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Returning to a former employer

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 7 Nov 2022

Returning to an employer image

Did you have a role with an employer that you really enjoyed working for? Sometimes, we leave companies that we would have preferred to stay with because there aren’t any current opportunities. Just because you wanted career progression and moved on from a specific employer, doesn’t mean you can never go back. Returning to a former employer is never off the cards, especially if you feel like you’re ready to go back. Why not get in touch and see where things go?

You can get back in touch through former colleagues, your past manager or by applying to roles on their company website. There is nothing that should stop you from applying for roles in a company you have already worked for. Especially if you found it a stable, happy place to work and you left on good terms. 

So, why could returning to a past employer be a good thing?

You may have an advantage

When job seeking, it can take a lot of time and resources to research companies and their current projects. One of the perks of interviewing for a company you have worked for or with in the past is that you already know so much about what they do, what they stand for and the kind of projects they might be working on. You should brush up on your knowledge and see what is happening in the business currently, but you may find this part of the interview process is a little less demanding this time around. 

However, don’t get cocky and think you have an advantage against the other candidates. Chances are, you will be treated the same as everyone else. You don’t get an easy pass just because you have worked for that particular employer before. If you are invited for an interview, treat it how you would any other. Competition can be fierce, so don’t let your guard down.

You can discuss your work experience with them

It’s always a good idea to discuss the previous work you did for the company. You can talk about what your old role used to involve and what you learnt in that role and since then. Just because you left the company before doesn’t mean you wanted to. Use this to your advantage. An example of a good discussion topic in an interview, is to let them know why you left your last role with them. 

Tell them that you left to further your career and they weren’t able to offer you a role that would offer you this at the time. You took that in your stride, took other opportunities and became a better professional and individual because of it. Now you are ready to come back to the company in a role that suits you. 

Believe it or not, this shows dedication to your own career and the company. Upskilling and promotions aren’t always possible if you stay in one place and sometimes, we have no choice but to leave and come back. It does make for very interesting interview conversation. 

Try and get in touch with former colleagues

It can be a good idea to try and get in touch with your previous line manager and colleagues if you feel necessary. It can be useful to ask about any vacancies they may know of and just try to keep the conversation light and positive. If you are wanting a role within the same team, talk about how you have grown and what you can bring to the team. This doesn’t mean they’d offer you a job on the spot, but they might be able to give you information around potential opportunities they have available at that time. 

If you’re looking for a role outside of the last team you worked in, it can still be a nice idea to get in touch. Ask them how they’re doing, what is happening in the organisation and just have a casual conversation. If you left on good terms, keeping up with your network is always a good idea anyway.

You can ask for a recommendation

This is why it’s so important to not burn bridges when you leave a job. If you enjoyed your time there, this probably isn’t a problem you’ll encounter but keep it in mind. If you left on good terms, your old colleagues and line manager may be more than happy to give you a good recommendation. They may even be happy to discuss your application with the hiring manager and share past work examples of yours. Being able to get yourself mentioned before an interview can help your application. But remember, knowing people doesn’t automatically promise you the job. You still have to act as if you would for any other interview. 

Think about your career goals

When returning to a former employer, they may ask about why you left and your future career goals. Plainly put, you left once so what are your plans for the future? 

You can discuss why you decided to leave your last position for a new role outside the company and why you now want to return. What place does this job have in your career development plan? So, think about where you want this job to take you. What do you want to learn and why can this company in particular give this to you. 

If you really do want to work for this company for the long haul, mention how you like to progress through the company and will take opportunities as they present themselves. It’s always good to know what company you want to work for but think about why you want to work for them as well. Having this answer before interviews can make it easier to  answer questions like this. 

Have things changed?

Not everything will remain the same within a company. So, make sure you are checking for things like salary and company benefits. You may feel like you already know what they offer, but things can change, and it may be worth doing a little research before assuming what you’ll get. If you can’t find it online or on the job description, ask in the interview. It’s better to know from the beginning than to find out after you sign a contract. 

Sometimes it can feel a bit nerve wracking to go back to a former employer. We all have our own reasons for leaving a role but if there was nothing negative in your resignation, then there’s nothing wrong with going back. Do what is best for you and your career. If working for your former employer, in a similar or different role is what you want to achieve, then go for it!