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Should you go back to your old job? Advice for the boomerang employee

You left your job for a reason, but the situation has changed. Maybe there’s a new manager, a change in the workplace culture, or a bigger salary. Should you go back to your old job?

If you do, you’ll be among a growing number of “boomerang employees,” those who go back to their previous employers after working somewhere else. (Note that we’re talking about being rehired, not about changing your mind after giving notice–a separate post.) According to LinkedIn, rehires made up 4.3% of all job switches in 2021. Companies have become more open to rehiring past employees.

But is it a good idea for you?

Pros and Cons of Going Back to Your Old Job

Pro:

  • You know the company, at least compared to joining an unfamiliar company. Many of the factors and people you liked about it may still be there.
  • You may be able to come back in a better role.
  • They may offer you more money than before. (If they don’t, you’re may be in a good position to negotiate for it since you aren’t currently on the job.)
  • Being rehired can look good on your resume: You must have been a valuable employee, otherwise why would they bring you back?

Con:

  • The factors that caused your departure may still be in play, even if management has tried to address them. Problems with the culture, workload, management or the business outlook may lurk in wait.
  • Your reputation and status may have taken a hit. Some co-workers may resent your leaving and returning, especially if you’re coming back at a higher level of responsibility, pay or perks.
  • If you left voluntarily, management may wonder whether you’re coming back to stay or only as a survival job. You may be seen as a flight risk and passed over for coveted assignments or promotion.

Assess & Address the Risks and Benefits of Becoming a Boomerang Employee

Do your homework before the rehire interview. Researching the company as you would when approaching a new organization may turn up some surprising facts, plus you now have the advantage of knowing people to talk to. Realize that these folks may be asked about the discussion they have with you, and bring discretion and a positive attitude to these meetings.

Aside from risks, don’t neglect the opportunities! As a returning employee you may have a lot more leverage to get the working conditions and compensation you want. Understand how to negotiate.

Preparing for the Rehire Interview

However informal this “chat” may be, impressions and decisions will be made based upon it, so be prepared and professional.

Don’t assume things are the same. The workflows, procedures, processes, people and culture may have changed in ways that will affect you. Don’t leave it up to the interviewer to tell you what’s new.

Bring a list of questions, such as the following:

  • What happened with my projects and workflows after I left? (Exercise empathy and tact here, as your departure may have caused some suffering!)
  • Did someone else step in? If not, what has piled up, and what does that look like?
  • Are there new processes and procedures?
  • What retraining is available?
  • Are there any new team members? If so, tell me about them.
  • What about the management team?
  • What changes in other departments may affect this role?
    What new challenges, opportunities, initiatives and plans does the company have?
  • How has the culture changed, if at all?

Be ready to answer questions like these:

  • Why did you leave?
  • Why do you want to come back? If you left voluntarily, why do you think things will be better this time?
  • How long do you think you’ll stay?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • (If you’ve been working elsewhere) Why did you leave the job(s) you took after leaving here?
  • (If you’re still employed elsewhere) Why do you want to leave your current employer?
  • What did you like best and least about your previous experience here?
  • How have you developed your skills since you last worked here?
  • The job/company/culture/industry has changed in the following ways . . . do you think you’re still a good fit?

“Should I go back to my old job?” This can be a complex question, as you see. Unless it really will be only a temporary “survival job,” it’s worth taking the time to make a good decision and a successful transition.

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