Returning to a Former Employer: Is it a Good Idea? (Pros, Cons and How To)

New-employee-being-introduced-to-teamMost people experience twists, turns and bumps in the road throughout their careers. Many of these changes are self-induced (leaving one company for another, switching roles, changing industries, etc.). But sometimes they’re not. Layoffs are one example of this. 

Depending on the cause, a shift in your working life might be stressful, exhilarating or heartbreaking (maybe even all three). Regardless of the circumstance, however, the unknown is always nerve-racking

Leaving an employer requires, in many ways, taking a leap of faith. No matter how much research you do, you don’t experience a company’s culture, workplace environment, leadership and values until you work there. 

After changing employers (and acquainting themselves with these things) sometimes people long for their former situation. That’s totally normal. In fact, after more than 65 years in business, we’ve rehired a lot of people here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS). 

At the end of the day, you deserve an excellent, healthy work life. This is why a lot of people change employers in the first place; they’re looking for something their current situation is simply missing. 

That said, returning to a previous employer after deciding the grass wasn’t, in fact, a twinge greener, can be stress-inducing. It can even feel a little bit embarrassing. But it doesn’t have to. In some instances, returning to a previous workplace is a great idea — especially if you left on good terms. 

So how do you decide it’s time to go back? 

To help, this article outlines the upsides and downsides of returning to a previous employer. We’ll also explain what companies think about when deciding whether to rehire a former employee and what you should prioritize when reapplying. 

The Upside of Returning to Where You Used to Work

There are several distinct advantages to returning to a previous employer. Here are the three largest ones:

  1. Training and onboarding can be seamless
  2. You have the opportunity to negotiate
  3. You understand the workplace and culture

1. Training and Onboarding Can Be Seamless

As a former employee who has held a position with the company before, your onboarding and training can be expedited. It often takes three to six months for a new hire to round their job’s learning curve and become comfortable in their position. 

As a rehire who, in all likelihood, held the same (or a similar) position before, this can be expedited — particularly on the training front. This will remove a lot of onboarding activities from your plate (which can be stressful), making you effective in your role faster than joining another new organization. 

2. You Have the Opportunity to Negotiate

The offer stage of the hiring process is a time for negotiation between a job candidate and their (potential) employer. If you decide to return to a company you left previously, this is your chance to address some of the issues you experienced — especially if they’re the reason you left. 

At this point, you can relieve your main pain points by asking for things like more money or additional paid time off (PTO). Obviously, it’s important for your requests to be within reason; the negotiation needs to benefit both parties or it’s not going to work. Negotiate in the one or two major areas you felt dissatisfied with during your first stint with the company. 


3. You Understand the Workplace and Culture

Since you have worked for this company before, you know what you’re getting by joining up again. You’ve already experienced what it’s like to work there (the leadership, the culture, the values, the day-to-day), so this isn’t an unknown. 

Where joining a new organization is something of a risk (the culture could be toxic and the people could be miserable), as a rehire, you know exactly what to expect. 

You’ll also have an existing network of familiar faces when returning to an employer, which can be comforting.

The Downside of Returning to Where You Used to Work

Returning to a company you used to work for might not be the best decision in some situations. This is particularly true if you have an issue with any of these three things: 

  1. You will start over with benefits
  2. You will start from the beginning within your role
  3. Your reason for leaving may still exist

1. You Will Start Over With Benefits

Any time you take a new job, you start from scratch on your PTO balance/accrual rate and your progression along a company’s 401k/retirement vesting schedule. This can be frustrating, particularly when you earn less PTO upon your return than you did before you left.

Even if you were a great employee previously, your company might not let you revive your progress when you return. Keep this in mind when you consider returning to a prior company. If it matters enough to you, you may want to consider negotiating for a benefit adjustment or two during the offer stage. 

Related: Understanding Your Benefits Package: What to Look For and Consider

2. You Will Start From the Beginning Within Your Role

Rehired employees are treated just like every new hire. They all go through orientation, receive training and start from square one. 

This is especially noteworthy in roles like sales where people build up a customer base and earn a performance-based commission

Expect to start over again when you return to a prior employer — you won’t be given the accounts or responsibilities you earned during your previous employment. 

3. Your Reason For Leaving May Still Exist

Even if it’s been years since your last stint with a company, the main reason you left could still exist there. For example, if you left because of an unhealthy manager relationship or an aspect of the culture, these things might not have changed. 

While things like pay and benefits can be negotiated and adjusted to your liking, other things like workplace culture can’t be. After a while, you could end up regretting you ever returned. That’s the last thing you want to happen. 

Make sure to do some research — reach out to colleagues, ask your recruiter questions, take a building tour, etc. — to ensure you’ll be happy when you return. 

What Do Companies Consider When Making Rehiring Decisions?

First and foremost, companies want high-performing employees who fit their culture well and want to be there. This isn’t to say you won’t be hired again because you left. 

In fact, if you were performing in your previous role, left on good terms and other employees enjoyed working with you, you’re in a good spot. When you apply for a job, you’ll be given the same consideration every candidate receives. 

In these situations, recruiters like to check in with the employee’s former manager and team (where applicable) to gauge their fit within the company. This helps them decide whether the role you’ve re-applied to is a good match for all parties.

Don’t worry about getting proper consideration when you apply to a former company; great employees are always greeted with open arms — there won’t be any hard feelings

3 Tips When Applying to a Former Employer

Now you understand the pros and cons of applying for a job at your former company. You also know this can work out really well in many situations. However, to make sure you ace your application and interview process, make these three things a priority:

  1. Reach out to former your boss/recruiter indicating interest
  2. Be respectful and display professionalism 
  3. Don’t assume you’ll get the job

1. Reach Out to Your Former Boss/Recruiter Indicating Interest

As soon as a position you’re interested in opens up, it’s a good idea to reach out to the hiring manager, the recruiter or a former manager to indicate your interest before applying. This is particularly impactful if you know the person well; they can give you further information about the role and put in a good word for you. 

2. Be Respectful and Display Professionalism

Anytime you throw your hat in the ring for a job, you want to put your best foot forward. A good first impression goes a long way. Always be respectful to the recruiters and other employees you interact with

Even though you’ve worked for this company before and might know a lot of people internally, don’t get lackadaisical with your manners or in the way you present yourself. Be personable and kind and prepare for every interview. Most importantly, during your conversations with other employees, don’t bad mouth your former employer or blame someone else as the reason you left the company the first time. 


3. Don’t Assume You’ll Get the Job

This final tip is probably the easiest to overlook. You see, just because you were hired at the company before, doesn’t mean you will be this time. Sure, you’ll be considered for the position. You might even have some internal advocates. At the end of the day, however, the company is looking for the best fit and there are a lot of talented people out there. 

All you can do is control what you can, be respectful, come to every interview prepared, send follow-up emails and demonstrate proper interview etiquette. Those things will set you up for success. 

Should You Return to a Former Employer?

Great companies want great employees. It’s really that simple. If a high-performing former employee wants to come back and work again, businesses often welcome their application. As you think about whether returning to a job you used to have is a good idea, keep these pros and cons in mind


  1. Training and onboarding can be seamless
  2. You have the opportunity to negotiate
  3. You understand the workplace and culture


  1. You will start over with benefits
  2. You will start from the beginning within your role
  3. Your reason for leaving may still exist

In the end, only you can decide whether what you used to have is better than your current situation. For many people, applying at an organization they used to work for, whether it was less than a year, five years or decades before, turns out great — allowing them to pick up where they left off. 

As long as you reach out to a former boss (when it makes sense) or the recruiter to indicate your interest, display professionalism at all times and work hard to prepare for the interview process (nothing is guaranteed), you have a good chance of landing a position. 

That said, not getting the job isn’t the end of the road either. Here are your options if you don’t get the position you originally applied for at a company

Here at ATS, our growing company is always looking to add motivated people to our teams around the U.S. (we even rehire quite a few folks). For more information about our open positions, click here. Or, if you’d like to be notified when a relevant job in your area is posted, sign up for job alert emails today.

Tags: Career Resources

Ellen Spiczka

Written by Ellen Spiczka

Ellen has a rich history at ATS. In 2015, Ellen started at ATS Logistics as a national sales representative, where her interpersonal, communication and problem-solving skills helped her meet the expansive demands of her customer base. In 2019, Ellen transitioned into a role on ATS' corporate talent acquisition team, using these same skills to connect job seekers with their best-fit position within ATS. Today, Ellen is the lead talent acquisition specialist for ATS Logistics, ATS' fastest-growing division.

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