Ask A Recruiter: How to Resign Professionally

Q:  I found another job and will be leaving my job; what’s the best way to tell my employer?

A:  When resigning from one job and transitioning to another it’s important to stay professional and consider the impression you’re leaving. You may have spent years building a positive reputation and there are many business and maybe personal reasons why you do not want to tarnish that reputation in the last two weeks.   Here is some general advice:

  • Announcing your resignation – Your boss should be the first person you tell at work; resist the temptation (if any) to tell co-workers or friends; and while it might not be inappropriate to tell an HR person, the professional way to do it is to tell your boss. It’s typically best to resign both in-person and in writing and the way to do that is to prepare a letter and then deliver it to your boss in person. Keep the letter short, simple and positive. It should include the effective date of your resignation and an offer to stay on for a period of transition (typically two weeks). In the letter you should also thank your boss and the company for the opportunity they gave you.
  • Keep it positive and remember that less is more —  refrain from offering criticism (however constructive you think it will be or however sincerely it is asked for).  Also don’t talk at length about your new job and how wonderful it is, it is likely to come off as a criticism of your current employer.  You don’t need to explain or justify your personal goals and decisions and try not to react to those who take your decision to leave personally.
  • Anticipate a counter-offer – It is helpful to think about this in advance. A counter-offer is your current employer’s way of trying to keep you, usually by offering more money or a promotion, in response to the announcement of your intention to leave.  Take note that the vast majority of people who accept counter-offers are no longer working at the same company 6-12 months later; so threating to quit is not a great long term strategy to career satisfaction.  If you don’t really want to leave, don’t resign – try to address your issues in other ways.  If you do get a counter-offer, while it is flattering to hear what they are offering, don’t  lead the company on – if you intend to leave,  tell them that fact and don’t make them grovel only to ultimately tell them “no.”
  • Prepare to transition – Whether you know who will be taking your place when you leave or not, it’s a good idea to make sure everything is in order and to make it as easy as possible for others to take over your work when you’re gone. This can range from creating a file with status on all unfinished projects to setting up notices and new contact information for online accounts (like email) to offering to field queries after you’ve left.
  • Keep the same work habits – Continue to work your normally scheduled hours.  Don’t come in late, leave early, or take long lunches.  Even if your workload is diminished find a way to remain focused on productive work.

It would be easy enough to get away with not taking my suggestions.  It may even be likely that there are no immediate negative consequences to handling your resignation and notice period “all wrong.”  I make these suggestions not based on my value judgment of what is polite or right, rather I make these suggestions as I believe they are in your best interest.  You just never know where your career will lead, and/or where the careers of the people you leave behind will lead.  Your paths my cross again and it will help if your positive reputation remained in tact.


About the Recruiter
greg-menzone-pic1Greg Menzone is a 10-year veteran of the staffing industry who has made hundreds of successful placements. Greg and the team he manages specialize in direct hire placement of accounting and finance professionals.

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