What you need to do if you’re asked to reapply for your own job
Machine operator Gary Davies was understandably nervous. He hadn’t been for a job interview for 26 years and knew this one would be pretty traumatic. After all, it was with his employers, automotive manufacturing giant GKN - for his own job.
Gary faced this situation when it was announced his Birmingham plant was to close and it’s now becoming an ever-growing trend, as employers focus more on restructuring their workforce rather than automatic redundancies.
Indeed, so familiar is the situation becoming that a recent poll of 1,000 workers showed that two out of five thought either they or their colleagues would be asked to reapply for their jobs in the next 12 months.
It may be upsetting or even shocking, but having to reapply for your own job as an alternative to getting the chop is not in any way illegal. “It’s increasingly common for employers to formally ask current staff to interview for their jobs after a merger or acquisition,” London employment consultant Alison Jennings says.
“It can also happen when a company is downsizing and current employees will be competing for the reduced number of jobs available or facing an automatic lay-off. One argument is that the system may be hard, but it’s fair.
“For instance, it’s claimed to cut down the chances of discrimination - rehiring gives all employees an equal opportunity to get a new job and at the same time the company will be justified in choosing the best people.
“Even so, it can be pretty upsetting for employees, particularly when there hasn’t been prior notice, and a group of workers or even a whole department hear they have to choose between a lay-off and applying for a new job.
“So what do they do? They may have a choice between a severance package and reapplying for their jobs. Or they may simply be laid off if they are not prepared to reapply A company is legally obliged to offer alternative work even if it pays less, but if a worker unreasonably refuses a new job they can lose the right to redundancy payments.”
Consultant’s say an increasing number of bosses are now offering what’s known as bumping - inviting workers to apply for jobs that are a step down the career ladder. “Of course, it’s up to you to decide whether job security is worth a salary cut,” Bristol employment consultant John Warwick says. “But recent tribunal decisions have shown that bumping is a fair and legal alternative to redundancy.”
Studies have shown that nowadays an increasing number of companies are trying to avoid the expense of redundancy payments by asking current staff to reapply for jobs. Usually they will have to compete for a reduced number of positions, not only with their peers, but outside applicants too.
Not surprisingly, having to reapply for your own job is never pleasant and studies have shown it can be traumatic and even lead to mental stress. According to business psychologist Dr Graham Spencer of The University of Manchester, competing for jobs can pit colleagues who have worked happily together for years against each other.
He advises: “Don’t let the negativity get to you. If you are affected, it’s hard to maintain your own sense of self worth when people around you are acting in a ‘me first’ and panicky way. Don’t join in, but stay cool and think through your options.
“Look carefully into the alternatives to reapplying for your job. Just what benefits would you get if you were laid off? Many people use their redundancy pay to make a career change. This could be the chance to realise the dream of working for yourself.
“On the other hand, working for a restructured, revitalised company might give you a whole new range of opportunities. So don’t make a hasty decision.”
When to reapply for your job: Jim Cutler had worked as a gas company sales manager for 10 years when a reorganisation led to his 10-man department being asked to reapply for just seven jobs.
“Three of the guys wanted to leave anyway, but there were several applicants from outside the firm,” he explains. “We all kept diaries of the extra work we had been doing and got testimonials from satisfied customers. We were a good team and it seemed a shame to break it up. When we presented sales figures that were 13 per cent up on last year, we were all re-engaged. I think the shake up probably did us good - our figures will be even better this year.”
When not to reapply for your job: Paul Gibson, an accountant in a major discount house, refused to reapply for his own job last year when his department was downsized after a takeover and took a £30,000 redundancy payout instead.
“Lay-offs and downsizings are never pleasant, but to me asking people to reapply for their own jobs has got to be the worst way of doing it,” he says. “Everyone was angry and upset with the new management and I felt I couldn’t work in such a negative atmosphere.”
Paul is now working with his wife in their own property management business. “It’s turned out to be a good decision,” he says.
If you have to reapply for your job, here are some tips on how to succeed:
• Write an impressive CV. Have a look online to see how they’re done nowadays. Plug the value you have added to the company. Quantify the results and list the skills and knowledge that helped you achieve them.
• Keep any frustration and resentment to yourself. Employers favour workers who have a positive attitude whatever the circumstances and who add to team morale. But don’t bottle things up outside work. Share your feelings with a partner or friend, so long as you know they will be discreet.
• Look smart. “When it’s an external interview, people dress carefully and prepare well,” Robin Wood, boss of careers consultancy CMC, says. “But while the fact the employer or manager already knows you may help, there is a temptation to be more casual.”
• Don’t assume your employer knows all about your accomplishments - there may be new decision makers in the company. So spell out exactly what you’ve done.
• If the new job will be different from your current role, make it clear how much you are looking forward to new responsibilities and how qualified you are to handle them.
• Look for ways of saving the company money. Take on anything extra, like working late or a challenging project, which will prove you have a strong work ethic and positive attitude.
• Improve your relationship with any managers who might be in line to supervise you in your new job, but don’t be a creep. Good relations can certainly improve your chances of getting rehired.
• Don’t automatically assume you will be rehired. Regardless of your past record, there’s no guarantee you will be selected for the new role. Of course, it will be hard to see failure in a positive light, but make sure you leave on good terms. You never know if your paths will cross again.
• Finally, pull out all the stops. Ask your customers and clients to put in a good word for you. Make sure your bosses know you want to learn about new programmes, applications and products. Go on study courses in your own time. Stay positive, active and focused.
Looking back on his ordeal, Gary Davies says: “It was a shock. I didn’t even have a CV or know how to write one. When you’ve not been in the jobs market for a long time, it can be frightening and you can’t assume the job is yours just because you’ve worked there forever.”
In fact, Gary’s story has a happy ending. GKN not only kept him on, but gave him a better job.