how do I tell a laid-off coworker that her old job is open but she shouldn’t apply?

A reader writes:

A former coworker of mine, Padmé, was laid off when we were faced with severe budget cuts a few years back. I feel certain that she would still be working here, if not for the required cuts. However, it wasn’t just a seniority thing; she was chosen as the least best vs. other coworkers. She did have a few things she could have improved on – probably not PIP-worthy, but mentionable in a performance review. A coworker, Leia, took over Padmé’s responsibilities, and Leia’s more diverse job duties were spread around.

Since then, Padmé has applied for job openings here that she was qualified for. We even had a recent job vacancy (at a slightly lower level) in our group, but the job went to an amazing temp, Rey, who had been working here in another area for a few months. Padmé and I have kept in touch and she asked me about the situation, and I told her that Rey got the job. Padmé did not even get an interview; there were enough more appealing candidates available.

Budget-wise, things have changed dramatically and we could now refill the old position. Padmé asked me if Leia was a shoo-in (she was, but I didn’t know if she wanted it at the time); in my reply, I hinted that the head of our section perhaps did not view Padmé in a most favorable light. This shouldn’t be a shock to Padmé; it was explained to her why she was chosen to be cut before she was let go.

Well, now that Leia is going back to her previous position, Padmé’s old job will be open. I am almost positive that Rey will apply and get it. And rightly so; Rey has shown this through her great work and ability to get along with everyone.

Now I have the awkward conversation issue. I’m not the hiring manager, but I feel like I should tell Padmé that her old job is opening up before she sees it online. We have just stayed in touch as friends, mostly through social media. We’re not close friends, but it would seem weird if I didn’t mention the job opening to her, and I’m assuming she will ask me about it when she sees it online. I don’t want her to get her hopes up or waste her time when there is nearly zero chance she will get it or even Rey’s future vacancy. I think the head of our section has her mind set against Padmé.

Do have some of your magic wording that can help me inform Padmé about the job opening or respond to her if she asks about it? I just dread that sick feeling in my stomach if I see a message from her asking me if I think she has a chance of being hired back. I don’t know how to respond.

This is so very much not your responsibility to handle.

It’s kind of you to be thinking about Padmé, but her emotions aren’t yours to manage, and the hiring process (or ultimate hiring decision) isn’t yours to explain. In fact, the person who is in charge of this hiring process (or other managers at your company) may very much not want you to give Padmé your opinion about her chances; it’s possible that you could inadvertently say something that contradicts whatever messaging they’ve used in the past.

I would stay out of this. I wouldn’t even point the job opening out to her, since doing that is likely to imply that you think she should apply for it. And if she asks you about the opening, it’s really not your role to manage her expectations or nudge her to realize that she’s not likely to get hired back.

If she were a close friend, it could be a kindness to help her get a more realistic view of the situation (explaining that being chosen for a layoff because of performance means that she’s not likely to be a top candidate there in the future). But she’s not a close friend, and you risk sharing things that aren’t really yours to share.

What you want here is neutral, uninvolved language: “I’m not sure what their plans are for the opening. I don’t know much more than what’s in the job description!” And then if pressed for more, “The best person for you to talk to would be (hiring manager).”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 115 comments… read them below }

  1. Mando Diao*

    I think OP is over-thinking this a bit. On one hand, if Padme keeps submitting applications, is that really a problem? OP could just say she doesn’t know much about how the hiring process is going.

    On the other hand, it’s just as easy to say, “They definitely saw your application, but it looks like they hired someone else.”

    Lots of companies don’t like to backtrack and re-hire employees that were previously laid off, even if those employees were good workers. It’s frankly odd that Padme is so focused on getting back into this office instead of moving on.

    1. fposte*

      I think there’s a reasonable possibility there’s a circularity here–the OP responds to Padmé’s interest so Padmé continues to be interested. Another reason for the OP to pull out of the circle–it’s not good for Padmé either.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I was thinking the same thing. This is like a breakup. I want to say to Padmé, “Hon, they’re just not that into you. Move on.”

        Also I’d like to add how much I like the aliases. :) #nerd

        1. Rachel*

          The breakup analogy is spot-on. Am I the only person who wouldn’t even think to apply for _any_ job at a company where I’d previously been laid off or otherwise let go? If I left the position by my own choice, that’s one thing, but if I’m let go, to me that means my time at that company is over, period, end of sentence, and I need to move on.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Some companies do like to rehire great employees so what’s odd here is that they told her about some issues when they laid her off and yet she still applies.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I’ve met a few people in my time who, even when confronted with a lackluster reviews, still think they’re just as qualified as a top performer. I even supervised a person like that.

        You’d be surprised.

        1. OP*

          I think there might be a hint of this going on. Not too delusional, but not really seeing from another perspective.

          1. Artemesia*

            Alison’s advice is soooo spot on. You need to vague this. You don’t know their plans; you didn’t notice the job opening. She needs to talk to the hiring manager. If you are very close to the hiring manager you might want to give her a heads up, but I’d be inclined to not even do that if the hiring manager knows Padme and knows that the force is not with her. Not your circus; not your monkey.

            1. Jen S 2.0*

              I’m not a Star Wars person by any stretch, and “the force is not with her” made me guffaw. Heeeeee!

              1. Andrew*

                And it’s a very appropriate analogy in this situation, because Padme is the only one of the three named characters here with no Force-related powers.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I just caught on that these are Star Wars names. I had just thought that the OP had made a point of choosing culturally diverse names (and was all appreciative of it).

                2. Three Thousand*

                  I like that not only has Padme been edged out of her job by her own daughter, but she was formerly reporting to her son, who seems to think Padme’s granddaughter(?) is also more qualified for the job than Padme is.

          2. Mando Diao*

            IMO there’s nothing wrong with stating a blunt answer, even if you worry it’s too harsh. I’ve submitted resumes via friends before and later asked what happened, and they’ve been good about indicating that the positions were filled, hiring is closed, and I should look elsewhere.

            I think the issue is that you’re no longer interested in being her networking contact for your company. Is there a gentle way to tell her that you’re not privy to hiring practices and you don’t think you can be helpful to her anymore?

        2. Michelenyc*

          I am going through this with a good friend and the unfortunate part is she is choosing not to listen to me. It is so frustrating.

          1. TootsNYC*

            That’s when you stop talking. It’s not your responsibility to set people straight. Saying something kind but clear to a GOOD friend is a gift from your friendship. And then you’re done.

            1. Michelenyc*

              The fun part is she is one of those people that keeps asking until you tell her what she wants to hear. I am not that kind of friend no matter how brutal it might be I will always tell you the truth when you ask for my opnion or help. I have gone so far as to tell her I already given my opinion and no matter what way you ask me it is not changing so stop talking.

              1. spocklady*

                Yeah, those people can be difficult, because they’re not actually looking for a solution to their problem (or advice, or your honest opinion) — they’re looking for something else. You may already be on the right track by telling her that you’ve already given your opinion. I’d definitely consider becoming a broken record on the subject — once she realizes she’s not going to get what she wants from you, she’ll look elsewhere.
                Good luck! I’ve been there and it can be really tough to be on the other end of that.

              2. neverjaunty*

                Have you tried heading her off? “Phasma, you already know what my opinion is on this. I’m not going to change my mind and neither are you. Why do you keep asking?” Phrase it as a genuine question and see what she says.

                And props to you for your patience. I can’t stay friends with people like this.

        3. INTP*

          Yeah, especially when they take professional diplomacy at literal face value. If you say “We really liked you, and overall your performance is great. However, you do need to submit the Teapot Reports on time and with fewer errors,” some people will hear “You’re well-liked compared to your peers and your performance is objectively great!”

          However, it’s definitely not OP’s job to try to help her understand what others haven’t been blunt about.

        4. Wendy Darling*

          A former coworker got a really, really awful performance review and was shocked, SHOCKED when this impeded her attempts to get hired elsewhere in the organization because when you apply for an internal transfer the hiring manager gets access to your performance review. Her view was that the performance review was totally wrong and unfair and it was also wrong and unfair for anyone to judge her by its contents.

      2. Roscoe*

        I guess it depends on the reason. I mean she says the person wouldn’t have been fired or even on a PIP even it wasn’t for budget cuts. So I guess it really depends on what was said at the time of layoff. I can definitely see a wording that doesn’t make it clear that she isn’t welcome back. Like if they said something along the lines of “While I know you sometimes butted heads with Sue, we don’t really want to let you go, but the budget dictates it”. That doesn’t really make it seem like the door is closed for a return. So I wouldn’t say that she is being delusional or anything like that. My guess is even OP doesn’t know exactly what was said.

        1. some1*

          This is what I am thinking – the company probably stressed the budget cuts during the term discussion because why kick somebody when they’re down? I worked for a company that did the same thing – they would lay a bunch of people off and say it was for budgetary reasons, but all of the people were either low performers or had pissed off the wrong person (or both).

        2. OP*

          I’m not really sure what was said, but I’ve heard from the head of our section some of the issues she had with Padmé, like having loud, personal phone calls, not always communicating well when she would be late/early, and just not showing a desire to do more than the basic requirements of the job, etc. The stuff that makes for a good going on great employee. I think it’s partially the thought of we now have the opportunity to hire someone better.

          1. OP*

            Wow, that sounds like the OP talking…totally not me having trouble with commenting on my phone and then trying to move to a computer without realizing someone had been commenting on previous posts with a different user name…sigh…

              1. OP*

                You’re the best! Thank-you for responding to my question, too. Your response and the comments are making me feel much less anxious about what to say if she reaches out to me.

          2. Roscoe*

            Sure, and i get that. But what the head of the section told you may not be exactly what she told her, or at least not as explicit, which is why I feel bad for your friend here.

        3. MK*

          I agree. There is a difference between “you are the one being let go because you don’t make many sales compared to the rest of the team” and “you are the one being let go because you make less sales than anyone else on the team”. A person could easily take the second to mean that they are great themselves, but the company decided to choose an objective reason for the lay off.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, but here is a blatant hint that they don’t want her back–she keeps applying and not getting anywhere.

          When I got laid off, they told me it was because they weren’t keeping my position, it wasn’t performance-based, and I was not restricted from applying to other [Conglomerate] companies. Regardless, if I tried to do that and was rejected, I’d probably try only a couple of applications and then give up. I’ve learned my lesson about not trying to get back into something–both personally and professionally.

      3. BRR*

        From what I know some companies spell out whether an employee is eligible for rehire. Not everybody can understand subtle hints.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and “eligible for rehire” is not the same thing as “a shoo-in for the position” or even “the strongest position.”

          1. INTP*

            Or even “Has a realistic chance of being rehired.” In my experience, the “ineligible for rehire” list tends to be people who have done something fairly egregious to mark them as definitely bad employees, and worth the risk of an irate ex-employee to warn other companies about. Usually the people who left on overall good terms but weren’t outstanding enough to hire back when there are other strong candidates aren’t on it.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I really wish I had marked a problem employee as “not eligible.”

              It bit me in the bottom when she was rehired to another department. The higher-ups that liked her (but didn’t know how bad she was) got made that I hadn’t considered her for my department and her new manager was really unhappy about 40 days in when her true work ethic came out.

      4. Jack the treacle eater*

        There’s nothing that says they told her about any issues, though – the OP just says she had some issues that might have been worth mentioning at a performance review. OP also says she’d have still been working there, if not for the financial situation. Where is there any reason for Padme to think they might not want her back?

  2. Bend & Snap*

    Ooh, back far away from that conversation. Not your job or responsibility as a friend to give her any of this info.

    1. Green*

      I think I would think of it as my responsibility as a friend to tell someone, if we were actually close friends. “Kinda keep in touch on social media” doesn’t really cut it though.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes, this! My best pal from college, or my husband, or a near in-law? Sure. Although I might *not* mention it in the context of the specific job opening, I might just explain that they might do better to move on.

        Someone I met as a former coworker, and didn’t get exceptionally close to? Or anyone I’d definitely class as an ‘acquaintance’ not a friend? Yeah, no. That is not a conversation to dive into there.

    2. OP*

      Normally, I would post about the job opening to spread the word, but in this case I think I will be so busy at work that I won’t even notice that the posting is public.

      But I’m trying to think of how to respond when/if she reaches out to me anyway.

      1. Michelenyc*

        I have been in this position with people before and I just say I had no idea the position was posted and don’t know anything about it. The most I would suggest is she reach out to HR.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        You: “Friend, I think I have gone as far as I can go in helping you here. You could apply and just throw caution to the wind to see what happens OR you could consider other companies. It’s really up to you to do what you think is best.”

        Friend: but, but, but

        You: “Like I said, I have really gone as far as I can go here. I don’t think I can be of that much help to you and you have to do what you think is best.” (And this shorter version becomes your broken record part. It’s your go-to when she asks you anything.)

  3. fposte*

    I also think Padmé is not seeing you the way you seem to think she is. You’re one of the people she networks with, not her single lifeline to a possible job. I feel like you’re trying to fulfill an expectation she probably doesn’t even have, and shouldn’t have if she does, because there’s no reason for you to be Padmé’s Official Pipeline and a lot of good reasons why you shouldn’t be.

    1. orchidsandtea*

      Definitely. OP, you have no responsibility here to liaise with Padmé and it isn’t helping her, you, or the company.

  4. Megs*

    I would definitely feel bad for this person, because it sounds like they weren’t bad at their job, just “least-best”, and it does sound like she really wants to get back in with your company. I can’t disagree with what Alison has recommended, especially since it sounds like your prior interactions regarding job openings have started with her reaching out to you, not the other way around. I would still feel bad, though.

    1. abankyteller*

      Agree with all of this. It sounds like she really liked that office and wants to get back in, and I think it’s definitely kind of OP to be thinking of Padme and her feelings. Padme is lucky that someone cares.

      1. OP*

        I think it truly was a case of “least-best”, but now we can do better.

        And it really is an a good place to work with decent pay and great benefits, so I think it’s not wrong to think that our pool of qualified candidates will be large.

    2. Artemesia*

      I have been in this position where an okay co-worker left and then moved back to town and wanted to work with us again and I was in the key role staffing our program. Even in that role I had to be somewhat vague. There is a real danger that the OP will say too much here and create a situation for the company.

      1. OP*

        Good point. If she reaches out to me, I think I will go with vague responses. If it comes up, I will confirm about Leia’s position switch (it would be obvious to her anyway), but if she asks if she should apply for her old job, I think I will tell her that I don’t know the specifics of the posting and that I have no idea who might apply. If she pushes, I will refer her to her old hiring manager in a light (aka friendly) tone like, “Why not give Luke a call? He might be able to tell you more.”

        Is that sounding OK?

        1. BuildMeUp*

          I would avoid the “Why not give Luke a call?” phrasing, honestly. Padme is likely to read this as more encouraging than it is. Try to stick to something like, “I don’t know much more than what’s in the posting – Luke is in charge of it,” without suggesting that she actually reach out.

          1. Michelenyc*

            I was just coming to say the same thing. If I was Luke and got that call I would not be happy. Especially since Padme will probably say you told her to reach out to me directly about the position. You just need to stick to your guns that you have no information about the position.

          2. OP*

            I like it. Although suggesting she reach out to Luke might remind her that she really doesn’t want to talk to him (which might very well be true) – and then she might realize that would be a problem if he was her supervisor again…
            (No worries, I won’t really do that, I’ll stick with vagueness.)

        2. TootsNYC*

          if she should apply for her old job, I think I will tell her that I don’t know the specifics of the posting and that I have no idea who might apply.

          Do you realize that your response doesn’t answer her question? In fact, it answers a question that wasn’t asked (in your phrasing). You’re adding on too much info. So often we get ourselves in trouble because we think every question should be answered by two sentences instead of one.

          Stop at the first sentence: “I don’t know any specifics.” Don’t say “I have no idea who might apply”; that’s not what she asked.
          She asked, “should I apply,” and your best answer is, “Give it a shot—you never know.” “What have you got to lose?” “Might as well.” “That’s up to you.”
          Getting into “who might apply” is too close to “do you have a chance at this job?” Avoid, avoid.
          Getting into that topic (“do I have a chance?”) is turning you into her co-strategist. Don’t go there.

          If she directly asks you, “do you think I have a chance,” say, “I have no idea. I’m not really privy to hiring stuff.” You’ve seemed informed on the topic before, so maybe add “now” or something. Or, “I have no idea, I’d just be guessing, so I don’t want to speculate. Good luck, though.”
          Or, if you’re on the hiring panel, say, “Well, I’m on the hiring panel, so I’m not allowed to talk about it.” And STOP THERE. One sentence. That’s all.
          If your “keep talking” instincts won’t let you, then make the 2nd sentence be “general encouragement.” “You’ll have to try and see.” “Give it a shot.” “You never know.”

          “I really don’t know” “I don’t want to speculate” “I’d just be guessing.”

          Those are helpful to have on auto-play.

          1. OP*

            I like your phrasing. My proposed response was assuming that her questions would indeed be “do you know who else is applying” and “do I have a chance?”

            1. TootsNYC*

              Yeah, but make her actually ask those. And then, “I have no idea.”
              Or, if you’re on the hiring team and she knows it, say, “I really can’t talk about it.”

              And end the contact as soon as you can–esp. if she pretty much only contacted you to talk about the job.

  5. RKB*

    It’s been YEARS and she’s still hankering for a position at your company, after she’s been spoken to about why she was let go? Wow.

    Has she got another job? Or is she just pining for her old one? I’m not trying to judge, but this is akin to someone showing you romantic interest and hanging around despite you turning them down. Someone needs to be the boss here and tell her that it’s time to let go and she won’t be welcome back — because that’s how your letter reads. It shouldn’t be you, but someone should just do her a favour by now.

    1. OP*

      She does have another job (at least as far as I know), but our company is awesome to work for. :)

    2. Nervous Accountant*

      I think that’s a little harsh. It’s possible that she really liked the job and the office and you know, maybe management told her that it was all due to budget cuts. Maybe she doesn’t know htat her performance was *that* bad that she’s not eligible for rehire…sometimes companies won’t disclose that when doing layoffs, so it’s not fair to say that she knows why she was fired.

      1. RKB*

        But that’s why someone should tell her. It’s not necessarily her fault, but she’s getting the signal that she has the chance to come back. If the company is continuously turning her down, they might as well let her know. It’s wasting their time but it’s also wasting hers — and it’s getting her hopes up.

  6. Snarkus Aurelius*

    You need to stay in a galaxy far, far away from this, OP.  Seriously.

    Not only is it not your responsibility, but you don’t have all the facts.  I’m confident you have most of them, but there could always be some glaring issue that management has kept secret.  

    What if Padme was embezzling or watching YouTube all day or some other major issue?  When these behaviors arise, management has an obligation to act discreetly and professionally when dealing with the employee.  That means keeping the employee’s confidence as much as they can, and treating the exiting person with dignity.  Everyone deserves that.

    But do you see how an invitation to talk about it with you might undo some of the actions management has taken?

    You don’t know what you don’t know so all the more reason to not even go near this topic.  If you think it’s going to be weird, then let it be weird.  If she gets her hopes up, then that’s her problem.  

    Memorize AAM’s suggested response.  Repeat as many times as necessary.

    1. OP*

      I am in a position to have some deeper insight about her layoff and am in a senior role in this workgroup. Our section head and I are very close and she often confides things in me…which now does give me even more reason to be vague in any responses!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        oh, okay. Then how about: “We had a little discussion at work that we can’t be talking to others about hiring and other things going on in the company. So I really can’t help you or anyone at all now. The only up side to this is that I actually have not been too much help to you so far and you really could not count on me anyway because I just have not been much help to you.”

  7. Cobol*

    Likely she was told that she was able to be rehired when she was laid off, i.e since she was not fired it was technically possible. It’s a tough conversation, but I’m sure she would appreciate you saying you’re not likely to be hired here.

    1. Roscoe*

      I agree. Saying you were let go because of budgets, doesn’t mean you aren’t able to be rehired. Not able isn’t the same as saying they would, but I think it would be good of the company to just be upfront about it.

      1. Artemesia*

        I’m guessing she was not really clued in when she was let go. No one likes to fire people and no one likes to tell them they are not very good — so much easier to blame it on budget without saying ‘well it was budget but you were the worst employee so we picked you.’ She probably doesn’t have the full picture here. Be vague. The most I would say is ‘these jobs have just gotten crazy competitive; there are so many people applying.’ And don’t alert her to openings. If you aren’t the hiring manager no need for you to even notice.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          And as I said in another thread (it started a firefight so I won’t go into details) but there could be other reasons why someone ended up on the layoff list over others – and they’re not always performance-related. Believe me, I know. Been there, been the victim of that.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Honestly I would never be upfront about this.
        Well, maybe that’s not totally true; I’ve very occasionally said to someone, “I will probably never tap you; I have several other people whose skills are much stronger than yours.” But it’s so rare, and it was so uncomfortable, I’ve been successful at mostly repressing it.
        And the only reason I did was because the candidate really pushed on that point.

        1. Roscoe*

          Eh, I think its about being respectful of people’s time. People do applications, write cover letters, etc all for something they realistically have no shot of getting. I know there is the opportunity for people to be crazy, but it just as likely that they may be mad, but thank you for letting them know. Its borderline rude to do that to a former employee. Especially one who didn’t seem all that bad. Not good enough to rehire, but not bad

          1. TootsNYC*

            But w/ Padmé, maybe one day she would be the best candidate; it’s not like they hate her.

            Maybe they don’t want to say, “go away and never bother us again.”
            For one thing, Padmé will be hurt, and may badmouth the company everywhere, w/ current employees, etc. Why court that?

          2. OP*

            She IS eligible for rehire, and I do hate for her to get her hopes up and then be disappointed. She is a nice person. But I can also now see that vague responses are better than me messing up and putting my foot in my mouth or making the situation worse. I will let her decide on her own if she wants to invest her time and effort; some of the wording options that have been suggested should at least not give her false impression. I just wish I had thought of some of them before and prepared myself for previous interactions.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “It’s a tough conversation, but I’m sure she would appreciate you saying you’re not likely to be hired here.”

      I disagree with most of this, unfortunately.

      “it’s a tough conversation” = I agree
      “she would appreciate” = I’m not sure I agree; I don’t think most people appreciate being told negative stuff that makes them feel bad about themselves, especially not from someone who isn’t really sure of being accurate
      “you saying” = I don’t think I agree; see above
      “you’re [she’s] not likely to be hired here” = I don’t agree; I don’t think the OP can know this. Maybe some other job in the department, at some time, Padmé might have a shot

      I think the MOST the OP could or should do is, when Padmé brings it up, say, “Hey, give it a shot. I know they have some candidates whose experience with the company/department is more recent than yours, but it’s worth a try.”

      1. Cobol*

        More of a appreciate in the long run. It takes time to apply for a job. It’s painful to not be hired (this comes into play more if you’ve interviewed, but still), etc…. OP doesn’t owe Padme anything, but she’s shown she’s going to keep applying.

  8. Charityb*

    Unless Padme is really emotionally invested in this job, I actually don’t think it’s even necessary to warn her away from applying. Realistically, most people in their lives will suffer the pain of applying for a job and not getting it. If she has handled it reasonably well in the past (when she lost out to Rey) I wouldn’t assume that she couldn’t handle it again now. There’s no need to chase her away like she is a fly at a picnic, and I think that putting too much effort into keeping her from applying might actually hurt her feelings. It’s one thing to have that ambiguity with a rejection, where you can tell yourself that you were good but someone else was better. If you tell her that she, personally, is unwanted or that the hiring manager or department head is against her I think that would risk causing more hurt feelings than the rejection itself — like pouring salt on a wound. Unless she asks for a frank assessment of her chances I wouldn’t even bring up the job posting.

      1. TootsNYC*

        But I would say that these are not your emotions to manage.

        And in fact, engaging in the speculative conversations with her are probably not helping her disengage.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Unless she asks for a frank assessment of her chances

      And even then I’d argue OP should not engage. They’re not besties – they’re two people who used to work together and occasionally chat online. Frank assessments of Padme’s job chances and/or work performance are outside of the purview of this relationship.

  9. KH*

    OP, you seem to have appointed yourself both liaison for Padme and your/her former employer as well as somehow keeper of Padme’s feelings and hurts. Neither of those is your job. In fact I’d go so far as to say categorically both of those things are NOT your job.

    I would absolutely take Alison’s advice and not mention it to her at all. Since you’ve been a source for her in the past, she might come to you and ask “Why didn’t you tell me …?” and that’s a good opening for you to once and for all remove yourself from the situation. If it were me I’d actually go one step further than Alison suggested and say something like “I we’ve talked in the past about job openings, but as you know I’m not at all involved in hiring decisions. I’m starting to get uncomfortable with being caught in the middle here and I would prefer not to be a part of discussions like these again.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      I might also say that allowing Padmé to think of you as a locus of communication about these job is not helping her much. She may be focusing on what you say instead of reading the tea leaves from the hiring managers, HR, the circumstances, etc.
      You have a hard time being accurate with her–your letter is an admirable admission of that. And I think that’s what’s behind your letter; you fear you’ve been misleading her. But if you refuse to let her place you in that position (i.e., you refuse to discuss the opening, the candidates, and the managers’ thoughts) then you don’t have to worry about that anymore.

      I agree that you seem to be feeling responsible for things that are emphatically not your responsibility. Probably you (in your kindness and desire to be helpful to people you have some reason to like) have put yourself there, but Padmé has been a big part of that as well.

      You’d be helping the both of you if you backed away from that. Good luck–I know it’s hard.

    2. OP*

      Well, there is a decent chance I could be on an interview panel for this job. Which now I’m thinking is the perfect out for saying that giving her any specific feedback might put me in an awkward position. I think that sounds a little softer.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        You should be able to recuse yourself. But if you can’t – then play it straight as you would with any candidate.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Definitely recuse yourself from Padmé, I don’t think you need to recuse yourself from the panel.
        “I can’t discuss it with out Padmé, that would be a conflict of interest.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          Because hiring isn’t the same as law, and because a former coworker you’re friendly w/ on social media isn’t the same thing as a family member.

          OP, you are perfectly situated to be deciding whether Padmé is the candidate your team wants to hire, when compared with other candidates.

  10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I’d stand back.

    I wouldn’t get involved one way (discouraging her from applying) or the other (encouragement).

    Over periods of years – things change. People definitely change. Managers change. Goals change.

    Your pal may be capable of better performance today. She’s coming in as a known quantity – and what they know about her – and that years have passed – she just MIGHT be able to do the job, and just MIGHT be better at it than some of the incumbents, and MIGHT be better at it than most of the other applicants.

    I’ve said this in other threads – in my business (IS/IT) – I’ve seen people laid off, and then they were asked to come back. I’ve seen people fired, and later management begs to get them back.

    So – while it’s unfair to say “we let her go some years back, so we shouldn’t bring her back” – you also must be alert. You may hire a once-terminated employee back – that guy or gal may have a great performance – but – may also come in with a chip on his/her shoulder. Remember that any employment arrangement involves trust – and that employee may never forget that the trust was broken when you dismissed her. On the other hand, if the people responsible for her job demise are gone, you just might find her to be a diamond in the rough.

  11. Susan*

    As someone who was laid off in the past, it’s hard for me to read her letter without getting mad. This is what you fear when you get laid off — other people looking down on you and deciding you aren’t good enough and feeling sorry for you. Stop with all the judgment. Let others be and focus on your own stuff. The OP seems to think she has good intentions here, but I’m not so sure…

    1. MK*

      Eh, I think that’s not fair. This reaction would be understandable if it was someone who had no idea what the lay off was about, who decided that it “must” have been because the employee wasn’t good enough. In this case the OP knows for a fact that this was in fact the case. And it’s not the OP who refuses to let anyone be, it’ her ex-coworker who keeps contacting her about the company. What bad intentions do you think k she might have anyway?

    2. TootsNYC*

      I don’t think the OP is basing her opinion of Padmé on whether she got laid off; she worked with Padmé for a while, and she has spoken with Padmé’s manager. That’s specific to P.

      If the OP were saying, “I don’t know if I should hire this woman, because she got laid off, and that must mean there’s something wrong with her,” I think we’d all be arguing she shouldn’t assume that. Not from the outside.

      Our OP’s info comes from a VERY insider position; she knows these things to be true.

      Now, the OP is feeling a little sorry for Padmé, but only because P. keeps wanting to get back into the same company.

      1. OP*

        TootsNYC, your insight throughout this post has been pretty spot, and your suggestions are really useful. Thank-you.

  12. DrPepper Addict*

    I know a few people – Luke, Kylo, and Anakin that might be a good fit for the job, but they life far far away.

      1. Cassandra*

        I hear through the grapevine that Kylo’s shown some anger issues, up to and including workplace property destruction. Not a great hire, I’m thinking…

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Kylo definitely wouldn’t. I’m sure he’s been written up for smashing consoles many times, but of course he hasn’t been fired because his manager is an ass and isn’t going to change.

    1. Librariana*

      I think the position is for token female character, so none of those people would work!

  13. Former Retail Manager*

    I understand that the company is a good one to work for with good benefits and pay, but a lay off in combination with multiple applications that have yielded no interviews would send me a very clear message that returning to this company is likely not an option. In fact, I am personally of the impression that a layoff from an organization = we’re finished. I concur with all others and Alison. This person’s expectations/delusions are not your problem. Keep it vague. Hell, if it were me and we aren’t friends in real life in anyway, I’m unfriending you. Problem solved.

  14. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I’d just caution you about carrying other people’s emotions for them. It’s not up to you to prevent her heartbreak. And I think that this might be some of the root of the matter here. If she applies and gets rejected then she will have to process that on her own.

    It’s not up to you to let her know she is not in the running. This is not a task the company has assigned you.
    We can’t manage other people’s relationships for them. It sounds like she asks you a lot of questions that start with “what do you think?” She needs to start thinking on her own and quit renting your brain.

    It’s other people’s learning experiences. I have done this myself. I have interfered with other people’s learning experiences. I can usually tell when I have done this because *I* end up in a pickle, similar to what you have here. It starts with “gee, I really want to help people” and the next thing that happens is something like this. There are too many other people involved in the hiring process for you to be of any effective help to her. Your scope/range of influence and knowledge is just not that large. In this particular story, she needs to stand on her own two feet and apply if she wants or not apply if she decides against it. I mean, really, if you wanted a job at another company what would you have to do? You’d have to go an apply for it, right? This is not that much different, chances are pretty good that no one there is going to give you a bunch of insider information so that you can be on top of every little thing that happens.
    Tell her that you feel bad but you have realized that you have not been of much help to her and she will need to go through normal channels if she is interested in a job at your company. Tell her that she would probably get clearer answers that way than anything you could provide her. And no, don’t tell her about the up-coming opening. If she asks about that just go into the part about, “I don’t really think I am that much help to you….”

  15. Me*

    Yeah I’m kind of in Padme’s situation now but wasn’t really “laid off”. I was a temp at a company and my contract ended. A permanent position came up about a month ago and I applied, emailing my old manager to say I’d like to do so (no reply). The company (big company) says it lets candidates know within 14 days. I didn’t get a rejection email in 18 so emailed recruitment@chocolateteapots checking in. Nothing. I don’t know whether I’ve been blacklisted as a candidate, whether they’re deciding, whether it’s a rejection or what.. :)

    1. TootsNYC*

      I wouldn’t put “blacklisted” at the top of that list. I probably wouldn’t put it anywhere on that list, actually. Did you steal from them? Swear in front of their top client?

      1. Me*

        No but it’s so weird! This is a huge company that uses Taleo so wouldn’t reject by silence after application, they’d send an email. I can’t BELIEVE recruitment@chocolateteapots didn’t reply either. I suspect the department don’t want to hire me but don’t have a reason and next month I’ll get something saying the position was filled. As for how I performed in the job, I thought they liked me! :)

        1. MommaTRex*

          Eh, it might just be that the process is going slowly. But it would be nice if they would at least give you a response to that effect.

          1. Me*

            yep Momma I think either

            1. The department saw my application and would rather another candidate than me back, but as my application is fairly strong and I left on good terms they’d need a good reason not to interview me. They don’t have one so are only going to reject me when/because the position is filled instead of sending me a template email saying there were better candidates.
            2. I’m the department’s backup- they don’t want to reject me but will only interview me when they’re sure there’s no one better.
            But we just don’t know so can’t agonise! :)

        2. JulieBulie*

          FWIW… a company’s use of Taleo is no guarantee of follow-up. In fact, of the few jobs I applied to that used Taleo (before I decided not to deal with Taleo again no matter how desperate I was), I don’t think any gave me the courtesy of a rejection email.

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