Ask Matt: I burned bridges at my old job, but I want to go back

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE
  • Updated: July 22, 2013 - 7:27 AM

Dear Matt: What advice would you give to someone considering applying for a job at a previous employer where you left on bad terms, especially when some of the same co-workers and HR staff that were involved are still employed at the company?

Matt says: You can’t lose anything but time by applying to the open position at this organization, says Arlene Vernon, a Twin Cities-based HR consultant and management trainer (arlenevernon.com). That being said, there are some steps you could take before applying that can help this situation.

“If you still have some solid contacts with other employees in the company, reconnect with them to get a sense of the organization, your reputation and whether they can connect and/or recommend you to the hiring manager,” says Vernon.

What you may perceive as a major incident may be perceived as a small incident by those who are still there. At the same time, this incident could have lasting effects that certainly affect your future employment status with the organization.

And that’s the tough part about all of this. What you don’t know is if the now-regretted incident made it to HR and/or your personnel file. Some companies formally document an employee’s personnel file to indicate whether or not the employee is eligible for rehire and some do not. Because Minnesota law gives you the right to view your personnel file, you can submit a written request to HR to mail you a copy of your file, says Vernon. Then you might learn whether or not you’re eligible for rehire and whether your former supervisor placed documentation in your file regarding the incident you referenced.

If this is documented, or you find from your inside contacts that HR does remember the incident, you may want to be more proactive. Contact HR to see whether they would be willing to meet with you face-to-face. Take that opportunity to talk about what you’ve learned about that experience and how much you truly enjoyed working there and would like to return. Prove to them this was an isolated incident that you truly regret and not indicative of the type of employee you would be in the future. Using your connections within the company to speak well on your behalf can go a long way toward you being considered for rehire.

“There is always the possibility that the hiring team will recognize the unique expertise and skills you bring by having previously worked there and consider you for the position — despite what previously happened,” says Vernon.

Bottom line lesson learned? Don’t burn bridges — you just never ever know when you’ll need that company or co-worker back on your side. The only thing you have to lose is a future opportunity — possibly like this one here.

Ask Matt: jobslink@startribune.com

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