Get hired back after a layoff
A company that let you go once could be your next employer. Plus, whether a messy office will hurt your career.
By Anne Fisher, FORTUNE senior writer

Dear Annie: I was laid off by a well-known financial services company that was undergoing a major reorganization a couple of years ago. Now I hear through the grapevine that they're hiring again in the area where I used to work. I was very happy there and got great performance reviews. But I've always had the impression that companies don't like to rehire people they've laid off. Should I apply anyway, just in case? -Boomerang Banker

Dear Boomerang: It couldn't hurt. In fact, 54% of employers in 2005 hired back at least a few of the people they had laid off earlier, according to a survey by Philadelphia-based outplacement consultants Right Management.

Quiz launchTake the quiz
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1. Have you ratcheted up your career skills? Have you learned something new in the past 90 days (mastery of a piece of software, an accounting formula, a foreign language, etc.)?
Yes
No

"The former attitude in corporate America - that once an employer and an employee had parted ways, their history was concluded forever - is shifting," says Eileen Javers, a practice leader at the firm.

"Due to the talent shortage, especially at the management and executive levels, companies are more willing to rehire displaced employees because of their familiarity with the job and the organization," she says. "A former employee let go for reasons unrelated to performance is a known quantity who already has proven that he or she is a good cultural fit."

So why not go for it? You may get a pleasant surprise.

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Many thanks to all who wrote to comment on the column a couple of weeks ago about whether a messy office is a career liability. The vast majority of you pooh-pooh the notion that an office that looks like a bomb site reflects badly on its occupant - as long as said occupant is producing great work.

"What your expert is really saying is that there is only one correct way to do a job, and that is in a neat and orderly fashion," writes a reader named Chris T. "While we're at it, why don't we make everyone wear white shirts, burgundy ties, and charcoal suits? Trying to make everyone conform is a sure-fire way to lose some very talented people."

Some of you even confess to using a chaotic office as a means of fending off distracting colleagues.

"I am a pathologist, and I keep an unkempt messy office for the express purpose of keeping people from stopping by to socialize," writes Ben. "This reduces chit-chat sessions and makes me the most productive pathologist in our group." (As for what exactly a pathologist could leave lying around that might make people uncomfortable, it's probably better not to speculate.)

Still, I'd be remiss not to mention an observation from the only CEO who answered my query, Joel Martin of Martin Racing Performance, a Miami distributor of motorcycle parts.

"I have a double standard like most bosses," Martin admits. "I expect my employees to have clean and organized desks even though my own desk is a mess."

A word to the wise: Just because your boss is a packrat may not mean it's okay for you to be one, too.

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.