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Rejoining the team: Going back to a company that fired you

Parting ways with an employer is tough when you truly enjoy the company you've been working for. Fortunately, these goodbyes don't always have to last forever. If you're still coveting a job with the company, you may be able to return gracefully when the right position becomes available. Try these tips for successfully going back to a company that fired you.

Understand what went wrong

It's crucial that you understand why the company terminated you before returning to your place of previous employment. Consider the following:

The company terminated your position

It's usually easiest to return when you were let go for reasons unrelated to performance, such as:

  • Cyclical hiring
  • Outsourcing
  • Downsizing

If you're confident that the reason for your termination was through no fault of your own, then your primary concern should be whether this company is the right choice for your next job opportunity. Though you may have loved your corner desk, cozy break room, and convivial coworkers, you should look at the big picture as well. Tim Toterhi, founder of executive coaching firm Plotline Leadership shrewdly notes that "The days of lifetime employment are over."

Toterhi goes on to warn that "Layoffs, however, can indicate poor forecasting abilities, so employees should be wary of companies that have a history of staffing up and purging noncontract workers." Resist the temptation to return to a job purely for familiarity if the position is still unstable. However, if you notice substantial changes in the company, such as different leadership, altered business strategies, or newly created positions, then a triumphant return may be in the cards.

The company terminated you for performance

If the company fired you for poor performance, you'll need to do a deep dive into your strengths and weaknesses and openly assess what went wrong. You might even consider taking a prior supervisor out to lunch to discuss what you could have done better. Keep your defenses down and let them know that you're genuinely interested in improving.

This tactic will help whether your previous employer rehires you or not. Any hiring manager will appreciate an honest assessment of what went wrong in your last position and what you're doing to fix it in the future.

"Job seekers should consider returning to a past employer, but only if they can clearly convey why the "reunion" would be a fit."

Find the right fit

If your previous job no longer exists, look for a similar position that will make good use of your skills and experience. Kenneth L. Johnson of the employment service firm East Coast Executives says, "Job seekers should consider returning to a past employer, but only if they can clearly convey why the "reunion" would be a fit." Pick a path that makes excellent use of your prior experience and current knowledge.

Reconnect with key people

Reconnect with former bosses and co-workers to assess the current climate before going back to a company that fired you. Here are some suggestions that may help:

  • Meet with a former co-worker to reestablish your relationship.
  • Arrange a meeting with a former boss to assess how the company would feel about your return.
  • Join alumni groups to reconnect with people in the organization.

These strategies will help you strengthen key relationships and increase your chances of successfully returning to the company.

Update your resume

Upload a new resume that highlights your growth since leaving the company. Many employers won't consider a rehire for at least 90 days following the termination. Use this time productively and showcase all that you've done since you were let go. This should include:

  • Working for other employers
  • Furthering your education through additional degrees or training programs
  • Enhancing your skill set with new certifications
  • Gaining relevant experience through volunteer opportunities
  • Publishing scientific papers or industry-specific articles
  • Participating in conferences, seminars, forums, conventions, or summits

Make your case

Johnson suggests using a strategic cover letter to make the case for rehiring. He recommends highlighting "knowledge of the company's pain points and any newly acquired experience and/or education that makes [you] the clear problem solver in that setting."

Career coaches recommend highlighting your cultural fit with the company. Note that people who are new to a company may not fit into the company culture, but if you're a previous employee, the employer will understand your fit in the organization. Having a relationship with your co-workers can really facilitate you getting your job done more effectively. Emphasize how your return will speed up onboarding and training, allowing the company to make better use of your time and effort.

Though it may seem intimidating, going back to a company that fired you can be a great fit. You'll start with foundational knowledge that a new employee would take months to acquire, and you'll know from day one that you're confident in your desire to join the team. If you're yearning for the job that was, use these tips to try for a new job with your past employer.


More tips for landing a job with a company that fired you:

Evaluate your body language in interviews to send the right message.

Practice discussing your weaknesses in an interview.

Think about how you'll discuss the issue of being fired.

Calm your nerves for the interview.

Prepare to talk about your weaknesses with your potential employer.