Unless you have the perfect job and intend to keep it forever, sooner or later you’ll probably have to write a two weeks’ notice letter advising your employer of your intention to resign. Your notice period may be longer than that, but for the sake of argument let's consider this a blog about writing any resignation letter.
There is a right way and a wrong way to do this, and it’s important to learn the difference.
The wrong way is to be disgruntled and angry, naming all your grievances as you slam the door behind you. It is a small world and highly likely that you will run into ex-colleagues again.
The best way is the opposite of all that: professional, thoughtful, kind and gracious. People will marvel at the emotional control and self-restraint of your serene departure.
In this blog we’ll cover the following topics:
- Why do you need to create a resignation letter?
- What is two weeks' notice?
- The essential elements of a two weeks’ notice letter?
The resignation letter: Why put it in writing?
In some workplaces and countries, a resignation letter is considered an official document with legal implications. You may have contractual obligations to give two weeks’ notice before leaving your job, and your letter is proof that you’ve done this. In case any dispute arises, you’ll have evidence that you gave notice on time.
It might be a physical letter, but normally an email is most appropriate. This fixes the time that you sent it, along with the recipients. There is no excuse for a hiring manager to deny any knowledge in this situation.
You can give a physical letter if you wish, especially if you want to see the look on your hiring manager's face when you hand it over. This is particularly satisfying if they were a nightmare boss and your departure causes problems for them.
A resignation letter is also a personal and professional courtesy, allowing you to thank your employer for giving you the opportunity to work there, to express any regrets about leaving if you wish to, and to offer to help with the transition. There are subtle variations on the resignation letter depending on your circumstances.
Why two weeks’ notice?
Two weeks’ notice has become fairly standard for resignation letters. You’re not quitting your job on the spot, nor are you dragging it out for a month. So you split the difference, and half a month is roughly two weeks.
This gives the employer time to try to hire someone to replace you, or perhaps to distribute your workload among current employees. You will certain;y be able to carry out some sort of handover operation.
If the company can’t replace you in two weeks (which is rare), that’s not your fault. But if you do give two weeks’ notice, your protocol is faultless and no employer can blame you for a bad breakup over that issue.
Why the need for courtesy and professionalism?
If you’ve had a bad experience at your current job, you may be tempted to let your boss know that on your way out the door, but it’s best to restrain any impulses to burn bridges as you make your great getaway.
For one thing, your next potential employers may want to contact this employer for a reference, whether you want them to or not. Imagine if your current employer has proof in writing of the rude and unprofessional way in which you left the job. Especially as bitter feelings tend to run deep in such situations. The way you leave your current job could cost you your next.
Also, you may need your employer’s help with various issues after leaving your job. Maybe you need your last paycheck sent to a different place, or you need to extend your health insurance, or you need to transfer your 401(k) to another institution. How much friendly cooperation can you expect if you’ve departed with a letter full of flaming insults? Keep your two week's notice letter brief and courteous.
Do I have to say why I’m leaving?
Your resignation letter does not have to say why you’re leaving the job. Your reasons may be complicated and difficult to explain, and your employer is not owed an explanation.
If you’re leaving on bad terms with the company, it’s best not to mention this at all. Or if you’re leaving to work for a competitor, you might not want to mention this either.
However, it’s inevitable that your bosses and coworkers will be curious why you’re leaving. And there’s no rule against providing a reason for your departure, especially if it’s something harmless and totally understandable.
If in doubt, remember that you can tell your bosses in person why you’re leaving. You may want to let them know you’re leaving anyway before you deliver your resignation letter, so this is a natural time to discuss the reasons why. If your reasons are delicate, relaying them in person gives you a good way to explain without making it part of an official record in writing.
How to write a two weeks’ notice letter
Your resignation letter should be formatted like any business letter, and it should usually be short and to the point.
Here are the components that should be included in your letter:
The header, also known as a letterhead, is a space at the top of the page that contains your contact info, including:
- Mailing address
- Phone number
- Email address
Be sure to use your personal info – i.e. don’t use your work phone or email, as your employer may need to contact you after these are no longer yours. Don't share a silly or joke email address - keep it to a version of your name.
In the upper left, provide the recipient’s name, including:
- Manager’s name
- Manager’s title
- Company name
You do not have to include a full business address with this "inside address," as the letter will be submitted electronically. You do, however, need evidence of to whom the letter was addressed (and their position).
Include the date you are writing, sending or delivering the letter. This may be important to confirm that you provided two weeks’ notice.
“Dear Mr. Brown:” or “Dear Ms. Green,” are acceptable greetings. If you know this person well (which is likely if it’s your boss), there’s no reason you can’t use their first name.
Get to the point in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence, by informing your employer that you’ll be leaving the company effective on a certain date. It’s helpful to specify what your last day at work will be to avoid confusion about whether the date you provide is the last day you’ll be working or the first day you won’t be showing up at work.
You may want to soften the blow with some expression of regret, though you certainly don’t have to apologize for your decision. The tone of the first sentence will tell any employer much about your attitude.
After four years of being happily employed at this law firm, I regret to inform you that I will be leaving my job as a staff attorney in two weeks. My last day will be Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
The second paragraph of a resignation letter is often used to express gratitude to the company for the opportunity to work there.
You may want to mention how much you’ve learned, what a privilege it was to work with such talented coworkers, etc. And if you choose to explore your reasons for leaving, this is one place you can do that. You could share some informatiopn about how you developed in the role, but such details are best left to informal conversations.
Although I love the Boston area, I feel the need to relocate to New York to be nearer my mother, who is in failing health. I’ve really enjoyed my tenure at Martin, Meacham & Booth, and I’ve learned so much from working with such a talented pool of attorneys. I’m really grateful to you for giving me this opportunity right out of law school.
A resignation letter doesn’t need to be limited to just three paragraphs, but it’s useful to think of it in terms of a beginning, middle and end.
The third part of a resignation letter is a good place to say that you would be happy to help train a replacement, or to assist in any other way with any challenges that arise from your departure. Leave on a positive note and make one last attempt to make a difference to your employer. They could certainly do with this assistance.
I will of course be happy to help with any transition issues that may arise, including training a replacement and/or handing over my caseload to colleagues. I’ll also be available for consultation by phone on any issues that may arise after my departure. Thanks again for four great years with this firm.
Sign-off and signature
Close with a simple “Sincerely,” “All my best,” or the like. Add some space below that and type your full name.
If you are mailing a hard copy of the letter or delivering it in person, leave space to sign your name.
Two weeks’ notice letter template
Here is a template for a resignation letter that you can adapt for your own use:
City, state/province, ZIP/postal code
City, state/province, ZIP/postal code
Dear [SUPERVISOR’S NAME]:
I regret to inform you I will be departing from my role as [JOB TITLE] at [COMPANY NAME] in two weeks. My last day of work will be [MONTH, DAY, YEAR].
While I’ve greatly enjoyed my tenure at [COMPANY NAME] for [XX] years, I will be leaving in order to [REASON FOR DEPARTURE (OPTIONAL)]. Working with so many talented colleagues at [COMPANY NAME] has been an honor, and I will never forget the many things I learned there.
I will be happy to assist in training a replacement or helping with any transition issues that may arise. Thank you so much for the opportunity to work at [COMPANY NAME].
Getting a two week's notice letter right will be one of your last tasks in the role. You might not feel like it is important, but see it like a full stop at the end of your employment. If it isn't there, something is amiss.
- Make sure that you include the name of the role and the date that you are resigning
- Study your employment contract to look at your notice period - mention the date of your last day.
- Be flexible where possible, offer to train a replacement and end on a positive note.
- Don't be overly apologetic. People move on to better things - you are no exception.
For more information, review our comprehensive guide on how to write your resignation letter with lots of free examples.