, they may have new management perspectives, additional skills, or broader experiences that they can bring back to the organization.  They may also have new appreciation for those aspects of the organization that worked well compared to other organizations.  That boarder perspective and experience can enrich the organization.  I once spoke to an alumni that brought up how advanced software change management process at our previous company were compared to his current organization.  Though from his current organization he had learned a number of people and project management skills.  Those were some skills we desperately needed. 

High school alumni can also have very surprising roles when they return.  The favored golden child can offer cautionary tales on what it’s really like in the real world.  Like the coworker who founded their own distribution company for a particular niche, but was drowning in customer support requests and returns.  They can also be a boost to morale and a sign that the company’s situation is changing.  Like the productive and well like manager that’s brought back from a Reduction In Force can be a bellwether that “things are getting better.”  Just make sure that anyone being considered back is still a good fit for the organization.  If there’s anyone that’s worked with them before, make sure to poll them on if they think there will be any issues. 

But alumni have special values that make them very attractive hires.  Even if they culture or people have changed some, their past experiences and personal connections can get them up to speed and on the ground running faster.  Their perspective of where the organization was vs. where the organization is now can also help identify areas that can be improved and tweaked.  And in making those changes, they’ll have more human capital to get things done than others.

Reaching out to Alumni is a lot easier than it used to be.  Between Facebook targeted add, LinkedIn searches and community, and even ad hoc social networks formed from alumni, it’s easier to find and to target advertise to former employees.  But don’t overlook the personal connections that you and your coworkers have and maintain with alumni.  That network is the best source for knowing if someone is ready to make a move, if they’ve gained new experiences and skills that can help your organization.  It’s always worth a coffee or a lunch to catch up.  Who knows, they may have the answers you’ve been looking for.