Made up your mind to quit your job? Before you pack up your desk and walk out the door on your last day, you'll want to make sure your employer has a formal letter of resignation on file.
A resignation letter may seem redundant, but many employers require it as part of the exit process as proof that you are voluntarily terminating your employment. Even if your boss or HR manager doesn't ask for one, it's still good practice to submit one anyway. Alison Doyle, a job search expert for About.com, noted that your letter can help you maintain a positive relationship with your old employer, while also paving the way for you to move forward.
"You never know when you might need that previous employer to give you a reference, so it makes sense to take the time to write a polished and professional resignation letter," Doyle wrote in an article on the subject.
Unless your employment contract states otherwise, Doyle advised turning in your signed formal letter as a follow-up to an in-person resignation, ideally at least two weeks before your intended departure. Here's what Doyle and other career experts had to say about the do's and don'ts of writing a resignation letter. [See Related Story: 10 Ways to Leave Your Job on Good Terms]
What to include in your letter
Resignation letters should be fairly simple and straightforward. Vicki Salemi, a career expert for Monster, said the four basic pieces of information that must be present are:
- The date you're submitting the letter (usually included in the heading)
- A formal statement of resignation
- Your proposed end date
- Your signature
Beyond that, it's a good idea to express gratitude in your letter. Even if you had your differences, thank your supervisor for the opportunity to work for the company. Janice Elliott-Howard, author and former corporate HR professional, said that your company will want to know that it hasn't wasted its time on you, and that your tenure was a mutually beneficial experience.
"Conjure up ... the best time at your job, and have that image top-of-mind when you write your resignation letter," added Alex Twersky, co-founder and vice president of Resume Deli. "Let your boss think they were great, even if they weren't. [You might] get a good recommendation out of it."
Twersky added that you should offer your assistance in training a replacement and preparing the team for your departure during your last two (or more) weeks.
Although this may not be necessary in all situations, you may also want to note that your decision is final, if you think your employer might offer you more money to stay, said Mike Assaad, metro market manager of Robert Half Finance & Accounting staffing firm.
"If your employer presents you with a counteroffer that tempts you, think through the potential consequences," Assaad said. "It's best to politely refuse a counteroffer, as reasons for quitting a job usually go beyond salary, and more money likely won't solve underlying problems."
Topics to avoid
Doyle reminded professionals that their resignation letters will be kept in their permanent employment files. It could be shared with potential future employers, so keep its contents professional and polite, she wrote.
"Eighty-six percent of human resources managers said the way employees quit a job at least somewhat affects their future career opportunities," added Assaad, citing a Robert Half survey. "You don't want to burn any bridges on your way out the door."
With that in mind, here are a few items that should not be included in your resignation letter.
Why you're leaving. Although it might make sense to explain a relocation or a decision to leave the workforce, our sources agreed that it is absolutely not necessary to tell your current employer why you are resigning. If you wish to say you're leaving to accept a new position elsewhere, you can, but in general, telling your old boss exactly where you're headed is irrelevant and ill-advised, Salemi said. This is especially true if you are leaving for a competitor, as Elliott-Howard noted that spiteful employers may contact your new workplace and speak poorly of you.
What you hated about the job. If you're leaving your job for another opportunity, it's likely that your relationship with your boss, co-workers or management had something to do with your decision. No matter how bitter you are, resist the urge to vent in your resignation letter, Salemi said.
"If you worked for a horrible boss and you're looking forward to moving on, there's no need to mention it," she said. "If you were underpaid and your new job is giving you what you're worth, congratulations. But leave that point out of your resignation letter, too."
Emotional statements. Assaad stressed the importance of keeping a calm, professional tone in your letter. An aggressive or otherwise emotional letter will only come back to hurt you, he said.
"You may be resentful [and] overworked, but don't quit angry," Twersky added.
Similarly, Salemi recommended avoiding emotionally charged personal sentences that include "I think" or "I feel," unless they are expressing a positive sentiment of gratitude.
Resignation letter template
Based on advice from our expert sources, here is a basic, all-purpose resignation letter template that you can fill in with your personal details. Remember, you are not required to include your reason for resigning in your letter.
Dear [supervisor's name],
Please accept this letter as my formal resignation from my role as [title]. My last day with [company] will be [end date].
In order to ease the transition after my departure, I am happy to assist you with any training tasks during my final weeks on the job. I intend to leave thorough instructions and up-to-date records for my replacement.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the knowledge and experience I have gained by working here. I am very grateful for the time I have spent on our team and the professional relationships I've built. It's been a pleasure working for you, and I hope our paths will cross again in the future.
[your signature and printed name]
Less is more when it comes to resignation letters, Salemi said, so be as succinct as possible. Even a single paragraph can be acceptable, as long as you've dated it and indicated your last working day, she said. She also noted that you should submit a revised letter if your end date changes for any reason.
Sample resignation letters can also be found on the following websites: