While you may be excited to start your next job, you have to resign from your current one first. The best method of resignation is an in-person meeting or a video call, but don’t overlook the importance of writing a formal letter of resignation.
It may seem like an outdated idea—especially in a day when informal forms of communication are everywhere—but submitting a letter of resignation is still recommended even if an in-person meeting or a phone call has already taken place, says Erica Alioto, global head of people for the cloud-based writing assistant Grammarly.
“The letter not only serves as formal documentation, but it also helps keep HR organized when they need to reference details like last day of employment, offers to assist in the transition, and personal contact information,” she says. “HR can use the formal resignation letter as a guiding star during what can feel like a hectic process.”
When to Send a Resignation Letter
The time to turn in a resignation letter is immediately after speaking with your manager. “No matter when the last day of employment is, employers will be put in a reactionary position as they try to fill a vacating role,” says Alioto. “Helping them through this process by communicating empathetically and in a timely manner is essential.”
Share the letter of resignation with HR, your managers, and anyone else who would be directly involved with the transition. Whenever possible, providing two weeks’ notice ahead of your departure date will give your employer time and breathing room to prepare next steps.
Email versus a Written Letter
Letters of resignation can be sent as emails or printed out and delivered to your managers and to the HR department, says Alioto.
“With many people working remotely right now, an email is likely the fastest and most reliable way to deliver the letter,” she says. “One advantage of hand-delivering the letter is knowing it was received on time, rather than potentially getting lost in an inbox.”
When delivering your resignation letter to the HR department, Alioto suggests asking them for their preferred delivery method in the spirit of cooperation and empathy.
But don’t skip the meeting or phone call and rely on the letter alone. “Regardless of the medium, it is important that the resignation letter is not the only communication with employers,” says Alioto. “It can get easily overlooked if not paired with more personal communication.”
What to Say in the Letter
When writing your letter, stay focused, keeping it to one page and only including essential information. Use a formal and personal greeting, such as “Dear [recipient’s name],” instead of something informal, like “Hey,” or impersonal, such as “To whom it may concern.”
The first sentence should explain your intent to leave your role. Use plain direct language and give an exact departure date, so the company can plan accordingly. Remember, a written document is a representation of you, and it may be kept in a file for others to see. In addition to being professional, take time to make sure yours is free of spelling and grammatical errors.
Within the body of the letter, Alioto suggests offering to assist in the transition. It’s considered courteous to thank the company for the opportunity to work there, unless your reason for leaving involves a hostile workplace. In that case, your gratitude may come off as inauthentic. The underlying tone should always be professional.
“Don’t think of the resignation letter as a no-strings-attached opportunity to vent and complain,” says Alioto. “Rather, keep the letter professional and formal, maintaining an empathetic tone throughout.”
Then wrap up the letter with personal contact information and a formal closing, such as “Sincerely.” In a formal letter, your contact information goes under your name in the upper-left corner, while in an email it can go at the bottom under your signature.
“Resigning can be challenging, especially when breaking the news to managers and teammates who have become mentors and peers,” says Alioto. “A formal letter of resignation is an important part of the process because it clearly lays out all the factual details during a time when emotions can run high.”