How to get rehired

Getting back to your previous employment is not a completely uncommon occurrence in international development, but that doesn’t mean that all employers will be waiting for you with open arms. Photo by:  visitBerlin / CC BY-NC-ND

There is a lot of movement in an international development career. While some professionals may stay with one organization for the duration of their career, many people move around from employer to employer depending on who has the projects and funding at the time.

Leaving one organization to join another is not necessarily a poor reflection of how you viewed your employment there. A project may have ended and you wanted to work on the follow-up project won by another firm. Or you were offered an opportunity to work on an issue or in a country or with a title that you just couldn’t refuse. In today’s working world – including the field of international development – you often have to move on in order to move up.

In a recent Ask Devex webinar I held with Devex career account members, one professional posed the following question:

“I worked for years at an international organization and did well there, earning two promotions. I left for greener pastures and now would like to return, years later. My multiple candidacies have been ignored and I have no more connections there. What's your advice for how I can best get the attention of someone inside the place who has hiring power?”

Returning to a previous employer is not an uncommon occurrence in international development. In fact, many employers keep track of their previous staff and use this group as their first resource when looking to hire for new projects.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or that all employers will be waiting for you with open arms. Here are some tips if you are looking to rejoin an organization.

1. Some organizations, as a policy, do not rehire former employees.

While many (smart) employers look to former employees as a go-to talent pool when hiring, some organizations have a policy, written or not, to not rehire people who have left them. The thinking is: they left us before so what would stop them from leaving us again?

If you left an employer for one of their staunch competitors, then this is especially true. Employers can have egos too, and if they felt any betrayal in the way you left the organization, then they may not welcome you back, even if you are the perfect candidate.

2. Reach out to your connections inside.

If you are interested in rejoining an organization, reach out to your former colleagues who are still there and can vouch for you. It could be that the hiring manager or person reviewing resumes doesn’t know you or the great work you previously did for them.

If you no longer have connections inside, reach out to former colleagues who left more recently than you to see who they recommend and ask them to put in a good word.

3. Employers are not always the best record keepers.

If a recruiter sees that you worked with their organization before, they may be reluctant to consider you if they don’t know why you left the organization. Many recruiters have horror stories of rehiring people they later found out were previously fired or consistently had poor reviews because there was no system of tracking this information. Or if there was a system, no one made note of it.

Some recruiters may also mistakenly assume that if the organization wanted you back, someone would have already thought of you and asked.

Reasons like these are why some organizations make a policy of not rehiring former employees. But it’s another reason to use any remaining connections within the organization to try and get back in.

4. Stay in touch, and on good terms, with previous employers.

International development can make the world feel like a small place. It is in both the employers’ and employees’ best interests to stay in contact and on good terms.

This starts with how you depart an employer. Even though you may be leaving an organization now, you never know where your path may take you. Read these tips on how to leave your job without burning bridges.

One sure way to stay on good terms with a former employer is to refer other professionals to them. Showing them that you still want the organization to succeed can help smooth over any bruised egos as a result of you leaving them and pave the way for you to come back, should you want to, in the future.  

If you have a questions about managing your career in global development, please tweet me @DevexCareers.

About the author

  • Kate Warren

    Kate Warren is Executive Vice President and resident talent and careers guru at Devex. With 15 years of global development recruitment experience advising international NGOs, consulting firms, and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.