Career & Finance

Do You Really Need a Resignation Letter? (And How to Write One)



You’ve decided to quit your job. In addition to feeling nervous about calming your nerves to sit down and have that dreaded conversation with your boss, you’re also feeling slightly confused.

You’ve heard advice about the best way to leave your job, and now you’re confused about how to approach the situation. How do you get the conversation started with your supervisor? What if you get walked out? Should you be prepared with a formal resignation letter?

This last question is one we’re going to take a closer look at, because it’s something that trips most people up when planning to leave a job. As a matter of fact, when I quit my first full-time position, I took the advice of my parents, typed up an incredibly stiff and impersonal letter, and practically threw it at my manager—all while avoiding eye contact—after telling him I was leaving.

Obviously, I don’t recommend taking my approach. So, let’s dive into everything you need to know about resignation letters—starting with whether or not you actually need one.


Do you actually need a formal resignation letter?

In years past, a resignation letter was one of those formalities that pretty much everybody knew they needed when leaving a job. However, they aren’t quite as commonplace today—particularly if you work in the private sector.

If you’re unsure of whether or not you should have one prepared, there are two things you can do:

  • Check your handbook or any sort of employment agreement you signed. This will typically state if termination of employment is required in writing.
  • Wait for instruction. If written notice is expected, your supervisor or your HR rep will inform you.

But if you want to be proactive? Think about it this way: Having a resignation letter drafted and ready to go really can’t hurt. If it makes you feel a little more organized and confident about the process, go ahead and create one. The worst that can happen is that you just don’t end up using it—and that’s not so bad.

However, heed this advice: If you don’t end up drafting a formal resignation letter, you should still plan to put your notice in writing somewhere. Even if it’s just a quick, casual email to your HR department, make sure you get that information documented so that there’s not any confusion.


How to Write a Resignation Letter

Alright, so let’s say your employer requires a formal resignation or you’d just like to have the letter prepared in your back pocket in case you need it. Now what? How do you actually go about writing this letter?

Follow these steps and you’ll draft a professional and polished letter of resignation to use if and when you need it.


Start With the Nitty Gritty


In order to get your point across, a resignation letter needs to be straightforward and concise right off the bat—there’s no need for an epic prologue. The opening of your letter should include the fact that you’re putting in your notice (duh) as well as when your last day of employment will be.

One thing you’ll want to avoid is any sort of apologetic language. Starting sentences with “Unfortunately…” or “I’m so sorry, but…” really isn’t necessary. You aren’t the first person to leave a job, and you certainly won’t be the last. And, ultimately, business is business—you have nothing to be sorry for.

Dear Joanne,

Please consider this letter as formal notice of my resignation from my current position of Assistant to the Regional Manager at Dunder Mifflin. My final date of employment will be Friday, June 23, 2017. 


Say “Thank You”


Regardless of whether you loved your job or hated it, there’s no denying that it played a role in your professional development. That means you need to express your gratitude for the opportunity.

This is a great way to not only share your appreciation for the opportunities you’ve been given during your employment, but also to leave a good taste in your employer’s mouth. Remember, you don’t want to burn bridges—being polite and gracious is important.

I’ve learned so much during my time working here at Dunder Mifflin, and I can’t thank you enough for the many opportunities I’ve been given. It’s been a true pleasure to be a part of this team.


Discuss the Transition


No matter how seamless you attempt to make things, the transition that comes after losing an employee is never easy for a company. So, if you want to leave on really great terms, discuss what you’ll do to ease the transition toward the end of your letter.

Whether you’re willing to come back to help train your replacement or plan to create processes and procedures for the tasks your position is responsible for, detail what you’ll do to help in your absence.

Is this necessary? Absolutely not. But, if you’re serious about leaving a positive impression, it’s a smart step to take.

I will plan to complete all of my pending projects by Wednesday, June 21 so we have time to discuss those and wrap them up accordingly. I’m also planning to create some specific instructions and documented processes that my replacement can use to get up to speed on the job after my departure. If there’s anything else I can do to help with this transition, please don’t hesitate to let me know!


End on a High Note

You want to end your letter on a positive—rather than logistical elements. So, remind your boss once more how much you appreciated your time there and you’re much more likely to leave with your reputation—and maybe even a professional relationship—intact.

Thanks once again for the opportunity to be a part of this team. I’ve so valued my time here, and I certainly hope our paths cross once again in the future.

That’s it! You just need to include the date you resigned at the top of your letter and your signature at the bottom, and your document is all set and ready to be submitted.

Quitting your job is always a little nerve-wracking. But, at least now you can take the worry of drafting (or even needing!) a resignation letter off your plate. Use this information, and you have one less thing to stress about.


Have you written a formal resignation letter when you quit a job?