Returning to an old employer: The benefits of being a “boomerang”

Keen to fill labour shortages, employers have tried recruitment parties, hiring bonuses, wage increases and introducing additional employee benefits and perks into their business. Now some are also considering previous employees to help fill the talent shortages spanning across some disciplines. According to LinkedIn, 4.5% of new recruits on its platform were boomerangs last year, compared to 3.9% in 2019. 

For the employer, there can be a financial boon to hiring boomerangs, since it reduces recruitment and, training costs, while increasing productivity – but what are the benefits for employees returning to old employers? Over the past few years, many new starters have had to grapple with remote interviews, onboarding and homeworking, making it harder than ever to get a handle on their new organisations. Given this, returning to ‘what you know’ could be very appealing too many. 

However, should you return to what you know, or did you leave for a reason? We’re here to find out. 

Why might you consider going back to an old job?

  1. Financial benefits. You may have left your old job to pursue better financial opportunities. However, now that you have more experience and a higher salary, you would have more leverage to negotiate a better salary and compensation package if you were to return to your old company. 
  2. Company growth. When you left your old job, the company could have been in a different place than it is now, especially if you left the job a few years ago. If you have noticed that the company has massively advanced and evolved into a better workplace for you, it may be a smart decision to return. 
  3. Feelings of regret. Some people decide to leave the right job to look for something new. Although moving jobs can help you advance your career, you may discover that your old job was actually the right place for you on a more personal level. In fact, getting a new job may have taught you about your wants and needs in a job, making you realise that your old job is the best option for you right now.
  4. Missing your old team. For many, people are what make a job meaningful, rather than the actual work itself. So, you may decide to return to your old job in order to reunite with your coworkers. Keep in mind that while you were away, your employer might have added on a few more people. 
  5. A new perspective. Living a fulfilling life is all about exploring your options and interests. When you have had enough time to look at life in a new way, you may realise that your old job was a good fit after all. Having gained new professional experiences, you may even be more qualified to work at your old company.

A PageGroup case study: 

Dusti Gecz, Senior Marketing Manager at PageGroup North America, is a prime example of an employee who left a business, only to return years later with new skills, new career goals, and new ambitions. 

In 2009, Dusti joined PageGroup as office manager in our New Jersey office. She worked with us for just over a year and a half, gaining valuable business insights and skills which she carried with her into the next step of her career. 

In 2010, she landed a new role at Horizon Group, where she started as a licensing coordinator, soon progressing to senior business development manager. Dusti said:

The leadership and business support I received at PageGroup stayed with me over the years and really helped me to progress in my career to where I am today. It taught me to focus on success – both success of team members and success of the business.

When asked why she wanted to return to PageGroup, Dusti commented:

The opportunity to rejoin the organisation I started my professional career with was a no brainer! I was excited about the culture, the people, and the chance to work with both a regional and a global team again. I always valued the insights and advice I gained from my colleagues at PageGroup over the years, and being able to come back and bring the experience and expertise I developed since leaving was a huge factor in returning.  

Top tips for approaching an old employer 

If you’re thinking of reaching out to an old employer, here are a few tips and tricks: 

Reach out to your old manager: Instead of applying for a job with your old company, first, reach out to your old line manager directly if they’re still working there. See if you can meet with them in person to discuss your return to work. If not, a phone call is the next best thing. Letting them know before you submit your application is always a good first step. It gives you a chance to discuss why you hope to return to the company, and them time to process that you will be applying and what that could mean for them. Upon this meeting, they may vouch for you to get the job, if you have a good relationship and left on good terms. 

Check their policies: Some companies may have a policy where they only rehire former employees who left on good terms. If they have a no-hire policy, there may be a loophole you could use, such as working for them freelance or a consultant.

Showcase your new skills: One reason your old company might rehire you is if you have developed new skills and experiences since leaving. Show your employer that your brief departure actually gave you an opportunity to learn more valuable things which you can bring back to the company.

Prove you are committed: Since you already quit before, your manager may be a little apprehensive about giving you a second chance. Show them that your time away made you realise how committed you are to the company. Make it clear that you believe in their goals and objectives. One easy way to do this is by demonstrating that you know some of the main accomplishments they’ve achieved since you left, and that you’ve been following the success of the business even when you weren’t working there. 

Stay connected: Whenever you leave a job, make an effort to keep in touch with your old team. This is helpful if you were to be interested in returning to the company. Check in with them to see how they're doing from time to time, and maybe even offer to grab a coffee or get lunch occasionally too. By continuing to nurture these relationships, you could make your team excited to have you back in the office. Dusti commented:

One of the most important lessons I learned was to always keep positive relationships with your previous employers.  When leaving a position, you never want to burn bridges and always maintain a mutual respectful relationship.  This is how I came about having the opportunity to interview back with PageGroup.  I maintained professional relationships with my former co-workers and leaned on them for advice as I was growing in my career.

Give yourself enough time: Remember, every job takes a little while to get used to it. Before making any big career decisions, give yourself some time to get used to your new job. If you are absolutely certain that you need to leave, try to contact your manager before they fill your old role. Otherwise, you may need to wait until your old company has a new opening.

Advice for the interview

Interviewing with an old employer might seem strange at first. Do you run the risk of seeming too familiar? Will they bring up past projects that you wouldn’t have mentioned in an interview? When asked about her experience re-interviewing with PageGroup Dusti advised: 

When interviewing with a previous employer, it is crucial to remember where you started with the company, and to show the development and skills that you acquired in your other roles.  You want to remember to highlight how your time away will bring huge benefits to the company and propel the business forward and how this partnership is a two-way street.  It is always a good idea to address the reason why you left the company in the first place, the experience and growth during your time away, as well as the reasons you would like to return.

What’s next?

If you’re thinking of switching up your career this year, whether with a new employer or old, Michael Page can help you throughout the hiring process with great advice on interviewing, negotiating salary, and more. Head over to our library or expert career advice to reach all your career goals! 

In a competitive hiring market, it's important to know your true worth before looking at any type of career move. Take a look through our salary guides to find out exactly what you could be earning.

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