How to Write a Resignation Letter

Orla Doyle / May 12, 2015

Lincoln Recruitment Resignation LetterFor most people, leaving a job doesn’t garner worldwide support, or any public notice at all, with many employees more or less slinking quietly out the door, without fully articulating why they’re leaving. A smaller, but still sizeable number tend toward grandstanding as they make their exit, unable to resist the urge to point the finger. Neither is a good way to end a working relationship, no matter what kinds of conditions you may be fleeing.

The very process of quitting requires courage, good financial planning, and a solid exit strategy, but when you do decide to quit, what’s the best way to go about it? The simple answer is with style — but without the flair. We’ve put together a few tips on how you should structure a resignation letter to resign gracefully, maintain the contacts you have made and help you through what can be a difficult time for people on both sides of the fence.

Have an Informal Conversation First

You may have outgrown your current role and once you’ve decided to resign, the first person you should tell is your manager. Nobody likes surprises and dropping a letter on the desk of your immediate line manager’s desk could fairly be described as a bit of a shock so prepare the ground and let them know in advance your intentions. Focus on the reasons why you are moving to new pastures, whether it may be seeking new challenges in a bigger/smaller firm or travelling abroad for a new adventure. Keep your reasoning positive — mention why you’re excited about the change in career direction, express gratitude for all he/she has done for you and acknowledge the personal learning or growth your previous role has provided (there is always a learning curve, even in difficult or stagnant working environments).

Getting the Format Right

Depending upon the policy of your organisation you’ll need to address your letter to your immediate superior, head of department or to the HR department and you should write it in a neutral business format, typed on plain white A4 in a simple font as it’s likely your letter will be scanned into a system.

Remember Your HR File

Your letter will be placed on record and whilst that objectionable supervisor may leave in a few months your HR file will always be around. Keeping it amiable and cooperative will be useful if you ever find an opportunity opening up later on so don’t be tempted to burn any bridges.

Keep it Simple and to the Point

There’s no need to be curt but include the important information and save the background for conversations. You aren’t required to give a reason for leaving but if you do then make sure it’s a positive one and most certainly not a personal attack. Allow yourself the luxury of framing your intentions in clear, considered written language. With regards tone, a good piece of advice is also to remove the words “I feel” from either verbal conversations or written notifications in the workplace, always emphasise the facts versus the feelings.

Things to Include

Make sure you have the obvious things such as your name and home address, but also your job title, department and for the larger organisations a payroll or staff number. You may wish to check your company notice period policy and then state what you expect your final day at work to be so that there are no misunderstandings.

Be Flexible

Part of the professional way of leaving an organisation is to make sure that the handover process goes smoothly. Ensure you give your soon to be former employer as much time as you can and state your commitment to ensuring an effective handover process. If you have a particularly complicated and long term role or are part of a project then it may be appropriate to offer back up after you leave although this is very much personal preference.

Leaving an organisation is often a difficult time for all parties involved. Being professional and cooperative will make the whole process a lot easier for those concerned and in the short term, may cause your former employer to consider a counter offer and in the medium term, may open other doors back in the old firm later on in your professional career.


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