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March 1, 2011 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to kiss and make up with a job I quit 2 years ago? What's the best way to go about trying to get hired for a position at a company that I left in the past?

Almost exactly 3 years ago, I started a job that was my first professional position out of grad school. There were pros and cons--overall it was a good company to work for, I liked my coworkers and had a great salary, but I was a little bored with it and found another position that seemed more exciting. So I left the original company after a year there. I learned that the grass is not always greener on the other side--I hated my new position, it showed, and was fired within 6 months. Since then, I've spent time unemployed and freelancing, and now I have another job that I'm not exactly enamored with. I think about how good I had it at my first job and often wish I had just stuck it out.

Well, today I learned that they are hiring for the position I once held. I'm on good terms with my old boss (I've even used him as a reference), but I will admit that when I was with my old company, I wasn't the best employee. In the last couple of months I was there I called in sick multiple times and it was pretty clear I wasn't committed, so when I finally gave my notice my boss' boss said he wasn't surprised. I've done a lot of growing up since then and take my career much more seriously than before, and I know I'd be more appreciative of the position if I were to return there.

My question is, how do I gracefully inquire about potentially being employed there again? Like I said, I'm on good terms with my old boss (who is the one in charge of the application process) and am Facebook friends with him and some of my old coworkers. Should I send him an email, or call him at work to chat? Should I submit my application and explain things in the cover letter? I would love to go back to where I started, but I don't know if there's an etiquette for attempting this.

Thanks in advance for your advice.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you can simply ask (directly or indirectly) if reapplying would be a good idea. The direct approach would be to contact your old boss, since you seem to have that connection already, and lay out your thoughts about it and just ask, "do you think I stand a chance of being rehired if I apply?". Indirectly, have one of your old coworkers ask the old boss, "hey, I hear annoymious misses it here and is interested in working for us again, should I tell them to apply for X position?"

Personally? I'd go with the first option, as it is easier (for me) to take rejection from the source rather than second hand, it also cuts out a level of possible misunderstanding.
posted by edgeways at 8:47 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

edgeways has a good idea there. Just contact your former boss, express your interest, and go from there. If he wants to continue the process, he'll make it happen. Note that you'll probably need to explain the lack of commitment you claim you had at the end of the gig, but it sounds like you've already got the bones of an answer there (" I've done a lot of growing up since then and take my career much more seriously than before.")

Good luck!
posted by hijinx at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2011

Connections are always better than a resume. Call your old boss right now and tell him that you're interested in your old position. If you're the right person for the job, he'll hire you back (Although you'll still have you send him your resume, likely.) If you screwed yourself when you quit, well, then you'll know and you won't have to go through the process of submitting your resume and waiting for a phone call.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2011

One of the best people I work with was a rehire that left on good terms with the company, worked for several others, and then came back, bringing both an understanding of our corporate culture as well as an outside perspective with new experiences. He leveraged his connections and the good terms that he left on. His past experience spoke for itself, his new experiences made him a more well rounded candidate, and his understanding of other companies allowed him to appreciate his old company.

Do you see how I framed everything in such a way that he instantly becomes a value added reclaimed resource?
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:53 AM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

Nanukthedog nailed it. Just be prepared to show how you've grown with other, more recent, experience. On the other hand, if it's the same job you once found a little boring, you need to spend some time finding out what it is about the job or company you can be enthusiastic about so you don't end up just repeating your past performance. Chances are very good that your old boss is going to want to know what's changed and why they can expect something different this time. Good luck!
posted by Hylas at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2011

Tell your old boss what you've told us: you've learned a lot about the world of work, and you realise that it was a great place to work, a good job, and you miss the old team. You won't be coming back and pulling sickies and whatnot because you've realised how cool it is.
posted by rodgerd at 10:13 AM on March 1, 2011

I did this after 5 years (albeit, having left under much better circumstances - i.e., perfect perf review) and it was a mistake. My impression from other friends who have done it is that the things you liked about the company will always have degraded since your absence and many other things will have gotten worse.

You were only there a year and the world is a big place. Go somewhere else.
posted by rr at 11:17 AM on March 1, 2011

I've hired at least four people back under similar circumstances and despite rr's experience, they seem pretty happy to be back. Three of the four are still here, with at one staying 11 years since he came back. The reaction will probably vary from place to place, but what I would be looking for is a sign that you understand where your performance fell short and that you have grown wiser, smarter and more experienced since you left. I've also declined to rehire a similar number where I either didn't believe that they would fit in or that they would bring back their old problems with them. I think the best thing by far would be to contact your old boss and discuss it with him. I'm somewhat ambivalent about email vice phone. If it were me, I'd prefer email because that lets me think it over and craft a careful response.
posted by Lame_username at 12:35 PM on March 1, 2011

Two years ago, I got a (different) job at a company I'd interned for a couple of years prior to that. I wasn't the best empolyee the first go round, either, although it's moreso because I was an intern and didn't really have much given to me to do. I contacted my old boss directly by email to ask what the best way to move forward with the potential new job would be. He asked me to send in my resume as a formality and hired me without further ado--he was happy to avoid the interview process. Definitely contact your old boss rather than just sending in your application.

I'm with rr, though. Getting rehired didn't work out for me at all. I absolutely hated the new job and left after 8 months. Remember your potential new job might not be the same as your old job--duties, supervisors, etc. could have changed in the interim. The first time I worked at the company, I liked the co-workers and atmosphere, but the second time I wound up dealing with bullying and micromanagement. Think it through and ask lots of questions about the new job!
posted by equivocator at 3:39 PM on March 1, 2011

I have to agree with rr and equivocator. Would going back there further your knowledge and skills? Also, going to another job and organization increases your network, not a bad thing in these uncertain times when networking and getting your name out there is so important.

Ask yourself why you want to get back into the same place, with all the same people and same job duties. Is it just because it is a safe alternative? If so, I think it's a bad idea.
posted by gregjunior at 10:23 AM on March 5, 2011

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