Hays’ Jane McNeill advises on crafting the perfect resignation letter, from getting the structure right to broaching it with your manager.
Once you have accepted a new job offer and signed the contract, your most urgent task is to inform your manager. A resignation letter 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.
Your resignation letter will most likely be kept on file by your employer and will need to comply with the terms of your contract. Therefore, it does need to be written and structured professionally.
What not to do
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Therefore, do not cite any negative reasons for your departure, whether directed at your employer, manager, colleagues, pay, the work itself or any other aspect of your role.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.
Structure your resignation letter correctly
When writing your resignation letter, follow a structure that ensures you’ve communicated all of the necessary points of information to your employer.
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, for example, 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. Finally, complete the letter with your name and signature.
Choose the right time and place
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 and send it for internal processing, so it needs to be professional.
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 holidays and thank them personally for the opportunity they gave you to work for them.
Rehearse your reasons
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, rehearsing them out loud.
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’re are prepared in case you are asked.
Set your parameters
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 an attempt to keep 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?
Always 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. 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.
By Jane McNeill
Jane McNeill is the director of Hays Australia. A version of the article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.