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8 months ago I left my company to get a change of pace and a significant pay increase. The new company pays more but is missing something the old company had. I left on relatively good terms, and my coworkers seem to be eager to have me back, so I'm considering asking the old company for a job.

What is the best way to approach the company? New hires are being offered higher salaries than what I was making, but if I approach my old manager am I more likely to be offered my previous salary than if I applied for an open position?

  • 'Something is missing' - like a workplace you can stand? I know people that will pay me a lot of money to travel around the country teaching classes. It's safe to say you would be paid more than your 'old' salary, but probably not as much as the one you're making now. Would you go back if they split the difference, or say in the area of 20%? – Meredith Poor Jul 3 '13 at 18:41
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    Hey Frank, welcome to the Workplace! I edited your question a bit to get you better responses (and hopefully get it reopened). If you have any improvements or think I left something out, please feel free to edit it. – jmac Jul 5 '13 at 0:04
  • Thanks. English isnt my native language so expressing myself is sometimes hard in order to get understood. – frank Jul 5 '13 at 6:23
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    Your English was fine, I just focused the question so it's easier for people to provide meaningful answers. Hopefully this will get the question more/better attention! Thanks for the feedback and participation. – jmac Jul 5 '13 at 8:42
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I doubt that there is a way to change the offering salary based on how you approach the company. While there are still cases where an individual manager has the power to sway the hiring salary, my experience thus far has been that HR has a controlling capability in most cases that leads to a fairly uniform negotiation process. I've heard of stories where a hiring manager can name their own price on incoming people, and force it through the system... but I've never experienced it for myself.

You have the interesting situation where they know you and your work, and you know the company and it's hiring practices. It really could go either way. Options include:

  • They'll make an industry competitive offer, because they know you'll leave if you don't have a good standard of pay (after all, you already have). They know what you can do, so you're a better bet than a guy off the street that they've never met. You'll be starting the job with a much lower learning curve, which is a big win.

  • They'll hold back - either because they are cheap, or because they don't want to start a precedent with existing employees. The model of "quit, work somplace else, come back 8 months later and get a radical pay raise" is not a good model for ongoing company stability.

The smart thing for them to do would be to make sure that existing employee salaries are at least somewhat competitive. There's usually a delta that is acceptable, but at a certain point the deviation between current pay and local industry standard can get too big.

Alot of this is not within your control - if your company is smart, the decision will be a matter of company practice that transcends an individual. If the hierarchy of decision making is fairly standard, it'll be something like this:

  • Interview process to determine current skills and team fit
  • Hire/do not hire decision from a manager
  • offer process begins with HR
    • in some companies, HR will go back to the manager or the person in charge of the money (may be bigger than the hiring manager) and vet the increases.
    • in other cases, the company has a pool of money, and salaries managed very centrally, so the hiring manager/department head may be able to advocate for a high salary.
    • this seems like a nuance but it can be a big deal - the coupling of budget and product means the options for much more granular (and creative) decision making.

What I'd Do

If you think of your former manager as a good advocate and someone you'd trust - reach out. Mention your interest in returning and ask what method of applying would be most appropriate. Don't be turned off by being told to use the formal application process.

After you've applied, mention to any former collegues and friends that you've done so.

Then leave it - hopefully you'll have generated some advocates and the company will be talking about it internally. The interview process may be abbreviated, since they already know you, or they may put you through the regular process for formality's sake.

When it comes to salary, stick to what you feel is fair. If you have justified a higher salary outside, and you want to stick to it - stick to it. Mileage varies tremendously here. I don't know about you, but I know that I'd take a minor pay cut to move from a situation I hated to one that I know that I'll like. Only you will know what it's worth to you.

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When a company is considering what to offer a candidate in terms of salary, there is a balancing of the employee’s worth against budget, so the first important consideration is whether or not the team has sufficient budget / prioritises what you would be doing enough to justify the cost.

As you are in an enviable position of knowing that their budgets have changed and that new hires are offered more than existing employees, whether or not you are able to leverage this depends heavily on how much you can distinguish the person you are now versus the person you were when you left.

If you present yourself as someone who has not developed in some way since leaving there will be no reason for the employer to offer you any more than was enough to keep you in the first place. An additional challenge is that you will have to convince them more of loyalty than a new hire given that you left for (what appear to be) solely financial motives, and are potentially a greater flight risk than someone who has never worked for them before as they will feel that if you don’t get enough money you may leave again.

One thing you mention in your scenario which I would be extremely cautious of is when you say

“And I know for a fact that I have the same skills if not more than one of new employees they just hired”

This is not really information you can use that much (unless you are on an extremely good relationship with the recruiters) as this will show potential arrogance as well as draw attention to what you are saying are HR hiring failures (essentially saying why didn’t you go for someone better?)

The final factor which would play a major part is the terms on which the reconciliation occur – i.e. are you approaching them or vice versa? You will be in a far stronger bargaining position if they actively seek you out (rather than you looking for a job with them).

Ultimately you should be able to leverage your knowledge to get more money than you were on previously, but do you want this? Surely the reasons you left haven’t changed substantially, and if it’s only money that plays a deciding role you will typically tend to get more moving between companies rather than back and forth to old ones.

  • So if I get this right. I should try to show them that I have growned during this time I have been absent, not be arrogant about their current hires, but still use the knowledge that they have increased the salary rates. Well I dont want to say that I left because of money issues, but it was definitly a small factor in why I changed. But at the same time money aint everything and thats why I'm still concidering going back. But now I know they have the money to pay better salaries so it feels like I dont want to get cheated in a sense. – frank Jul 3 '13 at 11:58
  • @frank: I think that there is no place for word "Cheating" -- it is all business. However, I don't think that they offer you less than what they are offering to others. Be positive. Good Luck. – samarasa Jul 3 '13 at 14:14
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It is possible to ask... only the hiring people will know if it is possible in reality.

The reasons you give seem reasonable. If I was them I would be concerned about why you felt you had to leave before and if the same issue is likely to drive you out sooner than a normal new hire.

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    Hi Loofer, can you also elaborate on how one might approach a hiring manager with this issue? Part of the question is how to bring up this subject in a manner that's likely to be successful. Good luck! :) – jmort253 Jul 5 '13 at 20:49

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