I left, but I want to come back...
July 7, 2011 10:02 AM   Subscribe

How bad is this situation? I'm applying for a job at a company that I previously worked at for only four months.

I am applying for Job A at a large company I used to work for. I quit a former job (in a different department) at this company a few years ago to take what I thought was my "dream job," Job B (different company). I had quit Job A after only four months at the company, but I gave about three or four weeks notice. It turned out that Job B is not my dream job after all, and I think that Job A is a great fit. (Plus it's closer to home and has better benefits than my current job.)

So, I really want Job A, but I'm worried that the hiring manager will see that short stint at the company a few years ago and wonder if I'll take Job A and then just leave in a few months again. If I get an interview and the issue comes up, how should I address it? One reason I left my original job was that most people in my department were really negative and always complaining about their jobs, but of course I wouldn't mention that. If I take it off my resume, it'll leave a gap, especially because I was unemployed for a bit before it. I hope I haven't screwed up this opportunity already.
posted by trillian to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might be viewed as an opportunistic job hopper. Explain to the interviewer that you were sad to have to leave the company the last time, but you did so because of a unique opportunity to better yourself with the position at company B and that your previous experience with company A was so positive that you always wanted to come back and that you do come back as someone who has experience with company A, but also the experience of company B enriching you which is unlike many of the other candidates.
posted by inturnaround at 10:10 AM on July 7, 2011 [9 favorites]

Where I am you can leave complaining to all heaven, go to another company and come back as a manager (knocking your old manager out of the way and now reporting to you). Stranger things happen. I wouldn't fret about it. You can turn it into a "I had a great opportunity at the time that I couldn't pass up" and make it positive. Why you left the joint? You can always white lie and blame the economy.
posted by stormpooper at 10:25 AM on July 7, 2011

trillian: "It turned out that Job B is not my dream job after all, and I think that Job A is a great fit. (Plus it's closer to home and has better benefits than my current job.) "

Focus on this, and not your issues with your first job, and you'll be fine.
posted by mkultra at 10:59 AM on July 7, 2011

trillian: " One reason I left my original job was that most people in my department were really negative and always complaining about their jobs, but of course I wouldn't mention that."

Well, sort of, but with a but. You do have to be prepared in general to field questions about any unique bits on your resume and work history, whether a notable gap in employment, a period of short jobs, and of course your specific situation here.

This is my pretty firm belief: when interviews touch on those "off" aspects of any applicant, the key thing the interviewer's looking for isn't a perfect explanation, but your attitude when explaining. They want to see that there are answers, and that they're not defensive or evasive or bitter or especially nervous about whatever those answers might be.

So, if the question happens about why you originally left Company A, hit key points about the positive aspects. At the time, Job A turned out not to be a good fit; your perception was that there were morale issues and something of a complaint culture that you personally felt was a distraction of energy away from doing the job. Company B was a great opportunity that was a great fit, and improved your professional value in a lot of ways--have examples on hand about both specific and general things you can give Job B credit for teaching you. So combined, B was very much the right choice. And now, C is the right opportunity, and let's talk some more about what attracted me to it and I've some questions about a couple aspects of it.

What you're aiming at is acknowledging the oddness, showing that you can address it straightforwardly, showing that you had reasons that weren't purely opportunistic or personal discontent related, that you don't carry any grudges, that you aren't the kind of person to burn bridges and indeed you like your bridges left strengthened. That you don't dwell on the past, but that you can account for it and you're comfortable doing so while keeping your focus ahead of you.
posted by Drastic at 11:27 AM on July 7, 2011

What would happen in the (smaller) organizations where I've worked would be that they'd find the people in the organization that you worked with and hear from them about your skills and attitudes.
posted by salvia at 7:37 PM on July 7, 2011

Best answer: I recently did this. I was at Job A for a year, left because I was bored, took Job B that I thought was Dream Job, and was fired from Job B 6 months later (it was most definitely the opposite of a Dream Job). Two years after leaving Job A, I saw my old position was open, had fond memories of it, contacted my old manager directly (we were still Facebook friends and connected on LinkedIn) and was invited to interview.

I'm now back at Job A. I'm happier than I've ever been in my career, because now I appreciate just how great this job is. If I hadn't spent two years away, I wouldn't have known that. Some of the problems that were present the first time around have been eliminated, and yes, there are some new wrinkles (such as budget cuts here and there), but overall, it was a good move to come back. When I interviewed with my old managers, I emphasized how much I had missed the good things about the job in my time away, and how much I had learned and added to my skillset from the other jobs. I am now Fuego 2.0--the bigger, badder, awesomer version of the person they had originally hired.

I'd recommend that if you have a connection at that job that you are on good terms with, contact them and say you've heard that your old position is open, see what they have to say about it, and go from there. I'm living proof that this can be done!
posted by Fuego at 8:22 PM on July 7, 2011

I'm in management at a mid-size company (~1000 employees), and whenever someone quits I mark their file as "eligible for re-hire," which means they left on good terms and are not in violation of their non-compete.

I always just thought it to be a technicality, but I recently did re-hire someone who left to freelance, but came back after a one-year hiatus after his family-life situation changed and wanted an office job again. Same department, same job description. The hiatus wasn't an issue -- he was up-front about the reasons he left and the reasons he wanted back in, and that was perfectly acceptable for me and my superiors.
posted by firstcity_thirdcoast at 9:16 AM on July 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I'm feeling a little better now. I'll try to remember to update this question if anything happens, for the benefit of anyone else wondering about a similar situation.
posted by trillian at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2011

Response by poster: Update #1... I got an interview!
posted by trillian at 10:23 AM on July 20, 2011

Response by poster: Update #2 - I went through a phone interview and an in-person interview (during which I had to give a presentation). I haven't heard back yet, but if I'm offered the job, I'm pretty sure I'll say no. I think the same things would bug me from when I worked at the same place but in a different department -- people I met with were complaining (even during a candidate's job interview?!) about other people (including the head of the department) and generally just seemed negative...

It actually made me gain a new appreciation for my current job.
posted by trillian at 12:32 PM on August 6, 2011

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