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How to Approach Applying to a Previous Employer



Dear Editor:

I just found out a position at a previous company I worked for is opening up and is in line with how I’m interested in growing my career.  The issue is that I worked there over 10 years ago and didn’t leave on the best terms due to a personality conflict with a manager.

The only person left on the team is now the hiring manager for the position I’m interested in.  We’ve always had a good relationship, and I was originally hired to work for her until I accepted the new position reporting to Director I had conflict issues with (who was later let go due to their many conflicts with others in the organization.)

My questions are:

1) Is it a good idea to reach out to her and let her know I’m interested in speaking with her regarding the newly open position?

2) If so, what would I need to explain in the cover letter on why I left so soon and how that past resignation isn’t an indication that I would do that again? 

Sincerely,

[Name Withheld]

Dear Potential Job Seeker,

If you already have a great relationship with the hiring manager, you’re one step ahead of the game. People are attracted to the familiar and enjoy working with those they like.   However, sometimes knowing the obstacles you’re up against can be more nerve-racking than facing the unknown in the job interview process.

If you left the previous employer on a sour note, you first need to let go of the baggage you’re carrying from that experience.  You’re not the same person from 10 years ago and neither is the company.

To start: yes, it’s a definitely a good idea to reach out to the hiring manager in regards to the open position.  One of your best options would be to see if she is available to meet informally for coffee where you can discuss your interest in the position and get further details.  If meeting in person is not an option, a phone call or video chat would be a second alternative.

Keep your informal discussions positive.  Even though the discussion may be casual, still treat it like an interview in hopes you will be considered for the position.  Don’t provide unnecessary details or negative feedback in regards to the Director who caused issues when you were at the company.

In explaining your past resignation, my recommendation would be to do it in person and keep it brief, unless you are directly asked for further details.  If the previous director caused conflicts for many people within the organization and this is why they were let go, it’s likely the hiring manager knows this.

Also, it has been a great deal of time since you’ve worked there: don’t bring the attention to the faults of the past, but rather focus on what you can bring to the table now.  If you focus too much on the problems, this is where everyone’s concentration will move to.  It’s better to bring to light the positives of the situation, how your decisions reflected the goals of the company, and how you see yourself impacting the company’s future goals.

If you feel it is necessary to address the past in your cover letter, do it honestly without placing blame.  I would suggest something like the following:

As you well may know, I was previously employed at XYZ Company and left to pursue another opportunity as, at the time, I felt it was in the best interest for both the company and my personal growth.  I have watched the changes and development at XYZ over the years and feel that this position opening is the perfect opportunity to bring the skills and experience I’ve gained over the years back to the organization.  If there are any concerns as to my interest in growing with the XYZ organization, I’d be happy to address them in person.

You could also express a sentiment that you would hope your resume could speak to those concerns (if you’ve maintained solid employment at only a few companies and do not show a history of job hopping.)  Do remember, the above is a general sample and when penning your own letter, make it personal and impactful based on what makes you a valuable asset to the organization.

In discussions with the hiring manager, don’t forget to ask if they have any recommendations for applying to the job or if there is anything in particular they are looking for in the role that you can be sure to address.  Don’t be afraid to leverage the relationship you have to better prepare yourself for applying to the position, but also don’t assume you’re a shoe-in.

After all, while they may be the hiring manager for the role, and they might like you and recommend you for the job, other eyes will be on the process.  You need to make sure you still do all of your homework and not just rely on the relationship alone to land you the position.

Above all, I can’t stress enough to let go of any fear or anxiety you have about the past, because that’s where it is, in the past.  Don’t let any bad thoughts or memories cloud your confidence or your judgement.

Remind yourself what makes you the best candidate right now:  You have prior experience with the company which is helpful in getting a new employee up to speed quickly.  Your industry experience makes you an excellent candidate, and what you’ve learned over the course of a decade is invaluable to informing how you will be successful in the potential future role.

Allow yourself the chance to let your accomplishments speak for you, and let the past show what you’ve learned and you will be just fine.

Kind Regards,

Robin Rayburn

To all the hiring managers and recruiters out there, what additional suggestions or advice do you have for our potential job seeker?

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Robin Rayburn

About Robin Rayburn

Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.

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