I was laid off recently at a startup. Despite in my opinion having a very high impact and performing well, I was in the group of the 20% of staff laid off. I recently received an email asking how my job search is going and if I would be interested in returning. I'm getting a few interviews here and there but the search is going slow. I was also making a good salary there that I'm not sure I would be able to find again in this current market. I'm feeling conflicted about whether or not it is in my best interest to return or decline.
Ill put my ego first(from personal experience) and sorry if this isn’t an “ideal” answer you were looking for. If you say you were making an impact and all? Well, wait for the right opportunity, And decline them. Im sure someone here will probably provide a better (and more thought provoking lengthy answer) , but been in this situation once, no way am i gonna go back. Theres a thin line of difference between a laid off employee and a boomerang employee. Good luck.
I think you should strongly consider it.
At the end of the day, a job's a job. In this economy, this fact rings even more true, and I imagine that your prior company would make the interview process easier for you or even remove it entirely. If your compensation there was competitive, they will probably reinstate that as well.
Also, it's important not to take layoffs personally (most of the time). Layoffs are messy and usually made with incomplete information. I don't know how big your prior company was, but once a place starts getting to 100+ employees, things get lost and misalignment happens all the time. If you are a junior/mid-level engineer, upper-level leadership (Director+ folks who are making layoff decisions) will generally have very little visibility into what you're doing.
That being said, I don't know what your exit looked like. If there was a lot of bad blood and you felt like you were thrown under the bus, then by all means, don't consider it at all.
However, let's say the following are true:
At this point, I think it's a good call to go back. It's not a sign of weakness that reflects poorly on you - It's all just the cost of doing business. Do what you can to survive, and you can always find a superior opportunity once the economy improves. 😊
Here are 2 videos that I think can really help inform this decision for you:
Best of luck!
Maybe one additional thought:
Would your old company consider giving you a significant pay raise? They are reaching out to you, presumably, b/c they weren't able to retain some of the employees they didn't lay off or they messed up their $$ calculations. You have some leverage here that I would use to see if you can extract a better deal from your old company. I would entertain the idea if only for the fact that it would be an offer I can use to negotiate with all the companies you are already interviewing with.
Let us know how it goes!
I really like Alex's answer and as his answer indicates, it's a bit nuanced and depends on whether certain conditions are true or not.
Take the call regardless to find out with your personal set of criteria in mind. Don't be afraid to probe and ask them the tough questions -- treat it as a discovery process. Personally, I'd be most interested in deconstructing what lead up to the 20% overall cut and specifically how you got batched into that. It's a great chance to ask for feedback and also validate whether the company feels the same about your performance as you do (keep in mind it's usually not binary and clear cut).
Thanks for all the input, I had a call today and got more context into why the decision was made, I don't think the company is in a good place and I worry they would lay off again. I did ask to increase my compensation and they said that was a possibilty although a number wasn't given. Does this mean I have leverage and if so how much of a percent increase is okay to ask for? I'm leaning towards using it as leverage for future offers as I'm interviewing.
Does this mean I have leverage and if so how much of a percent increase is okay to ask for?
I think you do have leverage - Things probably aren't perfect there if they're reaching out to laid-off employees.
In terms of % increase, 15% is supposedly the standard minimum. If you want to be bold, you can do 20% or 25%. You could throw any of these out there as a safe-ish option, but in general, you should avoid throwing out a number at all costs.
On the flip side, the thing about startups is that the equity is usually make-believe money (I'm assuming you worked at somewhere pre-Series D?). You are negotiating entirely on salary and startups are generally cash-constrained, especially in this economy. Make sure to temper expectations. Negotiating an extra 50k from Big Tech happens all the time (at least when the economy was better) - It's less so with startups as they're fighting just to not die.
As mentioned in my prior response, level will come into play. If you're a staff engineer, even 15% could be quite a lot of cash (many startups pay very competitive salaries). But if you were a junior engineer, 15% could be just 15k (it will be lower outside the US), which isn't that huge for the business.
I'm leaning towards using it as leverage for future offers as I'm interviewing.
This will be tricky as offers will generally have deadlines attached. You might want to space out this negotiation process with your prior company, so that a renewed offer letter is extended as you're doing onsites at other companies at the earliest (ideally you just get all the offers at the same time).
Here's some good resources on negotiation: