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Tips for going back to a former employer

CareerBuilder | February 7, 2021

Rehiring - working at a company again

If you're considering going back to an old job, here are some tips to get your foot back in the door.

Sure, getting back together with an ex may not always be the best idea, but what about getting back together with an ex-employer?

According to recent CareerBuilder research, your former employer may want you back: 39 percent of employers plan to hire former employees in 2018. So if you’ve been feeling some regret about leaving your former company, now may be the time to get back in their good graces – and maybe even get a job there again.

Going back to an old job: what to consider first
Before you re-engage with a former employer, consider first the circumstances around your departure. If you were let go, burned bridges with your old boss, or disliked the company culture, then it may not be the best move to go back. Even if you take on a different role within the company, you’ll still be unhappy if the culture is the same.

Yet, if you left on good terms and the reasons for leaving were benevolent (e.g., couldn’t pass up a great opportunity, wanted to gain some new skills, needed to scale back for personal reasons), then it’s worth seeing where the rekindled relationship goes.

How to approach your former employer

Here are some tips for reaching back out to your old employer and making the case for why you should work there (again):

Connect with your old manager. Nick Glassett, co-founder of Origin Leadership Group, says the first person you should approach is your old boss – and do so in person if possible. “When you decide that you want to go back, don’t apply online without speaking to your former supervisor, and don’t email them,” Glassett says. “Here’s why: He [or] she is going to want to know why you want to come back, and they are likely to have some strong feelings on the matter. When you go straight to them, and they find out from you, with you present, you get to control the narrative.”

Glassett also recommends being brutally honest with them about why you left. “If it was because of the leadership, or lack thereof, tell your former supervisor that. If it was money, tell them the amount that lured you away. Was it the workload, or you weren’t learning or being challenged? Whatever the reason, tell them and do not sugar coat it.”

Research company policy. “Companies have a wide range of policies regarding returning to work, but it usually falls into one of two camps,” says Colleen Drennen Pfaller, founder of A Slice of HR. “Either they do not rehire former employers under any circumstances or they will consider a rehire with positive previous performance data. Find out the company policy and adjust your strategy accordingly. Even if a company has a no rehire policy, there can be creative ways to get back in the door if you were highly valued, such as coming back as a consultant or contractor.”

Focus on the positive outcomes of leaving. Career strategist and coach Miriam Buttu says to refer to the benefits of having left at the time you did. “For example, did you go back to school? Did you take some time off to travel? Link the benefits of that back to how you can now have an even more positive impact within their company. Maybe you learned a particular skill or had a complete change in perspective. Be sure to clearly explain how your personal/professional growth will be very beneficial to them. The easier you make the decision for the employer, the better.”

Reaffirm your commitment. “If you're determined to head back to work for a previous employer, you really need to show your commitment to the company and their mission,” says Rachele Wright, career pilot and resume architect at Elarie Consulting. “It will be even more important during this time to show that you're in this for the long haul, rather than just a quick fix. After all, if you left on your own terms before, it is crucial that they know you're not just going to jump ship again.”

Sell them on the benefits of rehiring you. Shefali Raina, a New York-based executive coach, points out that new employees take both training and time to ramp up at a new job. “When pitching for a job at the old company, mention that besides your skills and fit, you are at a significant advantage as you already know the company culture and the informal networks and will hit the ground running.”

You also have the upper hand because you are already a known entity at your old company. People there know your work and your brand – so use this to your advantage, Raina says. “If they hire you, there will be no uncertainty about how you will show up.”

Not sure how far back you should go on a resume? Find out here.

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