How To Return To A Former Employer

Guidance for Job Seekers

How To Return To A Former Employer

You may have moved on to pastures new but now a former employer has a new opportunity at their firm, and you’re perfect for the job. What do you do? Alex Christie discusses how to return to a former employer

former employer

In our industry – construction engineering – there is a finite talent pool of engineers and professionals with the right skills and experience. This means that often throughout an individual’s career there may be occasions when an opportunity becomes available with a former employer and potentially they’re the best candidate for the job.

As specialist recruiters for the construction engineering industry, we work with clients and candidates long term, often finding a candidate several roles throughout their career and likewise sourcing candidates for clients as their companies grow and develop.

So we do sometimes find that a former employee is looking for a new role at precisely the time their previous company is recruiting. Should you go for that role? In this post we offer some advice for construction engineering candidates considering whether to return to a former employer.

Should You Stay or Should You…Return?

There are many reasons you might look at returning to work for a former employer. Perhaps you’ve been working as a contractor overseas and have decided to come back to the UK; or they’re recruiting for a position that wasn’t previously available; or maybe the grass wasn’t greener after all…

Whatever your reasons these will play a big part in whether or not your former boss takes your application seriously, as will the circumstances in which you left previously.

Did You Leave On A High?

If you left your previous position with the employer amicably, then you stand as good as chance as any other candidate of getting invited back to an interview. If you burnt your bridges, then your application is unlikely to be taken further. It’s worth revisiting the reasons you left in the first place, before you even make contact. If you left for new challenges, career promotion or to try something new, provided the role you are applying for offers those same incentives you should look like a good fit. But if you left because of frustrations in the workplace, issues with other members of staff or other niggles and gripes; how do you know that things will be different this time?

Before submitting your CV, test the water. Contact any close former colleagues that are still with the employer to get an idea of the kind of reception you might receive. Their insider information may help you in your pitch, providing you with the right angle to approach your former company and helping you decide whether returning is a good idea or not.

Do Some Company Research

You moved on, and so do companies. Don’t presume that everything will be the same as when you left. Departments get restructured, mergers occur, other staff leave or are recruited, and clients are won or lost. No one likes a former employee to arrogantly assume that they know everything, a bit of humility goes a long way. So too is some practical research. Just as you would with an unknown employer, find out what they’ve been up to since you left. This information can help shape your CV and covering letter, as well as the focus of your interview – if you get one.

As with any other company, your former employer will want to know what you can do for them. Therefore, you need to identify what they need for which you can provide a solution.

CVs and Covering Letters

In many circumstances it is appropriate to simply pick up the phone and speak to your former boss about the possibility of coming back. This is particularly true if you left on a high with the words “come back anytime” ringing in your ears. That said, you should still prepare a CV, and maybe even a covering letter, in case they request one.

If you are applying for an advertised position, this will be necessary anyway; and remember although your former boss may be involved in the recruitment process, there are likely to be other people in the loop too who may not know you as well.

Having identified what you can do for them it’s time to tailor your CV and covering letter around this. To your advantage are your achievements and performance during your previous time with the company. Make sure you remind them of these; with particular reference to those successes that are relevant to the job you want.

You will also have gained experience in your roles since leaving that company, and if you are looking to return to a more senior position than the one you left, this will be of particular relevance. Answer the question of why you would be an asset to the company if they were to invite you back.

Addressing The Reason For Leaving

It may be a good idea to address the reason you left in your covering letter or email. At the very least you should be prepared for a conversation about this if invited to an interview; and be prepared for a phone call out of the blue! Your former employer will want assurances that if taken back you are not going to leave again just a few months down the line. So, it’s important be able to convince them of this, as well as explaining why you left in the first place. However, the two things will be connected so getting your story straight is vital. Consider the following:

  1. Why did you leave? For new challenges and opportunities? To further your career? Because you made a mistake?
  2. Why do you want to return? Better job than was previously available? Relocation? New role not working out? Because you miss them?!
  3. What did you do for the company previously that they would remember you favourably for?
  4. What can you bring to the company that you didn’t have before? Skills / experience / knowledge?
  5. How can you demonstrate commitment and loyalty to your former employer? Can you use examples of your previous performance?

If You Get The Job

Congratulations if you do get invited back. Just a couple of tips for when you start back in your old role, or in a new one. Remember that other people have moved on and the workplace may not be exactly the same as when you left. All that advice about making a good impression when starting a new role is still valid even in this situation. Treat your new appointment exactly as that – a new job, a fresh start etc.

Some people will be watching you closely to see whether you live up to expectations. They may feel that they have taken a bit of a risk having you back. You may have to work harder than any other new recruit to earn their trust, and to demonstrate that the right decision has been made.

Our experience at Energi People is that returning to a former company can offer great opportunities to the right candidate, and there are key advantages to employers too. This scenario is not uncommon in our industry and it is great to see how candidates can develop their career, and clients their businesses, in this way.

If you’re looking for a new role in construction engineering, perhaps with a former employer, get in touch to discuss your career plans or complete our 30 second registration process here.