If you’ve been laid off and your former employer is hiring again, you might see the news as a chance to get back to work at your old firm. But first it’s important to consider whether it’s a good idea—and whether the skills you bring are what the company needs now.
The odds of getting an old job back are good if you were let go simply for budgetary reasons and the company outlook has been improving.
But before you get too excited about trying to return, do a self-assessment—and be honest. “Sometimes there is some selectivity in who is laid off,” says Jerald Jellison, a professor of social psychology at the University of Southern California who specializes in the workplace. He recommends asking yourself whether you created any bad feelings when you left or while you were working at the company. Was your work up to par? Was your role valued in better economic times?
You also should consider whether or not you feel a renewed commitment to the work you’d be doing, says Mr. Jellison. “I liken it to returning to an old flame. Is it really a good idea? Do you really want to be there?”
What the Company Needs?
Next, consider what the company will need as conditions improve. If you were a marketing manager, figure out how you could return with a new angle of attack that could help make the company more competitive. If you’ve enrolled in any courses or have time to sign up for a webinar that will bump up your skills, highlight these efforts in a cover letter.
Keep in mind that even if your old firm is starting to rebuild and your position—something like it—is resurrected, you might not get the job. Approach the application process and interview as if you were a new candidate. Fine-tune your résumé, do research that shows you haven’t fallen behind on what the company has been doing, prepare for the interview and be ready to answer tough questions.
And before you apply, contact former co-workers who have kept their jobs to assess how things are now relative to when you were there. Get up to speed on any other news that can help you understand key personnel changes or staffing needs, says Ruth K. Liebermann, managing director of HR Insourcing in Boston. “Contact your former boss and let him [or her] know that you’re interested,” says Ms. Liebermann. “Tell your boss what new initiatives you plan to bring, with the benefit of hindsight, and what new energy you have coming back.”
When you contact your former boss or human-resources department, assure them that you harbor no bad feelings about being laid off and are eager to return to work. If you’re trying to persuade a new boss to bring you back, focus on your accomplishments and get references to back up your claims.
If there are no full-time positions available, consider asking to work on a contract basis. The pay is often higher and, though there are no benefits, the job may eventually transition into a full-time position.
Don’t be discouraged if you get through the interview process and find out the job now pays less than you earned before. “You have to consider the market conditions,” says Paul Glen, a management consultant in Los Angeles. “Everybody is taking pay cuts and losing benefits. That will change as the economy improves.”