When Is It a Good Idea to Return to a Former Employer?

Image of a welcome back sign on a keyboard.

Maybe that new job just didn’t work out. Or maybe you’ve advanced as far as your current position will allow. Whatever the scenario, when the time comes for a professional change, more workers are asking their former employer to rehire them.

And, as the demand for skilled talent tightens, more companies are open to inviting a former employee to return. In fact, 98 percent of HR managers interviewed said they would roll out the welcome mat for a returning employee who left on good terms, according to a Robert Half survey.

But, as with any relationship, reuniting can be great — or not. To decide if it’s right for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Why did you leave in the first place? Our survey on rehiring found that the top reasons employees quit are dissatisfaction with management, the corporate culture or their job duties. If the situation that led you to resign still exists, chances are you will be just as unhappy the second time around. Sometimes relationships can look rosier in the rear-view mirror.

What do former colleagues have to say? Company cultures can change, sometimes very quickly. Before you make a move, test the waters by contacting some remaining employees. They can serve as a barometer for the current state of the company. Are they happy, neutral or do they advise running for the hills? And are there even any suitable positions available?

Did you burn any bridges? Having left on good terms is obviously critical. If you ended your tenure on a sour note — for example, giving little notice, failing to tie up loose ends or even subtly complaining about the company — it could be both ill-advised and unrealistic to try to boomerang back to your former employer.

If you think a return to a former employer is right for you, use these tips to map your route back:

Don’t be afraid to ask. For the most part, gone are the days when people retired from the company that first hired them. Today’s employers expect workers — especially millennials — to hop jobs as they develop their careers. Remind them of the skills and accomplishments that made you a valuable team member. Share the professional growth you’ve experienced in your time away. Did you earn a new certification or degree? Have you gained new skills and perspectives that could benefit the company?

Convey your knowledge. Keep in mind that you’re not the only party that has grown — show your former employer that you have kept up with the company’s accomplishments and changes to demonstrate how seamlessly you can rejoin the team.

Answer awkward questions diplomatically. You left your former employer once. What assurances can you provide that you won’t quit again? During the job interview, focus on the future and why you are the ideal candidate to help take the company there. While you obviously can’t offer guarantees, you can explain that you’ve realized what a great fit the company is for you.

Stay positive — and plugged in. Keep in contact with your former colleagues. Some companies host alumni pages on sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Maintaining relationships will keep doors open when and if you decide to boomerang.

When it comes to a former employer, some workers find that you can go home again. But before you ask someone to rehire you, assess your reasons for wanting to make the change. Don’t take the decision lightly. But if you truly believe it’s a wise career move, getting back together just might be the ideal match.

Want to know what you can earn today? Keep up with the latest compensation and hiring trends with Robert Half’s Salary Guides.

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