The Great Resignation: How to ask for your old job back

If you’ve ever left a job for a new one and realized you made a mistake, you wouldn’t be the only one. Navigating your way through career growth sometimes doesn’t work out even with the best of intentions.

But if you find yourself wishing you had never left your old position, there’s good news: You actually can ask for your job back.

As the Great Resignation and the pandemic continue, the prevalence of “boomerang” workers –– employees that choose to return to their old jobs –– is rising. While it’s becoming more common, it can still be a delicate topic. That’s why we reached out to a few experts to find the best way to approach an old boss about getting back that job you wish you’d never left.

Take inventory of the reasons you left

Before reaching out to an old boss to discuss a past job, take inventory of your reasons for leaving in the first place and think through all the other options first, according to Matthew McSpadden, CEO of WELD Recruiting.

"Especially given today's job market, candidates should not settle,” McSpadden told Yahoo Money. “There are plenty of open jobs right now and it's a candidate's market. You have the leverage to ask for your preferred working environment and other types of currency, such as leave time, flexible working hours, working remotely.”

McSpadden also encouraged people to consider each of these aspects before jumping back in.

“Make sure it's not a step backward for you and your career and not a comfortable lateral move that's taken without exploring any steps forward either,” he said. “Ultimately, no matter what you decide, have confidence in yourself and your ask. You're worth it."

Prepare your answers to a few key questions

If you’ve thought it through and decided there are still solid reasons to ask for your old job back, it’s time to move to the next stage: preparing to answer questions your past employer is sure to ask.

Andrew Lokenauth, vice president of Cover Genius and ex-hiring manager, said you should be ready to explain the following four points:

  • Why you should be rehired

  • Why you thought it was a good idea to leave

  • Why it didn’t work out at the new job

  • How your employer will benefit from rehiring you

“As a manager, it takes time to interview and train a new hire, so getting back a great employee is ideal,” Lokenauth told Yahoo Money. “I would always take an old employee back in a heartbeat. Unlike a new hire, you already know their work ethic, and do not have to put time aside to train someone new or interview a lot of candidates.”

Business interview illustration with talking and discussing.
Asking to return to your former workplace can be a nervewracking experience. (Getty Images)

Reach out via email

Your prior boss is likely busy with their day-to-day duties, so cold-calling may not be the best way to handle the situation. It’s better to compose an email, which also gives you more time to make sure it expresses what you want to say in the correct way.

“An e-mail is better than a phone call because a phone call can catch your manager off guard,” Lokenauth said.

Be aware of the advantages you offer

Brandon White, director of human resources at Helpside, echoed a similar sentiment as Lokenauth: Companies can benefit from rehiring past employees.

“Most companies in need of an FTE [full-time employee] would be thrilled to have someone come back rather than hire a new person and train them,” he said. “So if you maintain a good relationship with them, reach out and take them out to lunch and let them know you’re open to returning.”

Lokenauth also reminded those considering this path that you never know until you ask.

“Everything in life is negotiable,” he said.