😱 The Scary Truth About Why Companies Won’t Hire You Back

Thinking of getting rehired after quitting? You had better have a good reason for leaving in the first place.

The Scary Truth About Why Companies Won’t Hire You Back

Photo Credit: JD Hancock

In August 2001, I left my job at Amazon.com in France as a web development team manager to move back to Israel. Almost a year later, I was struggling to find a job after the dotCom bust and my former team was moving to Seattle, so I applied to rejoin them there too.

It didn't work.

At the end of the interview process, I was told that it came down to me and an internal candidate, and they decided to promote the internal candidate instead.

In this guest post, G.L. Hoffman explains that I shouldn't have bothered trying.

Have you ever tried to get rehired after quitting?


New job not up to par?

Most companies will NOT hire you back if, say, you give the new job a try and find out it is not exactly what you were promised. You should know that because I have heard people say “well, if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back to my old job.”

This might be the case. Young, inexperienced managers will often say this during the exit interview, even. It is them being nice… I would not expect them to hire me back if I were you.

Most companies will not hire you back.

And they shouldn’t.

Forget about asking for job back after resigning

Here's why.

Most companies understand that once an employee leaves, they have left. In effect, they have said that something at the work environment is so bad or so limiting (insert your own reason here), that they need to move on to another job. Once the employee ‘gets there in his or her own mind,’ it is very tough to go back and be satisfied in the old job.

Too often I have seen companies hire someone back only to see them leave again in a few months. I bet the average is over 75%; once they leave, they will leave again.

Plus, if the company does hire you back, what kind of message does that send to current, more loyal employees? An attitude of we-will-hire-back provides a safety net for everyone. I don’t want any of my employees thinking they can just go try a new job for a few months and get this one back.

There are rare exceptions

There are only a few instances where we have hired someone back—one girl went into the Peace Corps and the other went into the military. In both cases, we were thrilled to have them back.

We formed a small committee to evaluate whether our small company would hire someone back who did have extenuating circumstances. In effect, we allowed them to make the decision.

I was actually surprised at the intensity of the debate. Their attitude initially was “once gone, always gone,” but they did arrive at some conditions for the hire back.

Recommended conditions for a rehire?

What do you think? They agreed to recommend that we hire him back because:

  1. He found out his wife was pregnant and he needed the safety of our job vs. a commission only one or,
  2. His new startup could not get funded or,
  3. He agreed to sign a contract for three years and promised not to leave during that period, or
  4. None of the above.

The answer was #4.

We are very clear in the company about not hiring back. We talk about this because often younger, first job employees think that a company will hire them back. After all, they reason, it is the ‘nice’ thing to do.

So, when upper managers felt someone had a volunteering Peace Corps-type excuse reason, we knew we could not simply welcome him back with open arms. That would have destroyed that part of our culture. This is why we gave them the power over the decision. Somewhat risky, but the culture is that important to us.

What matters most

The departed employee had left us to go work for his family’s business, which was experiencing some issues. They needed his help, in other words.

Our ‘committee’ was very clear on their reason for allowing him to return–he had not taken another job. If he had left us for another company, there was no way they would hire him back. A family business emergency was different.

They feel good about their decision and so do we.

More on trying to get rehired

Bonus: can you really go back to your old job?

About the author

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. He is the former CEO of JobDig which owns and operates Jobdig.com and Linkup.com. G.L. has also been featured in US News and World Report, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.

Too hasty? Subscribe to JobMob via RSS or email and follow me on Twitter for for calming advice on good decision-making for your future.

About the Author Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

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37 comments
Jacob Share
“If it doesn’t work out, I can always go back to my old job,” says the clueless job-hopper. » article » What Would Dad Say says

[…] can find the full article here. If you like the article over at JOBMOB, please stumble or digg it. That helps build traffic to […]

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GreatManagement says

Great post. I would rarely re-employ. Maybe if the person has some unique and rare skills I was desperate for.

I have been in some companies whereby the person left and then they took them back on as a freelance contractor earning 5 times the money!

That really upset the rest of the teams.

Andrew

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jacob says

Hey Andrew. I think in practice I would almost never re-employ either. For me, it really depends on the circumstances when the employee left initially.

Thanks for bringing up the second point, good idea for a blog post. I have also seen “freelance reincarnation”. Makes you want to quit on the spot if it occurs in your team, but it will continue happening as long as bad companies continue happening 🙂

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josh says

My department is using one ‘freelance reincarnation’. He left the company, opened his own consultancy, and now probably earns a large chunk of the same salary as before even tough he own shows up twice a week for a few hours. I think if another person in my dept. had enough guts, he’d also leave to come back. It sounds ridiculous, but I sort of assume that the way the personnel structure is set up, there are fixed ranges that people can be moved in and a fixed range of ‘tekenim’ so that it is hard for someone to get promoted if the quota of certain positions is filled. Given all that, bureacratically, I think it is much easier process for management to justify to ‘temporarily’ outsource than to promote a worker/give the big raise he deserves relatively.

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jacob says

Josh, thanks for the real life example.

Another reason for freelance reincarnation can be budgetary. When someone quits, the department may not lose the headcount and so they’ll get to hire someone else. However, if their consulting budget is separate, they can hire back the quitter as a consultant and that way grow the “team”.

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Tim says

We have taken a number of people back and the rebound has turned out well for all involved.

The key to a successful return was either:

1) the departure was not job related, similar to the examples you listed; a spouse relocation forcing the job change or some other personal issue (we had one person obsessed with triathalons who wanted to be able to train year round in a different part of the world)

2) They didn’t understand what they had when they were here, until they went off and tried something else. They needed that additional life experience to get that perspective. when they came back, they were keen to shine again.

The trick is separating the right reasons from the wrong reasons for coming back, which I totally agree with your list above. A blanket policy may turn away some A players.

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jacob says

Thanks for sharing, Tim. How did team members respond when the person was hired back? Did they take it as a sign that they too might be hired back if they made a failed attempt to jump elsewhere?

I’ve never counted, but I think that Homer Simpson got his “old job back” at least a dozen times so far.

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Jacob Share
josh says

Besides that ‘freelance reincarnation’, my company regularly rehires. I think that it’s too large a company to have a blanket policy anyway. One main reason is the proprietary knowledge that employees gain. The software is installed at dozens if not a few hundred locations worldwide, but training newbies takes time, and rehiring can cut down that time drastically especially when a project need productive workers ASAP whether for poor personnel planning or a potential important sale needing a ‘pilot’ which could not be foreseen.

My department specifically. One person I know personally had managed to work at two other companies for almost two years (for higher salaries too) but decided to return because he had horror stories of inter-personal relationships of fellow employees and managers and wanted to come back to where people were ‘normal’, even with a 1000NIS paycut.

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Jacob Share
jacob says

That’s a good point, Josh. Proprietary knowledge is definitely a big plus to allow someone back on board, I’ve seen that myself with Amazon.

Too bad your colleague was punished for leaving returning though. I wouldn’t be surprised if his return is shorter than his first stint.

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Jacob Share
gl hoffman says

All good, valid points. You have some insightful readers, Jacob. Congrats on that point.
Perhaps I was generalizing a bit, this practice really has worked in my startups, and admittedly, they are a bit unusual. In situations where you are still trying to establish the culture, I think the overriding thing is to make sure you are not just building a company, but this culture. The safety net aspect is critical—you do not want to get this ‘feeling’ out there, or no one ever gets committed, enough.
My two cents anyway.

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Jacob Share
Tim says

“How did team members respond when the person was hired back?”.

Good question. For the ones that are successful, the issue never comes up. They are committed as much as any one else. It is like they never left.

The returns that failed could have been predicted to fail, as they left with attitude we let them back in with the same attitude. Shame on us.

Looking back, *how* people leave is a really good indication of whether they will work out coming back. Done professionally with all the real reasons on the table, its a no brainer. If they generate a lot of hard feelings when they go, or left because they hated being here, its a no-go.

Tim

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Jacob Share
josh says

Just to clear it up, the paycut was on what he was earning ‘outside’. He was still getting a higher salary than when he had left. He has now been back for longer than when he was ‘away’, but he’s not a virgin anymore and is aching to leave because of a dead end situation. In any case, ‘in this case’, both sides clearly profited from rehiring him over the past couple of years and they are only losing him again.

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Jacob Share
braga says

Hi Mr Hoffman,

I find the situation in the indian IT industry quite the opposite – not only are companies re-hiring, they tend to prefer an ex-employee over a new candidate. the reason being that india is facing a talent crunch at mid experience level and an ex-employee is a known factor. good employees are always able to find jobs that pay 2x to 3x more.in fact when an employee comes back the company attributes it to their strong culture.also salary inversion is prevalent in india and hence employees are able to come back to their original position at much higher pay..

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Jacob Share
Jacob Share says

Thanks for jumping in, braga.

If salary inversion is so prevalent, do you see many cases of people leaving with the full intention of returning later?

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Jacob Share
braga says

Actually no . companies actively go after their ex-employees. this is because the demand for talent is so huge that the employee can choose from many lucrative jobs. Whether the employee wants to work for his old company again depends how competitive their offer is…

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Jacob Share
Jacob Share says

Sounds like what things were like in the West during the Bubble (’96-’00). I know what the news has been saying, but coming from you, there, how long has it felt like this in India? Is the shortage getting worse? I’ve already heard many companies saying that the cost of outsourcing to India has already risen significantly but I personally think that the industry has simply matured.

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Jacob Share
braga says

The scenario in India is something like this : India has many engineering colleges. but only a faction of the 4 lakh (4,00,000) IT engineers coming out of colleges every year possess the right skills. a graduate from a good college goes to work for high paying MNC like microsoft ,cisco, google etc. the majority however are hired by companies like TCS,Infosys etc at a very nominal rate. these companies put these graduates through rigorous training courses for 6 months and then on projects .
So after two years with these companies the graduate finds his market worth has skyrocketed yet his pay has only gone up , say 30 % of his original pay.

Now the graduate quits the company(TCS) and goes for work in some high paying company. or the company if it sees value in the employee,1.it might send the employee ‘on-site’ where he will earn 10x, or 2. it might hike the employees pay.

This is what leads to rise in pay rates when company chose to retain talent. (apart from rise due to dollar de-preceation vs Indian rupee)

To put things in perspective . The IT giant TCS has 111,000 employees still it hires around fresh 15,000 graduates every year, yearly attrition is around 11-14% ,revenue is $5.4 billion. 20% profit

and in my opinion this pay-rise will continue till the demand-supply equation gets balanced.

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Jacob Share
Jacob Share says

Thanks for that description, braga. Where are you in all of this?

Also- in the USA, there are still stories about companies needing more visas to bring in professionals from places like India. On your end, how is that viewed? With the high demand, are people less inclined to leave or is it still seen as a big deal if you can get a sponsored job in the US?

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Jacob Share
braga says

I am a 2 year experienced IT engineer.

There are lot of indians who are inclined for a US job, but there is a decline in the trend as indian salaries are also increasing. culture is also a big factor.

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Jacob Share
3 Most Important Things To Consider Before You Quit the Job | JobMob says

[…] If you liked this article, you’ll also enjoy Thinking of Quitting? Know Why Companies Won’t Hire You Back. […]

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Josie says

If you’re thinking your leaving your job, here are some things you can do, which will keep you in the good books with the old one!!
. Make sure you leave on good terms
. Clear up any misunderstandings you have had
. Work hard so you have good reports
. Make positive friends and mix with those that are in positions of authority.
. When you decide to quit, use personal reasons, such as family issues, not because you want to try a new job, or you hate what you are doing and cant wait to get out!
. Keep your interest in move, to yourself and keep any negative comments to your self as well.
. Share as little of your thoughts as possible.
. Make sure you give notice- normally two weeks is sufficient
. Thank the employer for taking you on and giving you the fantastic opportunities that may have otherwise been impossible.
. Speak well of your employer and if its a business that relys on customer growth, make a point that you will try and get more customers in, even though you cant be there yourself.

If you find the new job is a big disappointment, the above rules, if applied correctly will have your employer welcoming you back with open arms.

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Kate says

It’s true that you can’t go home again.

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Martin says

Hi Jacob,

I started my career with a company X and worked with them for 1 year 5 months. I enjoyed my work environment and job profile. Due to financial reasons (appraisal) , I left that company and switch the industry and job profile. I worked in my new company for 1 year and again left this company because of financial reason (appraisal). In both the cases my management told that I am a performing very well and they were happy to have a useful resource like me. But this was never reflected on appraisal, so i wondered why there is a difference in what they are saying and appraisal. Now, I learnt that money is not everything I should worry about, work environment and job profile matters more. I made sure every exit was on good terms by not burning the bridges.

Now the situation is that I joined another 3rd company. Due to mutual good relation between me and my first company, they are ready to take me back in their company in different better role (initially national, now international), but same work profile and better salary package.

According to you, is it a right/good idea to join back my First employer ?

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    Jacob Share
    Jacob Share says

    It sounds like a good idea; they realize they made a mistake and want you back, and are offering you better conditions to go back. Since you enjoyed working there, it seems like a win-win arrangement. One thing to consider if you go back- are you likely to be happy there beyond the short-term? Possibly related: ask them what you said in your comment, why was there a difference between what they said to you in person and in the appraisal? Perhaps it was related to a specific manager who is no longer there, but it’s a very valid question whose response could affect your decision. Intellectual honesty is important for so many reasons beyond workplace satisfaction, but that’s what matters most right now with the offer on the table.

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      Jacob Share
      Martin says

      Thanks for the revert, Jacob. As the work profile is what I liked, I will be happy and with this I can go long term. Now, I will go ahead for next round of discussion with my first company and will also ask what we mentioned difference between appreciation of work and appraisal. I guess they wanted me to stay with them at minimum resource cost, then they realized that I am leaving, so it came to their ego at that time and now they need someone experience enough who knows the system to manage stuffs they approached me as we had mutually good relationship to make it win – win situation. Let see how it goes. It will very grateful of you in making me understand and decide the right thing given above circumstances.

      Reply
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Jacob Share says

Just refreshed this article 🚧

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Dan says

Can I raise a different view.
In the world of contracting, getting re-hired portrays the opposite. If you do a good job for the client, they would much rather have someone they know and has proved themselves come back than bring in an unknown, if possible.

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JDG says

This reads like sour grapes from a person who felt slighted that they didn’t get hired when they came crawling back. Do the research. The % of hires who are Boomerang employees is rising rapidly.

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Joey says

Nothing wrong with rehiring after quitting or even being fired. It means the company is understanding, flexible and willing to give someone another chance. Having such strict ruling is one reason, why so many good workers are thrown on the scrap heap in the first place. People change, so does everything else, a second chance is needed in everything and if that was applied properly, there would be less and fewer problems afterwards and especially in our world. Everyone deserves a second chance, not third, fourth or fifth, just second, to redeem him or herself, apologise if that is what it takes, fix what ever problem occurred in the first place and start again. The message we want to send to other workers isn’t to be a negative one, it is to show that it is human nature to make errors and if you landed a job in a brilliant industry, you will know, by them shaking your hand and welcoming you back again afterwards and the second time.

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Billy says

Your personal opinion is crap but thanks for your shitty imput ✌ Joeys comment was awesome you can learn from that guy.

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Jake says

It is very very easy to get rehired at Google, not too sure why other companies are so bitter but for me being rehired sounds quite natural…

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gumby says

I left my other job because I wanted to go back to school…. and also because I was completely exhausted. I worked 16 hour shifts and 12 hour shifts for these people. In the two years I worked there I NEVER called in. I got along with all my coworkers and also got employee of the month.
So, after the three months since I quit, I tried coming back part time, but was completely hurt that they didn’t even consider me. I visited my work a while ago and my coworkers wanted me to come back, but management didn’t, apparently. I’m still very hurt and miss my coworkers there, but I will never try to apply there again.
Whew, it felt good to get that out. And thanks for the article man, maybe that’s why they didn’t hire me back : (

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