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How to hand your notice in smoothly

Securing a new job is a fantastic feeling. After the stresses and strains of applications and interviews, signing on the dotted line feels like an inspirational new chapter.

But it brings with it one less pleasant task – handing in your notice.

We support digital jobseekers through the resignation process every week – it’s a key part of the service that we provide and often the element of the recruitment process that our candidates need the most support with.

So how do you do it in a way that’s smooth and pain-free – for all parties?


The whole thing will be easier if you’re properly prepared. So spend a bit of time getting things straight in your mind, planning what you’re going to say and how to deal with your manager’s response. In particular, consider whether it is likely that they will counter-offer, and what your response will be (we’ve got a dedicated blog coming up on this prickly subject!)

It’s worth thinking carefully about what you don’t want to cover, too. Many managers will try and get you to divulge information about your new role, which may not be sensible, especially if you’re moving to a competitor. Considering these possibilities beforehand makes it easier to control the conversation.

Remember, you don’t have an obligation to discuss your reasons for leaving at all.

Don’t forget to print out your official letter of resignation, so you can cleanly hand it over at the end of the meeting and avoid any awkwardness. Take a bottle of water along too.


And yes, it must be a meeting. It always surprises us how many people wonder whether an email will do the job. It won’t. An email resignation is the fastest route to burning your bridges with your employer, it’s unprofessional and it’s ungrateful. Ask your manager for ten minutes face-to-face, somewhere private.

Take a deep breath, and be as calm and as matter-of-fact as possible. The most salient point here isn’t why you’re leaving, or where you’re going – it’s the official business of terminating your contract. It’s always simpler to lead with that, rather than opening a conversation about why you’ve looked for work elsewhere, or what your new employer has offered you. Yes, your manager is likely to lead the conversation in those directions, but you can control the beginning.

Of course, if you’re leaving for a cut-and-dried reason like a relocation to a new city, getting that across will potentially avoid a long exchange about what can be changed. And you’re perfectly within your rights to respond to any question about why you’re leaving with a polite refusal to discuss it any further.

It’s very easy for things to get emotional, especially if you’ve worked in your current position for a long time. Experienced managers will have seen it all, so try not to worry.

And once it’s over, don’t forget to smile, say thank you and shake hands with your manager. Keep things civil and graceful.


If you’ve controlled the resignation process so that it’s remained calm, professional and efficient, working your notice period and sorting out any final administrative points should be as straightforward as it’s ever going to be.

Sadly, we do still hear stories of managers treating their employees less than pleasantly while they’re completing their notice period. The best thing for you to do in such a situation is to keep your head held high and carry on as normal – while remembering that HR standards absolutely still apply during a notice period and if you feel you’re being treated unfairly you should certainly escalate the matter as usual.

We’ll be blogging in more detail about how to deal with counter-offers soon. For now, the key point to remember is that you started applying for jobs in the first place for solid, legitimate reasons. Can your current employer really undo with them with promises of pay rises or altered responsibilities?

Finally, don’t be tempted to do something you’ll later regret. Whether it’s complaining about your boss on social media or simply slacking off in your work, don’t forget that there’s every chance you will need to be in touch with your company in the future. Many businesses demand long lists of references even after you’ve signed a new contract – we certainly do at Instinct! And you never know who you will need to be in touch with again - whether as a customer, a supplier, a partner or even a new colleage.