Should You Return to a Former Employer?

Career Blog

Some companies expect an element of employee churn and don’t think twice about rehiring workers. However, the bounce-back phenomenon is not exclusive to service-based industries or early talent workers. While individual managers might write you off once you leave, savvy leaders and HR professionals understand the triggers that make people leave and the common rationales for their return.  

It’s a small world made smaller by a tight labor market, but that doesn’t guarantee a revolving door or easy reentry. To increase your chances of earning a second act, mind the following three tips:

  1. Have a Positive Rationale for Your Departure: Expressing humility and appreciation goes a long way. Say something like, “While I enjoyed my time here, company x offered an opportunity (new project, growth, management responsibility, etc.) that wasn’t available here in the foreseeable future. It was a learning opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
  2. Have a Clear Rationale for the Reentry: You won’t get far if the interviewer senses desperation as your primary motivator. Convey a compelling reason for your desired return by articulating how it has value for both parties. You could say, “This position offers an opportunity for me to continue my career development by [insert challenge or opportunity]. I’ve acquired [insert new skillset] during my time away, which will help me take this on successfully.”
  3. Keep it Positive and Professional: Occasionally, the interviewer will dig deeper for the “real reason” you left. Compensation, benefits, and work/life balance are common reasons to leave a company. Sharing those is a safe play. Of course, many employees leave poor managers, which is a trickier subject. Even if the hiring manager agrees with your assessment, you gain nothing by speaking ill of another. Every organization has problems, and fixers are always more valuable than complainers. Resist the temptation to gripe and focus on the future.

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