The 4 Elements That Make For A Perfect Resignation Letter

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Aug 26, 2013

Dear Jeff,

Love your column Jeff’s on Call! Really benefited from the advice and your column!

Lexius Search is a Dutch-based headhunting company which works globally in placing lawyers with high-end firms. I am the owner; been doing this for seven years.

My candidate received an offer by my client, she will accept it. But she does not know how to break the news to her current employer, since she is an asset to the company and did not give the company an update.

Can you please give advice?

Met vriendelijke groet,

Mr. Brigitte Welter

Lexius Search

Jeff’s Four Rules

Hi Brigitte,

Hello to Holland! Happy to help. Just keep benefiting, and we’ll keep the benefits coming.

resignation - freeThe best way for your candidate to resign (without inviting a feebusting counteroffer) is to assist her with writing a resignation letter. This enables you to control the dialogue and thereby control the outcome.

In order of how it’s written, here’s how the letter should be constructed:

1. Give the customary two-weeks notice.

The letter should state clearly that after “much reflection and consideration,” the candidate has decided to “leave” the employer on a specific date. In the United States and Europe, this is customarily two weeks from the date of the notice.

This is important to state clearly and decisively at the beginning of the letter to preempt any defensiveness and confusion. 

If it truly is a shock (as you think, Brigitte), Grandma Allen would be proud of you.  Her favorite saying was “Better a quick pain.”

Winners in life don’t equivocate about decisions. Your candidate is a winner or you wouldn’t have placed her in a better position.

2.  Avoid any criticism of the present employer.

The tendency in resignation letters is to criticize (and even insult) the employer.

It’s so easy to do when you’ve decided to leave.  I pointed out why in How to Turn an Interview into a Job:

Book interview into a jobLet’s face it.  Human beings were simply not made to work for each other. There is an enormous amount of latent hostility in the employment relationship, even under the best circumstances.

When a candidate decides to interview, that latent hostility becomes patent. The anger at being constantly pressured and bullied on the job starts cascading down. By the time a job offer is accepted, just showing up for work is work. Resignation letters usually reflect why.

There’s no such thing as “constructive criticism” in this situation. Only destructive criticism. Few employers are interested in learning from their mistakes. Even fewer even admit them. Virtually none correct them. Only fools use resignation letters to mention them as justification for leaving.

But your candidate won’t, Brigitte. Your candidate has you. She’s a pro. Professionals go the extra mile. They care about their legacy. They leave with their ex wanting more. Not only “eligible for re-hire,” but welcome back any time.

Do it right, and your candidate will have stellar references. The most powerful ones  are from the most recent employer.

3.  Cite specific accomplishments with the present employer.

This is the most important part of the letter – and the one that is most often missing.

Your candidate’s resume is probably a good starting point for work accomplishments. But there should be many more that can be recited in a paragraph or two. Help your candidate go for herself with specific details about a job well done. Who’s gonna argue with her? Why bother?

That resignation letter will remain in the candidate’s personnel file for as long as the employer keeps records. This is her chance to create an indelible record of success. Let it reiterate her accomplishments as only she can do!

4.  Deliver the letter personally with five minutes of a smile and best wishes.

If the letter is constructed as I suggested, it does all the talking for the candidate.  Delivered with a smile, it sings.

If the candidate stays to discuss anything, you won’t like it. A counteroffer, a confrontation, a meeting with other managers. You want as little interference with a going-away party as possible.

Five minutes. Anyone can be nice that long!

If readers encounter a counteroffer, Chapter 33 of The Placement Strategy Handbook is entitled “Counteroffer Counterattack!” The PSH is available for a whopping $32.50 (U.S. shipment only) at and outsells all other recruiting aids combined.

Best wishes in helping your candidate with her resignation, Brigitte. Many more placements too!


Illustration courtesy of pat138241 /
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