Q & A - Resigning from Your Job


Perhaps you have been looking for a wise mentor who can offer confidential and sage advice on how to avoid the emotional pitfalls during an often confusing time. Your virtual mentor is here and ready to answer your resignation questions!

The questions below originated from my 10 years of HR experience as well as the recent feedback questions submitted by site visitors. As new questions come in, I will continue to update this page. The questions are grouped in four primary categories:

  • Understanding How the Resignation Process Works

  • Resignation Negotiations and Consequences
  • Ethics Issues When Resigning
  • Manager/Supervisor Questions.

1. Understanding How the Resignation Process Works:

What exactly happens once I give my boss my resignation letter?

Does an employer have to accept my resignation?

When I turn in my letter of resignation, what is the effective date of my resignation?

Is an employee obligated to inform their employer if their intension is to look for another job? and; How do I hand in my letter of resignation when my employer has no idea I am leaving?

I'm really upset and about to tell my boss to "take my job and shove it." Do I still have to give two-weeks notice?

What will happen if I simply resign without informing my employer?

Is telling your employer that you are looking at other jobs a way of giving notice of your resignation?

Who should receive my resignation letter? Can I give it to a friend in our department to give to our boss?

Is it okay just to give my letter of resignation to human resources rather than my supervisor?

What if my manager asks me to stay longer after submitting my resignation?

What items should be left behind when leaving the department?

If I give my notice of resignation, do I lose my right to handle any matter about the company? and a related question What exactly are my duties once I have turned in my resignation?

Will my employer accept my resignation if I send it via e-mail?

What do I need to say in a letter of resignation if I am transferring to different department?

Does my employer need to sign my letter of resignation for it to be official?

What happens if, after resigning, the company continues to pay my salary?

2. Resignation Negotiations and Consequences:

Should I talk to Human Resources (HR) before I meet with my manager and inform him that I am considering resigning from my job?

Should I tell my boss that I am not happy with my current pay and I'm considering resigning?

Is it illegal to be fired after telling my employer that I'm looking for a job?

I have been stuck working for a terrible boss in a small company. There is no hope for a transfer and I have decided that the right course of action is to resign. Is it possible for my resignation letter to make the company management rethink what happened?

I gave plenty of advance notice that I am resigning to join another firm. After I turned in my notice, my manager has become unpleasant to me. We had a good working relationship before now. What happened? Did I do something wrong?

Similar complaints:

Can a letter of resignation have a contingency clause?

I just received an offer from a new company. I will give notice to my old firm. Should I take my offer letter into a resignation meeting?

I just learned that I did not get a promotion I interviewed for. I'm upset and want to resign. Should I?

Can I resign if I have made a huge mistake on the job?

I did not resign from my last employer, I was fired. If my new employer does a reference check with the HR people, can they find out the details on why I was terminated?

I gave my employer notice of resignation but had to quit earlier. They stated that they would not rehire me. How do I handle that question in an interview?

3. Ethics Issues When Resigning:

I dropped it in her in-basket last night and my boss is not in yet so she has not discovered my resignation letter. Can I take it back?

Can I join a competitor company after my resignation with my existing firm?

I want to send a letter informing my customers that I am leaving to join a new company. What should I say?

I hate my old company Is it ethical to take business from a company when you resign?

I resigned from my job with my current employer. Now I am being asked by my employer and others in my department where I am going. Do I have to give the information to them?

4. Manager/Supervisor Questions:

As a direct supervisor, how do I appropriately respond to a resignation from a person on my staff?

As a direct supervisor, how to respond gracefully to the resignation of a long-standing employee?

I am a director (second-level of management). How do I tell my staff that I am resigning because of my unethical practices?

For more instruction on the process of resigning, please click to also see Resignation Strategies

 

Q: Does an employer have to accept my resignation?

A: I'm not sure why, but I get more people sending e-mails asking me this question. Unless you are under a contract or a union agreement that says otherwise, it is illegal (in the U.S.) to keep employees as indentured servants. If you submit your resignation as a written communication (your letter of resignation), you are free to leave the company on the last day of your two-week notice. More

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Q: Should I tell my boss that I am not happy with my current pay and I'm considering resigning?

A: It isn't a very good idea. Threatening your boss runs counter to what you desire. It is much better to have him or her on your side.

If you enjoy working for the company, consider meeting with your boss (over coffee which you buy) and let him or her know that you are interested in opportunities to advance.

You could open the conversation by saying, "I love working here and I appreciate your support. I'd like to grow my skills with this company. . What do I need to do to get to the next level of pay? Can you give me some advice on how I can increase my worth with the company?"

Ask your boss if he or she is aware of opportunities both in your department as well as elsewhere within the company. Also ask your boss if he or she could let you know if an opening comes up for which you are qualified. A boss that likes you may recommend you for the advancement if you apply.

Remember: Even if they dislike losing a strong employee, good bosses are willing to help people get ahead as it is in the best interest of the organization.

Q1: Is an employee obligated to inform their employer if their intension is to look for another job?

Q2: Is it illegal to be fired after telling my employer that I'm looking for a job?

Q3: How do I hand in my letter of resignation when my employer has no idea I am leaving?

A: Regarding Q1, no you do not need to inform your company that you are looking for another job. This is important: The time to notify your employer is not until you have a written offer in hand; not before.

Regarding Q2, unless you are protected by a collective bargaining agreement, unfortunately it is possible and not illegal to be terminated for informing your company that you are seeking a job outside the company. While it is not professional, loyalty is a strong consideration on the part of management in many companies and you are being disloyal in their eyes. Please also see: At Will employment.

Regarding Q3, of course notifying your company and your immediate supervisor can be a bit of a shock. I suggest a meeting where you privately inform your boss. Be sure to let him or her know how valuable it has been working for the company. Then get right to the point. Be direct. You might say something along these lines:

"I think you know how I feel about the opportunity of working for you and (company name). It has been a good (number) of years. However, I need to continue to work on my career goals. So I have made my decision to leave and join another company. My resignation is effective two weeks (or a bit longer if you decide to that it is OK and want to cross train a replacement) from today. Thank you very much for our time working together. Here is my resignation letter."

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Q: What happens if, after resigning, the company continues to pay my salary?

A: At first glance, this sounds too good to be true. But trust me, this is not a good situation. Obviously, the resignation did not reach the company's payroll department and so they continue to issue pay checks. You need to get this straightend out right away. Call or better yet go in and speak to the payroll manager or HR manager right away.

Sooner or later, the company will realize its error and will want you to immediately return the money it paid you. You are not entitled to any unearned payment. So, do not spend the money thinking it is a gift. They can go to court and get it back.

Q: I'm really upset and about to tell my boss to "take my job and shove it." Do I still have to give two-weeks notice?

A: This is really important: Do not resign in anger. Don't let an incident, no matter how upsetting, determine what happens to you and your job. Before taking a knee jerk action you might regret later, talk the situation over with a trusted person who is outside the immediate situation (and preferably outside the company you work for). Sometimes talking helps to ease the frustration you are feeling right now. Wait until you can look at the facts not only from your point of view, but also from the perspective of your company's management.

Consider all your options before acting on only one - to resign. For example, Is it possible to initiate an inter-departmental transfer or look for a possible promotion rather than quitting?

Ask yourself: Is your company an otherwise OK place to work? Is the source of your dissatisfaction only your department/manager or the fact that you did not get a promotion? No job is perfect. Can you tolerate the imperfections of your workplace at least for now?

If none of the options suggested above are workable, you should submit a generic resignation letter and yes, it is professional to give two-weeks notice. More tips.

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Q: What do I say in a letter of resignation if I transfer to a new department?

A: There is no need to create or send a letter if you are transferring to another department within the same company. A resignation is only when you leave a company.

However, when parting from a department on good terms, it is a good idea to send a note thanking your boss for the support he/she gave you during the time you were in the department.

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Q: When I turn in my letter of resignation, what is the effective date of my resignation?

A: The effective date of your resignation in your letter should be your last working day. So, you will need to give your letter to your employer two weeks prior to your last working day.

If you and your boss have mutually agreed upon a shorter or longer last day or you have a contract that requires a longer notice period, it will be the last working day that you will be employed by the company.

For a standard two-week notice, and to keep things simple, I would suggest that you give your letter to your boss on the Friday that is exactly two weeks prior to the last Friday you will be at your job.

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Q: Does my employer need to sign my letter of resignation for it to be official?

A: It is important that, when it is on paper, your resignation letter include your signature. An employer's signature is not required. If you submit your letter in writing - even if you use e-mail - when an employer receives it, it is considered "official."

Q: As a direct supervisor, how do I appropriately respond to a resignation from a person on my staff?

Q: As a direct supervisor, how do I respond gracefully to the resignation of a long-term employee?

A. It is usually a disappointment to lose someone from your team. In some cases, it may be a relief. (I'm smiling) Either way, it will take some effort to keep things humming along. Here are the things I suggest;

First, keep in mind that there are a number of reasons that can lead to a person deciding to leave. Usually there are professional or personal reasons that have come up to have them also make this important change in their life. Keep your interactions with the person positive going forward. This will assist with the transition and may come in handy if you need to contact him/her with a question after they depart.

I would suggest that you hold a private meeting where you both can discuss the essential tasks that need to be handed off to other staff. Thank the person for his/her time in the department and contributions to the team. If it is a long-term relationship, be sure to make a point of how his or her service has been of value to the company.

During the private meeting, you should discuss how to advise other members of your organization. Perhaps you can announce the resignation at the next staff meeting (and subsequently to a wider audience in the company by e-mail). Prepare a short message letting people know when the person will be leaving the company. The HR Department may have a standard template for such messages.

Typically the other members of your organization will need to know to assist in the transition of work duties or filling in until someone else can be hired to perform the duties. On the positive side, this is frequently a good time to evaluate how things are done and by whom. This may be an opportunity to rework some things for your overall operations. It can often be a blessing in disguise.

If you are initially upset by the prospect of losing a person you rely on, keep your emotions in check. Don't take it personally, this is a part of all businesses. In particular, make an effort to avoid the following:

  • Don't complicate matters by trying to talk the person out of his/her decision


  • Resist the temptation to immediately ask for reasons that led up to the decision to resign as this can be done more appropriately during the exit interview


  • Do not treat this person as a pariah or traitor. Likewise, do not tolerate unfriendly behavior from your staff towards this person


  • Do not stop talking to this person. Unless conditions warrant a different approach (going to a competitor, for example), continue to involve him/her in normal business activities in the time left.

For the health and well being of yourself, your company and even the person resigning, be positive and friendly. There is a lot to get done to ensure that you are ready when the person leaves your company.

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Q: What exactly happens once I give my boss my resignation letter?

A: The process varies. Generally, in most medium and large companies, the supervisor quickly notifies his/her boss that you are resigning. They may discuss a possible counter offer or they may let your resignation stand. In short order, the Human Resources (Personnel) office is notified. In some companies, the employee will be required to serve out a contractual notice period or negotiate a mutually agreeable alternate end date with their immediate supervisor.

Your official notice initiates a process to turn off all computer access and your telephone. An inventory of cell phones, laptops, office keys, equipment/tools, vehicle keys, etc., is sent to your manager for collection.

In some sensitive roles, or where the employee is leaving to join a competitor, he or she may be escorted immediately from the company premises. The employee's company ID is voided and his/her e-mail account is deactivated. Employees may also be required to serve their notice period "at home." You should be prepared for the possibility of being "walked out."

The mailroom is informed that you will be leaving on a given date. The payroll office is also notified and calculates any vacation or other accrued hours in preparation for your final check. There is a notification to the benefits office to stop all employer-paid benefit programs.

The company is engaged in closing out your employee relationship as if you never worked there. It can feel callous and brutal. That is why when you decide to resign, you better not have second thoughts. Please read the next question:.

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Q: I dropped it in her in-basket last night and my boss is not in yet so she has not discovered my resignation letter. Can I take it back?

A: #1 rule: NEVER submit a resignation when you are emotional.

If you are upset about something that happened on the job, take some time away to cool off. When you have your emotions under control, ask to meet with your boss and let him or her know that you are unhappy about a working situation. If it a reasonable request, your boss will want to make things better. Sometimes just sharing your concern with your boss will make you feel better.

Your decision to resign should be based on your long-term career goals and how you view the ongoing relationship with the company.

 

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Q: I'm not sure who should receive my resignation letter? Can I give it to a friend in our department to give to our boss? Should I just give it to the HR Department?

A: Many people get confused when they resign about the correct protocol. Ideally, your letter should be hand delivered by you to your immediate supervisor with a copy to the human resources department. You should explain your reason(s) for leaving in-person.

Sometimes it happens that you are not on good terms with your boss. It is still appropriate to address the letter to him or her. You should have the courage to give it to your boss if you are going to resign. What do you have to lose? You might get some satisfaction by doing so.

If the relationship is poisonous or you are fearful, handing the resignation letter to your HR representative is an acceptable option. However, never give your letter to a friend to deliver to your boss or HR.

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Q: Should I talk to Human Resources (HR) before I meet with my manager and inform him that I am considering resigning from my job?

A: I am assuming that you are not yet absolutely sure you want to resign. If so, there is a possibility (but no guarantee) that someone you talk to in HR may have the skills and professional perspective to offer you guidance. Please keep in mind that the HR Department is not likely to take your side if you have a work-related conflict with your boss.

On the other hand, if you are being harassed by your boss or other workers, talking to HR may be a good idea. Are you the subject of cruel sexual or racial jokes? Have you been directed by your boss to do something illegal or unethical? If so, it is prudent to let HR know what is going on. You should know that HR is required by law to take sexual harassment, discrimination and hostile workplace issues very seriously.

If you consider your situation to be discriminatory and do not feel that HR will step up and support your concerns, you may want to contact the EEOC.

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Q: Can I join a competitor company after my resignation with my existing firm?

A: Be sure to check the offer letter you were asked to sign and return to your current company's Human Resources department. They may have a non-compete clause which, if you signed the letter, you agreed to abide by. Companies may or may not be able to enforce such an agreement. For more information on this topic click here.

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Q: I want to send a letter informing my customers that I am leaving the firm to join a new company. What should I say?

A :No matter why you are leaving, your letter should be positive. It should not disclose your reason(s) for leaving or the new firm you will be joining, especially if it is a competitor. A good opening in your letter is to thank the customer for his/her association, loyalty and the business relationship over the time you represented the company. If possible, warmly refer the customer to your soon-to-be former boss as well as the person designated to be responsible for your accounts after you have gone. Once the letter is drafted, pass it by your manager for an OK before sending it out. Be prepared for the possibility that the company may decide not to let the letter to go out. It is ultimately their call and you are moving on regardless.

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Q: I gave plenty of advance notice that I am resigning to join another firm. After I turned in my notice, my manager has become unpleasant to me. We had a good working relationship before now. What happened? Did I do something wrong?

Q: My boss has been avoiding me since I turned in my resignation. Why?

Q: Is it unethical for your boss to treat you unfairly after you give notice

Q: What happens if I try to have a meeting with my boss to hand in my letter of resignation but she refuses to meet with me?

Q: My boss when be happy when I resign. Should I feel bad?

A: The reality is, managers are human.and don't always know what to do or say once you have tendered your resignation. They feel awkward. They may even try to avoid a meeting where you tender your resignation. As frustrating as this is for you, I want you to think about why they are behaving in such a weird way. They absolutely HATE the idea of dealing with employee resignations.

Keep in mind; you have done nothing wrong. Some supervisors get caught up in the "loyalty" conundrum. It dictates: Leaving the company to go to another firm - possibly a competitor - is being disloyal.

Don't buy into it. In today's job market and "at will" employment regulations legal in most U.S. states, there is very little to encourage you to be a loyal employee. You need to take care of your career first.

Your supervisor is possibly not happy to lose you and your skills. It means your boss will have to open a requisition with the HR department to initiate interviewing for the next person to fill your shoes. When the new person accepts the offer, your supervisor must get involved in helping that person to get up to speed. That assumes that the company can hire to fill your position.

In the current economy, many companies are thinking twice before hiring. If hiring is frozen, your boss and others in your department may be stuck with more work (that you were doing) in the foreseeable future when you leave.

Click here to see my advice to your boss on the same issue.

Try not to take bad behavior on the part of your boss personally. Be a professional and do your job during the last days on your old job. When you leave, consider writing a short note thanking him and the company for the experience.

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Q: What if my manager asks me to stay longer after submitting my resignation?

A: It depends on your situation. If you have already accepted a new job with another employer, then it would not be advisable to delay the date. Please refer to the section on How to Resign from Your Job for more tips and advice.

If on the other hand, you do not have a job pending and you are on good terms with your boss, you could delay your final day to accommodate your manager's needs. It would, however, be a good idea to set a revised last day so that you and your manager have an agreed upon timeframe for your departure.

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Q: Can a letter of resignation have a contingency clause?

A: No. You are resigning, not bargaining.

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Q: What items should be left behind when leaving the department?

A: If you are resigning from the company, clear out and remove all personal items. Leave all company property (books, manuals, folders, office supplies, etc.) at your workstation. Return any items that are not yours (cell phones, pagers, tools, clothing items, etc.) Strip out any e-mails that you have received or sent on your desktop/laptop computer.

If you are transferring to another department, basically the same rules as as above unless you have been given permission to take an item into your new department. Notify the mailroom and telephone switchboard of your move and new location.

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Q:  is it ethical to take business from a company when you resign?

A: No it is not ethical to woo customers away from a firm you left. Nor is it ethical to take and use insider information that is proprietary to your former company. However, in some fields (such as sales where perhaps you are responsible for large corporate accounts), it is possible that your customer contacts will follow you when you move on to another firm. In some highly competitive industry sectors, you may have signed a contractual agreement (non- compete) that prohibits even talking to your former customers for a fixed period of time. Be careful not to violate it, as your new firm could be sued and you could end up out of a job.

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Q: I am a director (second-level of management). How do I tell my staff that I am resigning for unethical practices?

A: I would not encourage a person to tell their staff he or she is resigning for unethical practices. It is a small world out there and this person is or will soon be looking for a new job. That may be very difficult once the news gets out on the street. Sometimes less information is better. Human Resources is, by law, not allowed to disclose why a person left the company.

Sometimes it is better to use general terms as your reason for leaving. You could say, "We had a difference on company practices," or "We had differing views." You could also say," I am leaving for personal reasons" or "I felt it was time to pursue other opportunities". It could be something casual such as "...I felt that this would be a good time to move on."

It is important not to attack the company for what happened; even if it was a politically motivated action. Instead, make sure the staff are given direction on what the process will be for getting approvals in your absence.

Tell them you care about them and how valuable they have been to you and the company. Remind them to carry on with their heads held high. Wish them every success. While you support them on the direction you (and they) have set, you feel it is better - going forward - that you not play any role when issues come up in the future. In other words, you are moving on and won't be using your rear-view mirror.

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Q: I have been stuck working for a terrible boss in a small company. There is no hope for a transfer and I have decided that the right course of action is to resign. Is it possible for my resignation letter to make the company management rethink what happened?

A: It sounds like you are comfortable with your decision to move on. Good! Even if your supervisor is a total jerk and loser, it is not likely that your resignation letter will change minds at the company. Changes in a company - based on a resignation letter - only happen in low-budget TV dramas. Move on: Don't waste your time or energy trying to rescue your firm. Instead, keep your resignation letter as simple, brief, and focused as possible. Do not include details of problems or suggested remedies. Example Negative Resignation Letter

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Q: Will my employer accept my resignation if I send it via e-mail?

A: It is becoming a more popular form of communication. However (unless your relationship is strained or you are too angry to be civil), it is better to call a meeting with your immediate supervisor and let him or her know of your decision to resign. If the situation is really unpleasant, you might want to inform someone in the Human Resources department.  

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Q: I just received an offer from a new company. I will give notice to my old firm. Should I take my offer letter into a resignation meeting? 

A: No. Absolutely not! Politely (but firmly) refuse to share details with your old firm about the new job including your salary, benefits, location or anything else. To be very blunt, it is none of their business. If you are asked, reply, "I am not at liberty to disclose that information." For more information on your exit meeting click and skip down to Tip #10 What to say (and avoid saying) in your resignation meeting

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Q: I just learned that I did not get a promotion I interviewed for. I'm upset and want to resign. Should I?

A: It is understandable to be upset and disappointed. But it would be unwise to resign based primarily on the emotions you are feeling right now. No, you should not resign just yet. Ask yourself, do I still feel good doing my current job? Is this generally a good company/department? Are there training courses that I could take to make my skills more valuable? Should I go back to school to position myself for more career advancement? When the emotions have subsided, go back to the assessment of how well you did on the promotional interview and see if you did anything wrong during that process. Keep in mind that the person who was selected might simply be better qualified for the position than you are today. Rethink how you did

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Q: What will happen if I simply resign without informing my employer?

Q: Is telling your employer you are looking at other jobs giving notice of resignation?

A: It is considered unprofessional to resign without giving written notice. You will very likely burn a bridge by doing so. Telling your boss you are looking for another job is not a way of giving notice. As an ethical employee, you should always give your employer written notice of your resignation and (unless your contract calls for more notice) provide at least two-weeks advance notice of your last day. More

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Q: Can I resign if I have made a huge mistake on the job?

A: There are instances when an otherwise great employee makes an error on the job or fails to get a promotion. Guilt or disappointment can result in submitting a resignation during an emotional moment. A good supervisor, realizing that this is not normal for someone who is an asset to the company should ask the employee to take some time to rethink such a decision before submitting his/her resignation.

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Q: If I give my notice of resignation, do I lose my right to handle any matter about the company?

Q: What exactly are my duties once I have turned in my resignation?

A: The moment you submit your resignation, you begin the process of ending any responsibilities where your actions could be interpreted as representing the company. It is part of letting go so that you can move on to your next job. As matters come up, you should inform your supervisor and hand them over to him or her, or the person designated to replace you.

Your duties change when you submit your resignation. It is a good idea to meet with your supervisor to plan out what to do with all your work in progress and find out how your current duties can be delegated. With your supervisor's OK, you should follow up on and close any tasks and reports you have been responsible for, but be sure to keep him or her informed about the status of work that is still outstanding. You might be asked by your boss to cross-train someone who will be taking over your duties. Do your best to cover the content this person will need to know to be productive. Be ethical and resist any temptation to sabotage your replacement.

During your last week remove any personal files and non-job related correspondence still on your PC. Also, remove all software that is not company purchased. If you have a laptop, smart phone, or tablet, it too needs to be swept clean of all non-business software and information. Clean out and delete all sent and received e-mails. The next person who occupies your desk should be able to find only ongoing and job-related items.

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Q: I resigned from my job with my current employer. Now I am being asked by my employer and others in my department where I am going. Do I have to give it to them?

A: No, you are not obligated legally to provide information about who your next employer will be. We frequently develop a bond or friendship with the people work with. It is common to ask where someone is going when they decide to leave a company. It is usually because they care about your future or have a general curiosity. It is up to you to determine what information about your new company you wish to share.

Based on your comfort, you can indicate the name of the company or provide an answer that may include "why" you are making a move. For example: The new company is much closer to my home; or the new company offers more professional growth, etc.

If you are comfortable giving the company name that is fine. It is up to you. Do be aware that if you are moving to a competitor, your current employer may decide to release you early if they think you are now the competition and have access to their prices or customer information.

I really would not provide specific contact information for your next employer. There is no legitimate reason I can think of as to why they would need it or what they would do with it.

However, it is a good practice to give them your contact information (non-work) should they need to reach you after you leave. They likely already have your home phone and address. Best wishes with your new job.

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Q: I did not resign from my last employer, I was fired. If my new employer does a reference check with the HR people at my old company, can they find out why I was terminated?

Q: I gave my employer notice of resignation but had to quit earlier. They stated that they would not rehire me. How do I handle that question in an interview? [ See A2:, below]

A1: First the bad news: Your former employer can say anything they wish about your separation from the company. Unfortunately they can bad mouth you.

Then a bit of good news: So what keeps them from openly saying bad things about you? Companies and HR departments are concerned that if they say something untrue (or undocumented), something that prevents you from getting a new job, or something barred by a contract you both signed, you could take them to court and tangle them up in expensive litigation. If you prove that they "harmed" you, they might also have to pay damages and your legal fees.

If you wonder about what your former company is saying about you, consider having a friend call the HR department and conduct an employment verification concerning you.

That's why many companies have policies of not giving information beyond dates of employment and rehire eligibility. If asked for a salary, the HR people will generally only confirm a salary range; not a specific salary amount. More about dismissals

A2: With regard to the second question, it is a good strategy, if at all possible, to have references from your old company who are willing to be a positive witness to the work you did. These can be co-workers, other managers, business suppliers, and customers. Even better, it is good to bring several positive reference letters in a folder to your interview. Note: Please also see Interview Folder.

If your new company did a reference check and the old company HR department indicated that they would not rehire you, be up front. Don't be defensive. Explain that you gave notice but regrettably had an obligation that forced you to leave sooner than the end date of the notice period. Explain why you did so.

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