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Resignation letters: What you need to know

By Michael Cheary

Whatever your reasons for leaving a job, there is a right way and a wrong way to resign. Here's how to put it in writing...

Whatever your reasons for leaving a job, there is a right way and a wrong way to resign.

Leaving with the right level of grace and decorum not only speaks volumes about your character, it also shows potential employers how you can handle sensitive situations professionally. And, in certain industries, news really does travel fast.

If you’re thinking of moving on, make sure you’ve properly considered all the possibilities before you consider how to resign. If, however, you’ve made your mind up already, you will most likely have had a detailed conversation about your intentions with your boss.

The only thing left to do is put your resignation in writing:

What to include

Even if you want to keep it brief, there are some essential pieces of information you need to include:

  • Your name
  • The date
  • The position you’re resigning from
  • Addressed to the appropriate person (line manager, supervisor, manager etc.)
  • When your resignation will take effect
  • Your signature

Reasoning

You are not obligated to include your reasons when resigning, although you should include this if you feel it will be constructive. However, always be sure to put a positive spin on it if you do explain your reasoning.

Possible reasons could include: ‘I am moving on to a new position’, ‘I am seeking a new challenge’ or ‘there are limited opportunities for progression’.  

Remember: Under no circumstances should your resignation letter become a tirade against your employer. Whatever your feelings, you must remain as professional and as objective as possible. Getting personal will only risk your reputation (even if it seems like a good idea at the time).

Tone

If your relationship with your previous employer deteriorated by the end of your time at the company, you might be tempted to be blunt when handing in your notice. As with reasoning, above, this should be approached with some amount of caution. Being gracious and polite will allow you to leave with your head held high.

It’s not a necessity, but you might want to thank your employer for the opportunities you've been given and offer them your best wishes for the future.

Something as simple as: ‘I would like to thank you and the company for the opportunities given to me over the last two years, and wish you all the best for the future’ will send the right message, without compromising your integrity if you’re leaving for personal reasons.

Handover

Aside from the formal aspect of the resignation letter, you should also use it as an outlet to tie up any loose ends. For example, if you’re leaving in the middle of a specific project or piece of work, you should clearly outline the point you have reached, where the completed work so far is saved, and any other information which may be pertinent to the person taking over.

Ensuring a smooth handover shows your continued commitment to the business, and practically demonstrates your professionalism and dedication to the role. If you’re leaving on good terms, providing your contact information for future enquiries should things go wrong can soften the blow (a nice touch if your work is especially cryptic or difficult to understand). 

Formatting

Your resignation letter should be typed and conform to all of the conventions of a standard letter. This means addressing it to the correct person, including the date, and using paragraphs correctly to outline each individual point.

When it comes to length, this is generally up to you. Remember, your resignation letter does not need to be an essay. Just make sure you’ve included the basics, and you’ve made it abundantly clear that you intend to leave (and when you intend to leave).

As a rough guide, always try to keep it to one page or less. You may have pages and pages worth of reasons to leave, but just keep it as simple as possible. If you have that many grievances about your period of employment, it may be best to speak to someone in the organisation’s Human Resources department.   

Final thoughts

Before writing your letter, always check your employer’s resignation policy to ensure you’re aware of your notice period. Similarly, it’s important to note that whatever the organisation’s policy on notice period, they are well within their rights to ask you to leave on the day you resign. In other words, if you don’t have another position guaranteed to move on to, think seriously before handing it in.

Finally, when writing your resignation letter, always avoid using slang terminology or anything that could be considered rude or inappropriate, however appealing it may seem. You may be leaving your position, but recruitment can be a very small world. All it takes is for one person to call your employer for a reference and you may miss out on the perfect job in the future simply down to a lack of tact. 

 

Do you have any essential resignation letter tips? Share them with us below, or tell us on twitter @reedcouk

How to resign
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