Etiquette at Work

No risk in asking about job posting

By Peter Post
August 21, 2011

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Q: I am wondering what’s the unspoken etiquette for applying back to the same company after being laid off. My girlfriend was laid off from a small start-up, and the reason was the company couldn’t keep her during this recession. Her boss told her that when the business picks up he would contact my girlfriend. This was six months ago.

Out of curiosity, I checked this company’s website recently and found it is hiring. What does it mean that the former boss has not contacted my girlfriend? Her review shortly before the layoff was good, and I don’t believe there was any animosity. Should I encourage my girlfriend to apply? Or does not being asked indicate that she is not welcome?

A: Yes, you should tell your girlfriend what you have learned, and yes, she should apply. The situation reminds me of the age-old adage: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

At this point what you know is your girlfriend was laid off six months ago. You also know she received a good review and didn’t perceive any negative vibes while she worked there. And you have discovered they are hiring again. What you don’t know is why they haven’t contacted her, and you’ll never know if she doesn’t contact them.

Sometimes I think we spend far too much time trying to second-guess other people’s motives. If your girlfriend simply assumes they don’t want her to apply or work there, then she’ll never know if her assumption is correct.

Really, what is the worst that can happen? She doesn’t get the job. On the other hand, she may discover they really did like her and want her back.

Your situation is a good reminder to employers to act on what they tell employees. If employers indicate they will remain in touch and let people know when there are openings, they should follow up. By doing what they say, employers create a positive image of themselves and their company.

That said, I would give your girlfriend’s employer the benefit of the doubt and not read anything negative into the situation because they haven’t contacted her. They might have simply assumed she had gotten another job.

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