Work

This is the best resignation letter I ever received—based on my 20 years of working in HR

NBC | Getty Images

Ready to quit your job?

It's a small world, and every little detail — from how you break the news to what you put in your resignation letter — will either help or hurt your professional reputation.

The purpose of a resignation letter is to provide an official document telling your employer that you're either terminating your employment immediately or on a specific day. Once it's sent to your supervisor, he or she will forward it to HR to keep in your file.

Here's my basic philosophy on resignation letters: Less is more.

Unfortunately, the majority of letters I've seen can be summed up in one word: Eyesores. That's because many of them usually fall into one of three categories:

  1. The "bridge-burning" letter: Even if the circumstances of your departure were unpleasant, don't treat the resignation letter as an opportunity to vent about your negative experiences. Let's face it, you will need reference letters in the future, so why go out of your way to burn bridges?
  2. The "here's exactly why I'm leaving" letter: Whether you've "accepted a new opportunity" or "need to leave for personal reasons," a resignation letter is not the place to emphasize your reasons for leaving. That's a discussion you should have with your supervisor before even sending the letter.
  3. The "barely there" letter: Yes, less is more, but give me something. If you send a one-sentence letter that reads, "I'm resigning and my last day is next Friday," you're basically saying, "I'm lazy and unprofessional."

Writing a resignation letter?

To give you a clear example of where to begin, here's the most impressive resignation letter I ever received based on my 20 years of working in corporate leadership and HR (click here to enlarge):

Less is more

The letter was clear, concise and included everything on my checklist:

  • Essential details: Intention to resign, title, last day
  • Positive tone: Polite, helpful, appreciative
  • Final responsibilities: Summary of what will be done during the transition period

I should also note that the way in which the employee resigned was flawless. Prior to sending the letter, she told me the news in private; we discussed the specifics of her departure such as who would be taking over her accounts and how she planned to help with the search for a replacement.

On her last day, she said goodbye to me in person. There was no raiding of the supply closet; she left the tape dispenser, stapler and Post-Its. No 1,000-word 2 p.m. email blast to hundreds of employees saying, "Goodbye friends and colleagues..."

Believe it or not, all these things matter a great deal.

Gary Burnison is the CEO of Korn Ferry, a global consulting firm that helps companies select and hire the best talent. His latest book, a New York Times best-seller, "Lose the Resume, Land the Job," shares the kind of straight talk that no one will tell you. Follow him on LinkedIn here.

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

Don't miss:

VIDEO1:4801:48
Suzy Welch: 4 signs it's time to quit your job immediately
NBC | Getty Images
make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

CNBC.COM