Ask a Recruiter-Resignation Letter

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Carll Wilkinson has been with Smith & Wilkinson for almost 20 years and as the managing partner and CEO he provides professional level, director level, and C-Suite search services to organizations across the Northeast.  In addition to conducting numerous CEO searches; he has successfully completed dozens of searches in the areas of commercial, consumer, and residential lending, retail banking, technology, credit, risk, audit, compliance, operations, finance and accounting, and wealth management.  Carll has been a contributor to various banking publications including Banking New England, Connecticut Banking Magazine, and Massachusetts Banker, and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Banker & Tradesman, The Commercial Record, and SNL. Have a question for Carll? Shoot him an email with the subject line “Ask a Recruiter”!

Q: “I’ve received an excellent job offer and I’m ready to resign from my current position. What should I keep in mind as I tender my resignation?

Congratulations! You’ve gotten a new job offer and you’re ready to resign. Now what?

  1. Timing is Everything

There is no good time to inform your boss you’re resigning, but there’s certainly better ways to get the news across. First, you should have the conversation in person (or over Zoom, if you work in a fully remote role). Having this conversation may feel awkward or anxiety-producing, but professionalism and respect are both conveyed by having a face-to-face conversation. Your boss should not learn that you’re leaving by finding a letter on their desk or in their Outlook inbox!

We advise that you wait to give notice until you have a job offer in hand and all background check requirements have been met.

  • Put it in Writing

Even though resigning should be a face-to-face conversation, a resignation letter is still necessary. That’s because the letter itself serves as documentation of your decision to resign; it’s formalizing things for HR and other official lines of communication. Employees should have their resignation conversation with their boss in person, and then follow up with your resignation in writing to formalize it and ensure there are no misunderstandings down the line.

  • Keep it Short & Sweet

Your resignation should be gracious and to the point, showing appreciation and stating the specifics of your notice period.  This may feel brisk and overly formal; that’s why sharing the news in person before you write the letter is important.

Don’t use your resignation letter as an opportunity to air your grievances, complain about your coworkers, or express frustration around working conditions. You can share these feelings in an exit interview with HR, but your resignation letter should be short and to the point: conveying your decision to resign, confirming the date of your decision, note the last day you will work for the company, and outline your notice period (for example). If you want to pad it a little to soften the blow, keep it brief – only add an additional sentence, not multiple paragraphs.

Here’s an example of an effective, professional resignation letter:

July 31, 2023

Dear Manager,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign from my position as [Your Position] at [Company Name], effective [Last Working Day, usually two weeks from the date of the letter].  Please consider this letter my formal resignation.  I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for the opportunities and experiences I have had during my time at [Company Name].

Thank you for your understanding and support during this transition.

With appreciation,

Resigning Employee

And remember, your S&W recruiter can help guide you through writing this note if you need any guidance or feedback!

  • Notice Period

In most roles, a two-week notice period is typical and expected, though some executives feel obligated to provide three or even four weeks of notice.  Senior executive roles often include an employment contract, which may stipulate a longer notice period or even a period of “garden leave” which restricts you from working for a period of time following your notice. 

When offering your notice period, the key is to balance your interests, so that both your former and new company feel they are being treated fairly.  Don’t burn bridges, but also don’t feel obligated to honor excessive notice requests.

  • Prepare Yourself Emotionally

Resignations can be emotionally fraught, and your resignation might be met with frustration, shock, anger, or other disruptive emotions from your manager, even when you’ve previously had a positive relationship.  Your resignation is highly inconvenient!

Brace yourself in case of an emotional response, take the high road, and assume your manager will come to their senses once they’ve had some time to collect themselves.

If your manager becomes unreasonable or downright hostile, remember you don’t need to finish out the notice period. It’s a professional courtesy, but respect and courtesy must be reciprocated.

  • Prepare for a Counteroffer

Once you resign, your manager will confer with other stakeholders in the organization, and they will come up with a strategy for keeping you on the team.  This will usually involve a raise, promises of future opportunity, and social/emotional pleas from other members of the organization.  The CEO will invite you to lunch.  Other colleagues will swing by and mention how sad they are to think you might leave the family.  It is a coordinated campaign to keep you, and it can feel very persuasive.

Stay cool, calm, and collected.  Think carefully and analytically about what decision is in your best interests.  Don’t allow flattery, promises, or guilt to sway you, and don’t be a pawn in someone else’s chess game.

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