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HOW TO WRITE A RESIGNATION LETTER

Jane McNeill Director, Hays Australia

 

If you’re reading this blog because you’ve recently been offered (and have accepted) a new job, then congratulations! You’ve done the hard work and secured a new role, and the next exciting step in your career is officially in the pipeline. But if, by accepting the new job, you’ll need to leave your current one, then this may add an element of stress or worry. After all, resigning can understandably feel like a daunting process for many of us, and this feeling may well be heightened given the current situation.

Indeed, while I’m sure you’re looking forward to your new job, this can be a time of quite mixed emotions. It means you’ll have to break the news to your manager, perhaps one you’ve come to admire and trust during your tenure.

And you do need to be careful about how you break this news; as this Forbes article discusses, the last impression you make on your employer is as important as the first impression. This means that even if you dislike your job, your resignation letter shouldn’t detail or hint at this, as that will only reflect poorly on you and indicate poor character or unprofessionalism. Remember that while the submission of your resignation letter will be one of your last acts as an employee in your current role, your career and reputation in the world of work are going to be around for a much longer time to come. And it’s likely you will be asking your current manager to be a reference for your future roles, so it’s important to end your employment positively and on a good note.

What is a resignation letter?

 

Once you have accepted your new job offer and signed the contract, your most urgent task is to inform your manager. A letter of resignation is the formal way to communicate your departure and it acts as a legal document stating the date from which you wish your notice period to begin and when your last day of employment will be.

If you’re used to communicating with your manager via emails, instant messages, or fairly informal catch up meetings and calls, then writing something as formal as a resignation letter might feel a little unnatural and difficult. But in this blog, we’ll explain why these letters are so important, what you should and shouldn’t include, and an example of a good letter.

Your resignation letter will most likely be kept on file by your employer, and will need to comply with the terms of your contract. It does, therefore, need to be written and structured professionally.

Why it’s important to write a resignation letter

 

First and foremost, it’s important to write a resignation letter for the simple reason that it provides formal evidence of the decision you have made to leave. Just imagine if you merely verbally told your manager that you were leaving – there would be no official record anywhere that you had decided to move on.

From your point of view, this letter enables you to detail the effective date of your resignation, and the intended date of your last day at work. This ensures you have made your exit clear to your employer, and having it all in writing means it cannot be altered at a later date.

It’s also important to explain that you’re thankful for the position you’ve held with your employer and the opportunities you’ve been given over the course of your employment. Remember that your departure will be bad news for your employer, so your resignation letter is a chance to show your gratitude to your manager and the organisation.

A resignation letter is a good opportunity to communicate to your manager that you’ve enjoyed the role and working with them, and that you’ve learned a lot – as well as to thank them for their personal support. It doesn’t need to be a cold letter – and nor should it be, even if there are aspects of your current job that haven’t necessarily been very rewarding for you.

What not to include in your resignation letter

 

Even if you are leaving your role for negative reasons – such as being unhappy with the lack of progression opportunities or feeling as though the organisational purpose no longer aligns with your personal views – your resignation letter is not the place to explain them. Remember, the letter has one sole purpose: to inform your employer of the date you wish to terminate your employment. Therefore:

  • Do not cite any negative reasons for your departure, whether directed at your employer, manager, colleagues, pay, the work itself, or any other aspect of your role. If you do have concerns about the company, your job or the workplace culture, your exit interview with your manager is the place to voice these. Even then, however, your feedback should be directed in a way that can be constructive for your employer.
  • Don’t be vague about when your final day of work will be. You need to be clear and certain, so that your employer can plan effectively for the handover period and beyond, and so that there can be no future dispute over your employment termination.

How to structure a letter of resignation

 

When writing your resignation letter, follow the structure below to make sure you’ve communicated all of the necessary points of information to your employer. We’ve also included a template letter at the end of this blog that you can use as a guide.

  • Like any formal letter, you need to include the date you are writing it, and contact details – the most suitable being your phone number and email address.
  • Make sure the letter is correctly addressed. The addressee would usually be your current line manager, or the person you report to at work.
  • In the opening statement of your letter, inform the reader of your resignation in a clear and concise way.
  • State your notice period, which should be in line with the terms of your contract, and include when your last working day with the company will be.
  • Outline that you’re happy to help your employer in any way during this handover period, such as by coaching a new employee, or helping a peer to upskill or become familiar with your role and responsibilities.
  • Thank your employer for the opportunity and time they’ve given you, and note any learning experiences, projects or moments that you’re particularly grateful for. If these experiences have helped you to secure your new job, this is your opportunity to communicate to your current employer how beneficial their trust and investment in you have been to your career. A touch of sentiment, concisely phrased, can go a long way and costs nothing.
  • Complete the letter with your name and signature.

Example resignation letter

 

 Your name

Your phone number

Your email address

Addressee name

Date

Dear [manager’s name],

It’s with regret that I inform you of my resignation from my role as [job title] at [company]. I am hereby giving you [insert your notice period – e.g. one month] notice of my departure, with my final working day being [date].

During this period, I am more than happy to help in any way possible with the handover process.

I would like to thank you for the opportunities that I have been given in this role; I have thoroughly enjoyed working as part of your team. I’ve had many great experiences while working at [company] that I am particularly grateful for, such as the opportunity to develop my X skills during Y project, and being given responsibility for Z.

I wish you and the team all the best for the future – I hope we can stay in touch.

Kind regards,

[Your name]

What happens next?

Now that your resignation letter is ready, you simply need to plan when and where you’ll be handing this over to your manager – and making your move official – whether this is during a face-to-face meeting (if possible) or emailing it if you’re based remotely. Follow these steps for handing in your resignation letter, to help to ensure everything goes as well as possible:

  1. Write your resignation letter, following the advice and guidance above. Depending on your line manager’s preference, print or email your letter. Either way, bear in mind that your manager will probably need to scan the letter once you’ve given it or sent it to them, and send it for internal processing – so it needs to be professional.
  2. Arrange a face-to-face meeting with your manager (where possible). Simply leaving your resignation letter on your boss’s desk isn’t just awkward – it can also come across as dismissive. So, be sure to arrange that meeting in a private location, and know what you’re going to say before you go in to see your manager. Alternatively, if you are working remotely, then you need to organise a video call with your manager; this is a conversation that needs to be had ‘face-to-face’, even if that is virtually. During the meeting, be professional, clarify any uncertainties such as leftover pay and holiday, and thank them personally for the opportunity they gave you to work for them.
  3. If you are feeling nervous about delivering the news to your manager, prepare for your meeting by reviewing your reasons for leaving and, if necessary, rehearse them out loud.
  4. Think about whether you want to tell your manager where you are going. If you don’t want to reveal your next step, you’re perfectly within your rights to keep this to yourself. However, if you feel comfortable telling your manager the name of the organisation you are moving to or what your plan is, go ahead. Just ensure you make this decision before the meeting, so you are prepared in case you are asked.
  5. Be prepared for a counter-offer. Your decision to leave may come as a shock to your manager, which may lead them to make a counter-offer in attempt to keeping you on board. If you do receive such an offer, don’t necessarily just accept the pay rise or promotion and agree to stay. Instead, remind yourself why you wished to leave in the first place, what attracted you to the new role, and whether accepting the counter-offer is really likely to overcome the reasons that drove you to look for a new job elsewhere in the first place. Are those circumstances likely to change?
  6. Follow up. Presuming you don’t accept a counter-offer, the period between handing in your resignation letter and exiting your role should be all about ensuring a seamless transition and concluding your time with the company on a good note. It’s crucial at this point to tie up any ‘loose ends’, remain completely positive and professional, and ensure your colleagues – and whoever may replace you in your own role – are well-equipped to manage the handover and the weeks and months immediately after you leave. So, once you’ve had a meeting with your manager to inform them of your departure, send them a short email confirming your conversation, and reiterating your thanks.
  7. Keep your news confidential. Your manager will appreciate being the one to decide who else to tell, and how and when to break the news to your team.

Once you’ve made your decision to go to pastures new and handed in your letter, it’s not uncommon to experience a mixture of emotions. You may worry about how your colleagues will treat you during your notice period, for instance, or feel sad about those you will leave behind.

The reality is that most people at some point in their lives – your manager included – will have been in your situation. Despite the fact that you may have been a valued member of the team, the organisation will not collapse without you. Trust your decision and look forward to the new exciting opportunity ahead of you.

If you need any further advice on what to do in these next steps, this podcast from Richard Eardley, our Asia Managing Director, will guide you through everything from organising a meeting with your manager, to what you should say when you hand in the letter.

Once again, congratulations, and good luck in your new job.

 

AUTHOR

Jane McNeill joined Hays in 1987 as a graduate trainee in their London head office after graduating with an MA (Hons) in Psychology from Edinburgh University. She began her career recruiting accountancy & finance professionals, before spending 11 years recruiting senior permanent professionals for London’s banking & finance sector. During this time she quickly progressed through management roles and in 1992 she was appointed Director after leading the London city business to a phenomenal post-recession recovery.

Jane transferred to Perth, Western Australia, in 2001. Over the next decade she grew Hays’ business in that state from a team of 15 to nearly 250 staff. She also established and managed Hays’ banking & financial services business.

She was appointed to the Hays Australia & New Zealand management board in 2007. Now based in Sydney, Jane oversees Hays’ operations in both NSW and WA. She is responsible for 400 staff located in two states that are separated by a five-hour flight and a three-hour time difference. At the same time, she retains her keen interest and passion in banking & financial services recruitment by adding national responsibility for Hays Banking and Hays Insurance to her remit.

 
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