After eight years, Mike Montour left New York City-based LivePerson, Inc., a 1,200-person provider of mobile and online messaging services, for a startup where he had the opportunity to launch and build a sales team. Roughly two and a half years later, that startup "wasn’t doing well," and a former colleague suggested he come back. LivePerson has rehired roughly a dozen former employees in the past year.
They are not alone. A February 2016 survey by Accountemps, a staffing company specializing in accounting, bookkeeping, and finance professionals, found that 98% of hiring managers would rehire a former employee who left on good terms. While not all workers want to go back—52% called that scenario "unlikely"—there may be a number of reasons to return to a former employer, including a sense of familiarity and trust.
"People think that they can't go back," says Michele Mavi, who returned to New York City-based Atrium Staffing after a few years with another employer. But the numbers don’t bear out that sentiment. A September 2015 study commissioned by the Workforce Institute, Kronos and WorkplaceTrends.com also found that employers are increasingly embracing so-called "boomerang employees."
After a series of meetings, Montour was offered the role of senior vice president of North American sales. He was happy, but he still had to sleep on it. "When I ran it by a couple of folks, they said, ‘Going back to some place that you've been before is like putting on a really comfortable shoe, but the really comfortable shoe still has to be stylish,’" Montour says. In other words, you don’t want to go back to a place just because it’s easy or doesn’t challenge you.
To make an effective case that you’re the best person for the job, keep in mind these five tips.
Some companies have strict policies about not rehiring employees who have left. And if you set the proverbial bridge ablaze as you walked out the door, chances are your former employer isn’t going to welcome you back with open arms. Mavi remained friendly with former coworkers and heard through the grapevine that an Atrium manager was interested in rehiring her.
Soon, the two had a meeting and a frank discussion about what Mavi wanted to do next. Atrium created a new position—director of content development, internal recruiting, and training—to accommodate her. The new role allowed her to use her experience as a recruiter to benefit the firm, but also allowed her to branch out into a more creative role within the organization. Mavi also knew that her history with the company would relieve her of having to prove herself in the same way someone new would need to do. That freedom allowed her to develop her new role and skills to benefit the company.
Chances are your former employer put time and money into training you. When you left, that might have stung. Mavi says it’s important to have a vision for why you want to be back and what you hope to do. If you can articulate that vision in a way that serves the company, your former employer is more likely to listen, she says.
Just like an Impressionist painting, your former employer might look better once you’ve got a little distance. Think about the real reasons you left, says Bill Driscoll, an Accountemps district president. If the managers were bad and the pay was worse, that probably hasn’t changed, regardless of the time that has passed, he says. If you get to the point where you’re having conversations with your former employer about returning, find out what, if anything, has changed. Going in with your eyes open will help you make better decisions, he says.
Because of the history or familiarity, it can be tempting for both parties to agree to a rehire without going through a formal interview process. That’s a mistake, Driscoll says. You’ve got new skills and more experience from being in another role. The company may have different needs and expectations. Failure to nail down those details could lead to a bad match all around, he says. If you’ve been away for a few years developing new skills sets and growing as a professional, your new role and salary need to reflect that, Mavi adds.
Even though you’re leaving an employer to return to a former workplace, keep in touch with your colleagues there, Driscoll advises. There may come a day when you want to return to that workplace, too.