In the January 15, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter asks when to give the boss notice of resignation:

I have an opportunity to move from a large corporation to a established startup. I have put in seven happy years at the corporation, but the new position will be a nice change. I’m still going through the interview process, and it’s going well. When do I break the news to my current boss? I don’t want to burn any bridges, and I don’t think I would accept any counter-offer. I just want to give respectable notice so that he can replace me.

Nick’s Reply

zip-itCongratulations on the new opportunity, but please — don’t jump the gun. Never, ever give notice or resign until:

  • You have a written offer in hand
  • You have formally accepted the offer
  • The new employer has confirmed your acceptance, and
  • The on-boarding process has begun.

It doesn’t happen often, but job offers get rescinded, especially between the informal oral offer and the bona fide written version. Don’t be left on the street without a job. When the above milestones have passed, I’d tell your employer nothing except that you’re leaving. Give your boss a one sentence resignation letter that says nothing more than:

“I hereby resign my position effective on [date].”

The details of your “notice” don’t need to be spelled out in the letter. In person, I’d commit to helping with a proper transition not to last more than two weeks, unless you really want to be helpful — that’s up to you.

There’s a small chance that, no matter how well you and your boss get along, you will be ushered out the door immediately. Some companies have very strict security policies, so make sure all other loose ends are tied up before you resign. They may not even let you go back to your desk. This is unusual, but it does happen. Even friendly employers can turn officious when a person resigns. Just be ready for it.

I would not disclose where you’re going. I’ve seen bitter former employers try to nuke a person’s new job. Politely explain you’ll be in touch right after you start the new job, if your boss really cares. I’m sorry to focus on the worst case, but you don’t want to get torpedoed before you start your new job. The odds of something bad happening are probably small, but the consequences can be enormous. My advice is, don’t chance it.

Again, congratulations. Take it one step at a time until the new deal is solid and safe. I wish you the best.

Have you ever resigned, only to have your new job offer rescinded? Has a resignation ever gone awry? What’s your policy about the nuts and bolts of transition when leaving a job?

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  1. I didn’t get torpedoed, but a friendly HR person did call me to alert me that my previous boss was making calls.

    I had already left and was taking time off before beginning my new position, so I trotted on down to my previous employer and asked to speak to the CEO, the HR director and my former boss.

    I told then that I had heard about his “interest” and that if anything untoward happened because of it, I’d being seeing all of them in court. They got the message.

    I was told later that he came perilously close to being unemployed about 10 minutes after I left.

    These days employers think they’re untouchable and can get away with anything. Fortunately, that’s not always the case.

  2. The timing on some of these posts is just uncanny… I literally just finished writing my resignation letter 20 minutes ago and am struggling with when to turn it in. Advice from other commenters is welcome.

    My situation is different because I am living abroad. I don’t have a new job offer, but I do have my plane ticket back to the states already bought since I am leaving this company to move home to be closer to my family during a difficult time for our family. So I have my clear end date (early february). Because my company is struggling financially and I am a “fellow” I have actually been without projects for months. I will not need to transition anyone into my position since I’m basically at the bottom of the totem pole and have no projects anyway.

    I am unsure about when to resign because although I had been planning to give the standard 2 weeks notice in about a week and a half, my boss has just called a big meeting for a new project for tomorrow. I am wary to go and accept large project responsibilities at this meeting when I know that I realistically won’t be around long enough to do much work on them. Should I meet with my boss today or tomorrow before the meeting to resign so he knows this at the meeting or continue to act as if I am staying with the company and accept responsibilities at the meeting under somewhat false pretenses? Again, I know I will not be replaced, so my coworkers will have to pick up these responsibilities from me either way. It seems to make more sense for them to just have them from the project’s start then to play catch up later.

    Advice is welcome as this is my first formal job and I have never resigned before! If it helps, this is a small nonprofit, there is no Human Resources, and the culture in the company (and the country) is very laidback (not vindictive).

  3. @Jim: People are sometimes startled when I suggest they go to the CEO if they have a serious (if not big) problem. Good for you. Sometimes calling everyone on the carpet is a great solution. I’m a big believer in the social sanction – put everyone in a room and make them face one another, and the music. I doubt you’ll have any further problems from this company, and as long as you don’t intend to ever work there again, don’t look back.

    However, you should keep your eyes open. In a scenario where a bad guy gets busted, there is sometimes fallout. Even though he lost, your boss might develop a vendetta. His boss may make a crack to the CEO of another company. I think what you did was necessary and prudent. But keep your eyes open. A victim who fights back makes enemies. I wish you the best.

  4. Erin,

    You say you’re without projects but now a big project has come in. It sounds like you expect to be handed a good amount of work.

    If it was me, I’d decide what to do based on how much I needed the money and on how I thought the company or my boss would react regardless of the project status.

    If I expected them to show me the door immediately and I needed the money, I’d wait to give two weeks notice. I know that sounds cruel, but if the organization is going to act like that, then I’m going to act in such a way to protect my interests. It’s just business.

    If I expected the company or manager to let me stay on until two weeks were up, then I’d tell them earlier. I’d explain that I was planning on giving two weeks notice, but that I didn’t want to interfere with the start of the project by taking things on only to hand them over a short time later. I’d still want to stay until my original planned departure date (based on 2 weeks from when I was going to give notice). I think a good manager would appreciate that and work something out with me.

    Since you said the culture is laid back and not vindictive, you might want to approach them early. If they’re having financial troubles and this project could help them, you can frame the early notice as a “I’m trying to look out for the organization” bit. A good manager would remember something like this when a reference was needed.

    Just be careful. If the financial trouble is bad enough, someone may decide to cut you immediately to save some cash. You’ll have to decide how much of a risk that is.

  5. @erin: I look at situations like this pragmatically first. The main question: If you’ve planned your exit for early February, are you worried they would terminate you sooner? If yes, and if this would put you under a lot of financial stress, then wait to resign. Otherwise, you’re already at about the 2-week notice point, so take your boss aside privately and explain that you would like to resign, and that you don’t want to leave him in the lurch by commiting to a project you cannot follow through on. There’s always some risk in a situation like this, but it seems minimal since you’re leaving the country, would not accept a counter-offer, and your employer seems friendly. Doing it now has the added benefit of possibly leaving the door open for a return, should you wish. More important, candor now could mean better references later. That said, use your own best judgment. In situations like this, no one knows what’s best for you better than you. If anything I said helps, I’m glad. I wish you the best, and have a safe trip!

  6. @erin, when a boss, I would appreciate knowing up front you wouldn’t be there…it’s the professional thing to do. Then I know what I’m dealing with. the alternative is to set him/her up for a fall, looking dumb, and resenting you for it.
    regarding the main topic, Nick’s rules of engagement are the way to go. Resignation is the flip side of being laid off, when your boss and/or HR tells you it’s not personal, it’s just business. Not to take it personally. That door swings two ways, but unfortunately too many bosses do take it personally, and cop attitudes and shoot themselves with stunning aim in the foot, burning bridges. By that I’ve seen bosses or companies refuse to hire good people back when opportune..forever. Just because they quit. Dumb! because an excellent addition is someone with a known positive performance, who knows your company/department, knows on reflection or new experience somewhere else that they prefer coming back.
    Earlier in life when I left companies voluntarily/resigned…my policy was to ensure to the best of my ability I didn’t leave my boss or projects swinging in the breeze, I’d offer up my replacement(s), recovery plan etc. They didn’t have to take my advise, but I didn’t leave them with no recourse.

  7. PS: If you are one of the ill advised who use their work email and related contact lists as your primary particular heed to the point that you may be “walked”. Don’t assume you have that traditional 2 week grace period to get your “e-stuff” in order. That lid can slam shut in a nanosecond.

  8. I just want to reinforce Nick’s advice to not resign until a written offer is in hand.

    A couple of years ago I had gone through an extensive interview process, and the prospective employer had even flown me to their corporate headquarters for a final interview where we negotiated salary and terms of employment. After returning home I went for my drug screen, which I was told was the final step before I would recieve the written offer.

    I called the HR manager a couple of days later and was told that I passed the drug screen and that there was one more person who had to sign off on my offer letter and I would hear from them again in a day or two. That was the last time they answered my phone calls.

    Fortunately I had said nothing to my current employer about this and continued with them for another 6 months until I was able to land another position.

  9. I had a job offer rescinded between the verbal offer and the official offer. I went through a thorough interview process and did very well, obviously, because they offered me the job. But during the process of processing my paperwork, they discovered that I lacked a credential that was essential to the job.

    When they told me this, I asked if I had misled them into thinking I had the credential, which I didn’t even realize I needed. They responded that they took full responsibility for the mix-up because they assumed that I had it without bothering to verify that during the interview and vetting process. I viewed it as them falling in love with me without really getting to know me, and chalked it up to another example of poor HR practices—ironically, this was a job placement agency!

  10. I was RIFed from a company, and the owner spent the the next year telling my new employer I couldn’t be trusted. It fell on deaf ears because my new employer (law firm) asked why I couldn’t be trusted, and he let it drop that he really couldn’t trust anyone who didn’t go to his parish on Sunday morning.

    Yep, they are out there, and in this economy, they pretty much hold a straight flush to your pair of deuces.

  11. Ditto what Nick said:

    -Say nothing until it’s official
    -Don’t say anymore than you have to
    -Be prepared to leave & turn in your gear the day you make it known. Don’t assume you’ll get 2 weeks

    One more dynamic that might be in play if you are a commissioned employee. If you have a bonus payment owed to you and you can make the dates work for your departure and landing, get the check deposited in your account before spilling the beans. I know of several folks I’ve worked with who left their former employer on what should have been good terms and then had to come back and fight to get what was owed to them (oh, and they got to work with HR on!) This is rare and sh*tty on the Employers part but it happens. I married up the dates at my last gig where the check hit the account on a Friday and on the following Monday I resigned expecting to be cut off that day.

    Outcome: I was given 2 weeks to stay on and do an appropriate transition and started my new gig without issue. Who knows if the bonus payment was ever in jeopardy but the peace of mind only required that I ask to have my start date pushed out a week.

  12. I second everything that Nick has advised. When I left my 2nd job, I gave the employer 3 weeks notice for a smooth transition. My old employer showed me a copy of my resume that was presented to the new employer, and dropped me at the end of the 1st week.

  13. I can definitely second much of the commentary here. A former employer walked out good employees on the day they gave two weeks’ notice or on the last day, fired folk without cause, prohibited them from retrieving personal belongings from their desks, and denied unemployment benefits, which those fired later sued for and won.

    When I gave my two days’ notice to the same at-will employer, I was chided by distant coworkers for not giving two weeks. I had carefully considered how it would have impacted them, not wanting to leave them in a bind despite wanting to quit. I had the new job three weeks but had to wait for a background check to clear. On my last day, I found out that my supervisor had known that, and the HR director was notably absent after two days of avoiding eye contact with me. My manager came out to say goodbye but stalked away as I replied.

    After I left, HR people I had to contact were hostile and short with me. If only I had known then not to say more than that I was leaving. It was a glad day when I no longer had to list the job on my resume or need references from it.

  14. @Selwyn: That story comes under “truly bizarre,” but I’m sorry to tell you I’ve seen it more than once. An employer just falls off the map with no explantion. Kinda makes you wonder. Did they discover you favor something unusual? Did they find another candidate at the last minute? Did your kindergarten teacher, having been interviewed for a background check, claim you threw spitballs? Did they find gummy bear residue in your urine, but prefer to avoid getting sued, so are keeping mum about it? Who knows? There oughta be a law. My compliments for keeping your wits about you and not sacrificing your old job too soon! (Disclosure: The exact same thing happened to me long ago. My guess: a false positive in my urine test and they decided not to take a chance. Or it was that kindergarten teacher… My conclusion: Thank heaven I never joined such a goofy company. You’d be shocked if I told you which one it was.)

  15. @Larry Kaplan: Another example of an employer losing a good candidate for a goofy reason. They personally reviewed you and decided you were worth hiring, but a missing “credential” killed the deal. Talk about mistrusting their own eyes, ears, brains and… judgment. That’s the problem with the hiring system – data matters more than judgment.

  16. @LT: Thanks for sharing that story. If I were reading my advice on that point (old employer might try to nuke you), I’d wonder what I was smoking, too. Employers REALLY DO THAT? Yep, they do. Thanks for confirming it.

    In one case, a guy I was about to place had a reference tell the new employer he was a bum. (Why? Because he was leaving the old job.)

    In another case, a VP candidate almost got torpedoed by his former boss, who left an anonymous message for the new company’s president, claiming the candidate had “questionable affiliations.” No details. Pretty slimy. The new president had the good sense to ask me to investigate (hey, it could have been real), and I was able to show (a) where the call came from, and (b) that there were no weird affiliations. Turns out the old president and his chums in south Florida – all part of a very tight industry community – really didn’t want the candidate leaving their local “family” of competitors. Just nuts. The guy was hired, performed incredibly well. Go figure. It really does happen, and it’s just not worth taking the risk. In the latter case, the candidate never should have told anyone what he was up to regarding the new job. But he was a bit conceited and loved throwing his good fortune in his old friends’ faces… he learned a lesson, too.

  17. @SoundAdvice: I learned that commissions are put at risk the hard way:

    And I learned to move on. But better to know how to play the exit strategy like you did! Thanks for sharing that.

  18. Some years back, I was asked to interview a candidate who would be my boss. He seemed a good guy, I felt he would be excellent all around. After he left, the hiring manager came around and said he had made him a verbal offer which he had accepted.

    One hour later, the hiring manager was terminated.

    The next morning, I called the candidate to let him know what had happened, only to learn he had already given notice at his old firm. You just never know… He was subsequently interviewed again by another manager, and the offer renewed. He came on board, and was indeed, an excellent manager. But, this story could have had another, less happy outcome.

    Follow Nick’s advice, and protect yourself. The unexpected happens every day.


  19. Nick,

    I was disappointed in your last article “when should I tell my boss I’m resigning” that you didn’t pick up on another statement the person made.

    “I don’t think I’d take a counter offer.”

    In our business we see so many folks who take a counter offer to only be calling back in 3 or 6 months asking us for help as they were recently terminated. As you know, the underling issues don’t change or worst case the employer uses the counter as a stall tactic to find a replacement.

    Candidates need to understand that there are consequences associated with accepting counteroffers, not every time, however it is a high percentage.

  20. @Nick

    Back when you could get a reference (instead of name, rank and serial number) from an employer, I had a paralegal buddy of mine call and do reference checks for my network. He worked out of a small law firm across town, while I principally ended up working downtown (bankruptcy) firms. I of course would do the same for his network. We often wondered if we should have tried to make a niche out of that service.

  21. @LT: What do you mean by “do reference checks” for your network? Check references on job applicants for employers? Or check references for job hunters for the benefit of job hunters, to find out whether someone is nuking them?

  22. I am in a relevant situation right now. I have made the desicion to leave, due to a micromanager and erratic workloads and tasks. So, I am out looking, but takes my time to vet prospective new employers, to avoid becoming a job hopper.

    What nags me is: how much could have improved if I told them straight out that they need to improve or I would leave? I have raised some of the issues in a constructive way, and parts of the issues are also our customers’ faults. However, little has changed.

    We have strong labour laws in Norway, so there is no risk they could just walk me to the door, but the result could be anything from them really acknowledging their challenges, to a sour atmosphere where I am just given mundane tasks while they wait for me to quit.

    So, the question is: How to handle the situation before one decides to leave – that is at the stage when the company still could improve? How to constructively write on their wall?

    I would believe the issue would be even more delicate with an “at will” employer, where just mentioning that one could think of leaving or complaining could lead to termination, with the result that the company is filled with “yes-men” – until the day they suddenly leave…

  23. @Nick: Check references for job hunters for the benefit of job hunters, to find out whether someone is nuking them.

  24. @Karsten: Companies conduct exit interviews to get answers to the questions you want to ask (How can the company improve?). But then it’s too late. I don’t know how much benefit it would be for you to talk to them about this – only you can make that judgment. I really believe what I wrote in this short article:

    The question is, can an employer handle the truth? Do they really want it? Will it matter?

    Only you can judge this. There’s one angle you could try, that might avoid having your bosses think you are criticizing or threatening to quit. Put together a brief outline of one or two projects you’re responsible for. Show how the work is done, and the outcome. Then show how it might be changed FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE COMPANY. Include projected outcomes. (E.g., how would it contribute to profitability?) Present it as your own analysis of your own work, and ask them for their input. Do they like it? Is it worth implementing some of your ideas?

    You’d need to think about how to present this, to suit the style and personality of the management. It might work, it might not. The question is, how important is it to you to try? If you’re already “gone” in your own mind, that says a lot, too. So does the fact that management has not asked you for advice about doing the work more effectively.

  25. @LT: When done honestly (without saying you’re considering hiring the person), it’s still a reference check, and I think it’s legit. But then again, who’s going to ask you to confirm that you’re considering hiring the person? Yah, this is splitting hairs, but when you want to look inside a teeny, tiny little hair, you have to split it. But the line between honest and dishonest is a fine one here, too. On the other hand, I think some of the “professional reference checking services” that are out there working for employers are quite slimy – even though they really do work for the employer.

  26. Nick—this advice is so true and the best . Years ago I was being interviewed by a large national firm and in the middle of the discussion the exec (not a hr exec, a marketing svp) had to take a call ( this was before cell phones) in front of me??? from the President of the company who was at LAX waiting for a flight home.He did not want to hire a division head person they interviewed and made an offer to the day before. The pres had changed his mind. The exec I was speaking with told the pres the potential hire had accepted the offer had given notice, I was asked to step out for a few minutes and when I returned the interview continued and was told a few of the above details sort of off handed. Needless to say I did not go further with this company

  27. Nick, thanks for your feedback.

    Exit interviews – yes, had one with my previous employer. I left them primarily due to relocation, but there were a few issues that I had raised several times, which resurfaced in the exit interview – the HR rep agreed to them, but according to my former colleagues, the issues did not change.

    I have several times prepared suggestions for projects like you suggested (although the nature of my work leans more to a technical, than a financial side). The problem is partly that clients are unpredictable (we are a consultancy), but also that management does not seem able to turn these suggestions into business.

    So I am probably already “gone” in my mind. Too much water under the bridge, beyond the “writing on the wall” phase. Furthermore, part of the issue is due to disagreements between my technical manager (the micromanager) and the country manager (whom I happen to share office with a couple of days a week, so I know what is going on). But, still…what if…?

    I agree that one should be very careful about a counter offer. At that time, the cat is out of the bag. A decision to resign should be exactly that – a desicion.

  28. Oh I wish this article was written a couple years ago. About 2 years ago I received a verbal job offer from the CEO of an organization for a General Manager position. Not only did I quit my old job but I relocated from a 4 bedroom house to a new city for this new job to then receive a phone call that the job offer had been rescinded by the Board. OUCH! That was a wake up call to a world run by individuals with very different value systems than what I have been around. Before this I have always been around people who are caring, trustworthy, respectful of others and strong value systems. Now I know better. Fortunately I was able to eventually get back on my feet again even though it took about a year to get permanent employment again.
    Very good advice Nick!

  29. Sir,
    I am a senior in college and have received an offer in November in writing from a company with an August start date. Everything is spelled out. I accepted but asked them questions as to what my position would be in the tech area and HR had no answers. Didnt ewven know what division or manager. They gave me a pretty strict deadline to sign on and as you know jobs are hard to find. I have also read there may be layoffs soon and they love H1-B employees. Since then I am receiving other offers and like one or 2 very much and I know exactly what my job will be, salary, benefits, etc. I am going to two of the companies in the next 2 weeks and will be speaking with the managers I will be working for. What do I specifically do with the original company I signed the offer with if I want to join one of the other companies. The original company stated very clearly that it is an at will agreement between the both of us. I am concerned that I have no specified area where I am working in and of the possibility of potential layoffs since it is a hardware company and everything is going software? I expect offers for a summer start from the other companies.I need help.I am new at this and scared. Thank you

  30. Alex, I would say that you do not really have a job offer. An “at will” company which is not able to even tell you what you are supposed to do?

    Go for the two other job offers, interview etc there. If necessary, quit the “at will” job the second day. They asked for it.

  31. @Alex: Some people find the advice in the following article difficult to accept. You must use your own judgment.

    Employers sometimes rescind offers. Job applicants sometimes rescind acceptances. Both situations suck. Both happen due to unexpected exigencies, and both have consequences. You must consider it all, and make a decision. In this case, you are not deciding between offers. You have just one offer. Yes, or no? If other offers come through later, then you have a different decision. Don’t confuse the choices with one another unless they are all on the table at the same time.

    If you accepted one offer and later decide another, newer, offer is better for you, then you submit a letter to the first company notifying it that circumstances have changed, and in light of their inability to define the job and the manager, you have reconsidered and are respectfully declining the job.

    I wish you the best.

    (The fact that the first employer can’t or won’t tell you what the job is or who your boss will be says a lot by itself. Don’t ignore what your gut is telling you. And don’t ignore the importance of being able to put food on the table.)

  32. Thanks for the responses.If I sign the newer offer when should I respond to the company I originally signed with that wont give me any particulars? The original company is giving me a start date in August with no particulars. The new company I imagine will have me start in June or July.I also assume that will be at will since that seems to be the norm. Can I sign the 2nd offer with all the details in place and later notify the original company at a later date, and when? I am a bit disturbed and confused over this.

  33. @Alex: Now you’re getting into legal questions and details of your particular situation. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to offer legal advice. Since you’re still in school, I suggest you get some advice from your school’s career office or see if there’s a legal aid office in your area. You’d probably rather not pay an attorney for help, but please consider the value of your first year’s salary – is it worth a few hundred bucks of legal advice to protect it? If you talk to the career office, I’d be careful – I might talk about Company A and Company B, without disclosing identities. Sorry to seem paranoid, but you don’t know whether someone at the career office knows someone at any of these companies. It’s unlikely, but a word to the wrong person about this could cause you unnecessary problems. Be careful – but try to get some legal advice.

  34. Sir,
    The job is on the west coast and I am on the east coast. I have few funds to speak to lawyers on both coasts and will not talk to career services for the reason you mentioned. I thought the minute I sign the new offer I would let the original company know. If this is an at will agreement why cannot I use the at will part of my agreement and just say what you sad before… submit a letter to the first company notifying it that circumstances have changed, and in light of their inability to define the job and the manager, I have reconsidered and are respectfully declining the job.

    Since signing with the first company I have read articles that they are going heavily to H1-B and they have gotten rid of a program where new hires get to choose their department and the managers and departments make presentations to get the new hires. This is the 1st year that I have found out that it has been disbanded and no one can tell me why. Things change so quickly in the matter of months. I would appreciate any more advice. I have student debt on top of it.

  35. Sir,
    Also, this is an at will agreement on both sides.Why cant I use that?

  36. @Alex: I believe in keeping it simple. My guess (but who knows?) is that if, after you accept another offer, you quickly notify the first company that you have changed your mind because you are concerned about its H1-B practices and dismayed at changes in its onboarding process, the company will just walk away. I can’t see them pursuing the matter. The earlier you do it, and wish them luck, the sooner they’ll find another hire. But again – these are my guesses. I have no idea what their history is on matters like this, or where they would stand legally. I can’t tell you what to do, but like I said, I try to keep things simple. Quick notice of change of mind, followed by quickly moving on. I still think it’s worth contacting a legal aid group in the proper jurisdiction, for a short talk. You could probably do this on the phone.

  37. Nick. But it is stated that it is clearly an at will agreement by both parties. I tried to contact the local Legal aid in Santa Clara but the offices are closed only for the worst of family cases.

  38. @Alex: I think that’s probably the answer. They probably can’t force you to show up. But more important, I think, is that you notify them quickly.

  39. Yes, you should tell your boss that you’re resigning, but like in comedies, timing is everything. You know your company, boss, and the culture best. How have other employees who have resigned been treated? Were they escorted off the premises by security and denied access to their personal belongings? Were they denied final pay/benefits? Did the boss/management seek to sabotage them? Were hissy fits and snits thrown?

    Employers’ and bosses’ reactions to resignations vary widely. Some may genuinely wish you well (even give you a party on your last day), while others will seek to harm you and everything in between. If you don’t know your boss/company/management well, then it is probably a good idea to not to give out too much information. A simple letter/memo stating that you are resigning your position, effective (provide the date) and nothing more will suffice. And you should still be prepared, even if you’re giving a two-week notice or month’s notice, to be told that your services are no longer needed (even if you anticipated working those last two weeks). Be prepared financially (make sure you don’t absolutely need those last two weeks’ pay), and you should considering clearing out your desk of personal belongings too.

    Sometimes companies will conduct an exit interview (usually done by HR) on your last day or even after you’ve left. You will be asked why you left and to openly discuss any problems and issues with the company/boss/management under the guise of “improvement”. Be very wary and very careful…IMO if HR is so behind that they’re asking these questions after you’ve left (and probably after others have bailed), they’re more than a day late and a dollar short. My brother got one of those calls from his former employer 2 months after he’d left. His dept. was bleeding employees, many, many good employees, for several years, with nary a peep from HR. He doesn’t know if it was company policy to do those post-quitting interviews, but he opted for caution. He works in prospect research and has found that in his area, everyone in the field knows and often has worked with everyone else. His boss (the guy who brought him in) got fired by an upper level boss who got brought in by someone else…and then proceeded to get rid of other employees, combine positions so one person would be doing 2 or 3 jobs (without a raise or increase in title), and then let go of more people due to “budget cuts”. Then he wondered why the money wasn’t coming into the school–duh, just got rid of people who are finding the big donors for you. My brother said it didn’t matter how long you’d been there, how good your work was, once he painted the bulls-eye on you, you were either gone or could expect your job to become undoable. My brother figured that once his boss got let go, it was only a matter of time before it was his turn because there was a pattern of not only letting go of one boss, but of everyone that boss had hired. The boss doing the firing also targeted a veteran (military), refused to hold his job for him while he deployed to Afghanistan, and when he returned, dumped him in a significantly lower job (lower pay, lower skills, lower status, lower everything) plus added 2 people’s duties to his. When the veteran complained, he was told to suck it up and deal or get out because the company didn’t have time to deal with slackers (people who expect to be away for 15 months and still have a job).

    When HR telephoned my brother after he’d been in his new job, he said they asked him why he left because they noticed that his old dept. was losing people at the highest rate on campus and the boss couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t find and retain good workers. My brother had worked there for 5 years. Our dad told my brother that he should have been honest with HR–told them what an sob the bigger boss was, how he got rid of all those people, made the jobs undoable, how he treated the veteran, etc. My brother told dad that he would have to have had his head examined–he didn’t know or trust HR’s motives (and didn’t take them at their word). The bigger boss could have a mole in HR, and could retaliate against my brother in ways that could harm him professionally, financially, etc. in the future precisely because the folks who work in prospect research all know eachother. My brother was thinking not so much of his current job, but of a future job. And who knows where the old bigger boss will end up? That upper boss at his old employer could end up being hired where my brother works now, or in the future, and my brother decided it is better not to burn any bridges.

    And even with a contract, a firm start date, and more, that doesn’t mean that your soon to be new employer won’t find someone else and decide to deep six you. At my brother’s last job (the one described above), he had been hired because he knew the boss from having worked with him at a job 4 jobs ago. His boss and the university had already made an offer (written) to another candidate when my brother called his former colleague. The other candidate had already accepted the offer in writing, given notice at his job, and was going to start in a couple of weeks. The boss decided he’d rather hire my brother, so the offer was rescinded and my brother was hired. I asked my brother if he knew the other candidate (he didn’t know and didn’t care) and what happened–did he sue, try to get the university to honor the WRITTEN contract and his acceptance (bro didn’t know and didn’t care). The truth is that even with written contracts, there are no guarantees. The perfect candidate could fall out of the sky after a written offer has been made, and those that do use written offers often make sure that their legal dept. puts in some nice language to give them an out. Add to that factor that MA is an at-will employment state (like most states), which means an employer can fire you for any reason or no reason (just don’t be stupid and say it is because of race). You can say that you like to fire people and while it may be stupid, stupidity isn’t illegal and you the formerly new hire don’t have any recourse.

    There are enough stories from people who have experienced retaliation from former bosses/companies, so it is probably best just to stick to the basics/facts. You’re leaving and your last day. If you have a project or deadline or you’ve had a good relationship with your boss/colleagues/employer and don’t want to leave them in the lurch, then I’d offer to train my replacement (assuming you’re still going to be working there for 2 weeks/a month however long it is until your last day).

  40. A number of years ago I went through the hiring process with a manager who needed somebody yesterday. The company’s HR processes were slow; it took them two weeks to get an offer letter to me. It took another week or ten days for them to schedule a urine test, and still more time for results to come back all good.

    I told the manager that although I had no concerns about the urine test, I would give notice only after all contingencies had been cleared.

    In spite of the fact that the delays all came from the company’s side of the equation, the manager was bitter about my insistence. This was his first management position, and I suspect, his first hire. The relationship was functional but it never really warmed up after the opening sour note.

    I have no regrets about standing my ground. Employers don’t put up a bond to allay the candidate’s risk of financial catastrophe – being unemployed without the safety net of UI.

  41. @Phil: What a great idea. Employers putting up a bond to ensure their new hire is protected. Consider what they could get in exchange for that. This could be a wonderful new recruiting and hiring tool. I love it when two parties trying to work together have objective, clear terms to guide their deal.

  42. I work for a company that now has a policy that if your job is no longer needed or desired, or budget cut, your boss walks in with security and gives you notice to clean out your desk. I’ve had a hard time about this since I learned about the practice. The reason it happens…. in past there were huge cuts due to financial problems and lack of funding. People were given 2 weeks notice and the employees destroyed records, computers, equipment, etc. Years of research and documentation was lost. Now the company would rather give you moments notice and a 30 day severance pay than to lose the information or equipment. I really can’t blame them for that one. It is sad when what a few do cause so much pain for others down the road.

    I have also been on the other side when a great interview, the field of my college studies and an exciting job offered. They knew the prior company I worked for and was on great terms with the head boss. The bosses spoke and I never heard from the company again. All because I verified for a co-worker her work hours were greater than the pay she received. Even though it was to be a closed, confidential agreement on both sides of the house, I got the shaft for helping another.

    It always comes back around. The original company went bankrupt when son took over the reins.

    Regarding giving notice….I try to give at least a two week notice, but I also keep excellent records and workbooks documenting everything I do. If something was to happen to me another person could potentially use my reference materials to muddle through. I’ve always had positions of great responsibility and have always been given praise from those who have taken over the job I resigned.

    It isn’t an easy road or choice when you chose to resign or forced to resign.

  43. Still in a fog. Just a link to share.
    Tips for leaving your job the right way..

    PS. The company I was thinking of moving to as a software engineer may be bought by another company after stellar record earnings. Seems like a perfect fit. I don’t think that would bode well for me, being the new kid on the block with nothing much to offer experience wise. The other company is totally software driven. Sure getting difficult out there.

  44. What do you think about this? You took a job, something that you like, but two weeks after you take it, a job comes along you like even more, that pays even better with better benefits. How do you deal with that?

  45. Look at it this way. A company hires you. A few weeks later, it experiences a downturn and does a layoff. They’re really nice guys, but the business and their profits must come first. Sorry we had to let you go.

    I think what you do is get your ducks carefully in a row, and move on, if you’re prepared to pay the cost (which is that someone will probably be upset). You have to do what’s best for you and your family. I see nothing unethical about dealing with changes as they come along. I’ve written a lot about this elsewhere, e.g., “Juggling Job Offers” in my PDF book, Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers.

  46. Seems that this thread was posted last year, but I’m hoping I can get some advice…

    I’m getting married in December, and my fiance just lost his job. This turn of events has taken us upstate, which means I’ll be leaving my current employer in five months.

    I’ve worked there three years, and we’re chronically short handed, so I doubt I’d be rushed out the door. I work in a fast paced, administrative position and my work is very time sensitive. It can been overwhelming and stressful…none of my coworkers like sitting in my chair.

    So, I’m definitely giving more than two-weeks notice to train a replacement, but do I give them five months notice???

    I’d appreciate any feedback.

  47. @Dawn: Best wishes for your wedding! I would not give 5 months notice – too much can happen in that time and I don’t think it’s worth the risk. But that must be your judgment. Part of management’s job is dealing with transitions and they will just have to deal with this one. I still think two weeks is adequate. But if you want to stretch it out, don’t go too far. More important is to leave your desk in good order, and that might not be as time-consuming as you think. It’s not your job to replace yourself, just to leave a tidy desk. But use your own best judgment. I wish you the best.

  48. Need some advice please! I accepted a position with a government contractor. I was given a formal acceptance letter and I signed it and it was received. What I have to wait for now is my Security Clearance, which can take up to 4 months. I don’t forsee any problems with it going through, it just takes that long. I’ve been at my current employer for almost 15 years. A recent merger has taken place and I have decided I would be happier elsewhere. But, the new joint venture is planning to fly the entire office out of state for training within the next 4 weeks, rearranging the office to merge building/employees, etc. I REALLY want to tell my managers now of my move, but since I dont’ have an exact date I’m leary to. I do not want to go an an expensive training trip (still trying to figure out daycare for that anyways!), have office space created for me and then ditch. I am also afraid they may make me repay expensed related to the training, etc. I do consider my direct managers friends but they also only have so much authority and choice now because of the merge. I do not want to put them or myself in a bad position. Any advice would help.

  49. @ Christina
    my 2 cents, from a manager of decades, recruiter, job hunter and recruiter for 10+ yrs
    * daycare aside, a good rule of thumb on both sides of the table is you’re not on that new job until you’re wearing a new badge. It isn’t over til its over. Up until then it’s business as usual including the job search (and on the employers side recruiting)
    * It’s not unethical, mean spirited or cruel etc not to tell mgmt you’re bailing. it goes w the territory. You can be sure if the situation was reversed…you could be marching forward with a job, even investing in education, relocation etc and the company would conduct biz as usual right up to the day they cut you loose.
    * it’s nice when you have the kind of rapport where you can give your mgmt a heads up …and it would be appreciated and they’d hold a safety net under you until you had all the ducks lined up..but it’s rare
    So just move on as if there’s no pending change, & it will work out fine.

  50. @Christina: I agree with Don. Until you start your new job, you have no new job. Til then, it’s business as usual, unless you want to be unemployed for a while if your current boss decides to ask you to leave immediately. What if something goes wrong with that clearance?

  51. I was not able to resigned properly last august 2011 due to some offer question is this.Still i can get my final pay or no i send email to the gm and hr that time but they never replied .

  52. @Danilo: If you were working in the U.S., I believe the law forbids employers from withholding your pay. I would start by contacting your state’s department of labor and employment. They can tell you how to file to get your pay – and the employer may get slapped with fines.

  53. I have accepted an offer from a competitor and plan on resigning this Friday. My offer was in writing and I have filled out the paperwork of a new hire. I know to keep my resignation letter short but do not plan on working a notice. My question is do I tell my boss where I am going as he will certainly find out. I don’t want him to think I am being underhanded or dishonest as I have confidential company property that I would need to return. I did I not sign a non compete but have signed a confidentiality agreement and will honor that. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

  54. I had it happen to me, I was given an interview, lead to believe I had the job in the bag, given the start date, paperwork all ready, references fine. Day before my birthday, a phone call to say that they’d reconsidered the position and no go; this was after I’d handed in my resignation. Boss said he felt awful sent me a bunch of flowers – yeah like that would make up for recinding a job! Said I’d be suing them – they offered a settlement, should have asked for more realy… Thankfully I had contacts elsewhere and found a job at double the salary immediately thereafter but within two years the same company came a buying and I was made redundant! Biggest joke of all was that they wanted me to work for them as a freelancer – I told them that this could be construed as not technically being a redundant position and that it could land them in a lot of legal hot water… I didn’t want to work for that bunch and started up on my own. Seven years later had to end it simply due to economic conditions but soon, very soon… ;o)))

  55. @Rich: My advice would be to tell your boss, “I’ll give you a call in a couple of weeks to tell you where I’ve landed and so we can get together for lunch. I will of course honor all my obligations to the company.” (My guess is he won’t want to do lunch, but you can offer anyway.)

    Blame me if you need to. “A headhunter told me to make it a policy not to disclose a new job til I’ve been there two weeks. Something about the rare chance that something goes wrong…” And let it go at that.

    But use your own judgment; only you know the details of this well enough to handle it properly.

  56. @Ka’El: Thanks for sharing that – what a story! Flowers???? I’m glad you made an issue of it.

  57. Another aspect of resigning:

    Many companies make an offer contingent on passing a background and job history check, which isn’t started until you accept the offer.

    If they expect you two weeks after acceptance, and the check takes a week and a half, then you are expected to give notice before you actually have a job, which is pretty unpleasant.

  58. The timing on this post is perfect for me.

    I interviewed for a position a week ago. I did not think I would get a call so quickly (the manager is on vacation this week), but I did yesterday. I got the job offer and accepted.

    HR said it was “contingent” on a health screen (hospital setting) and ref checking. 2 ref have been called already.

    I was set up with the health screen yesterday and was asked if I can attend the orientation next week.

    I got the official letter of welcome today citing the salary agreement and the rest of the info discussed on the phone.

    So,assuming I pass the health stuff and they like my ref I am going to give notice Friday to my other job. Orientation is Monday,which I took the day off for.

    An HR friend told me if I hear nothing more by Thursday I should be confident I have the job for sure.

    Also, today I recieved a call from the director (my managers boss) who was thrilled I accepted the job and can’t wait for me to start.

    The work “Contigent” is the kicker. Even though all this other stuff is happening like on boarding me and the director calling me, etc.. I am still… well.. do I have the job or not?

  59. Just a little note… The HR person used to work for the same company I accepted the job from and she knows how they work.

  60. @J9: “An HR friend told me if I hear nothing more by Thursday I should be confident I have the job for sure.”

    It doesn’t matter that the HR person used to work for the company. It’s a classically irresponsible HR statement. She NEVER should have said this to you. My response would have been, “Then remove ‘contingent’ from the offer letter and re-send it to me.”

    But they won’t do that. Know why? They don’t want to take the risk.

    I don’t care if was the CEO who told you not to worry. The offer letter still says “contingent.” Until you have documentation from the employer stating you’ve cleared all hurdles, do you really want to take the risk of resigning the only job you really have? Be very careful. The risk may seem tiny; the consequences of being wrong are enormous.

    I’ve seen it happen again and again. An excited job applicant rationalizes. Please don’t.

    Having said all that, congratulations on making it this far. I hope the rest gets signed, sealed and delivered to you properly, and that you have a great time at this company.

  61. Thanks….

    It was a verbal “contigent” when offered the job on the phone. (I am sorry if I was not clear in my org post)

    The letter says only “as a condition” I must do the health stuff which I am today.

    The letter says nothing about “contigent” on reference checking. It says welcome to this company and report to orientation…on this day.

    I am guessing the ref checks were then made before the letter was sent.

    It seems that they just should have checked ref before the offer to start with and then no “contingent” would have been needed to be said.
    That, to me, threw things off for me.

    But I am not in the HR biz so I do not know the inter-workings….

  62. @J9: So, what do you think would happen if you don’t “pass” the health screen?

  63. Dear everybody,

    I have a tough decision to make related to this. I am currently employed in a small company with a sign on bonus and have been here for a year and 3 months. The industry that I am in is small and I’ve been thinking about switching to another industry where opportunities abound. I interviewed and got an oral offer from a mid-sized company. They wanted me to start working for them in 4 weeks. However, my hurdle is that I signed a contract when I came on board with my current employer that stated that I need to stay working for them for at least 18 months in order for me to keep my sign on bonus, which was and still is a decent sum for somebody like me. I was first advised by the new company HR that I should just quit my job and hope my current employer won’t go after me. Or when they do go after me, I should just refuse to pay. I did not think this was appropriate and told them I would not do something like that to my current employer.
    So the new company came back and said that they are not willing to offer to repay my full sign on bonus responsibility if it gets to that point. In fact, the most they could offer was less than half of the amount. Then they said that I should talk to my current employer first to find out how much they will go after me on the sign on bonus. Would they be willing to waive or reduce the total amount? The new company says that they cannot give me an official offer letter without this number from my current company.
    I should say that I have made good contribution to my current company the time I have been here. The stuff I am still working on is also important to them and I think they do not want to just show me the door and never see me again because they won’t find somebody in a short time to replace me. Even if they did, they still need me to help with the transition since otherwise some of my work that took a while to build could be wasted.
    I am torn right now about how to approach this. I do like the opportunity that the new company brings but I am worried how my current employer will react. If the worst thing happens, I might even be left without a job, which is something I cannot afford with a family to feed.

    Any advice will be deeply appreciated.

  64. @Mike E. Sounds like you’ve got 3 months to go. I’d work from the worse case scenario, that your current company will take the position that a deal is a deal. 3 months is 12 weeks, that’s really not an eternity.

    So ask your new prospect for a start date that hits after you meet your obligation, and an agreement that if released by your current employer you can start sooner. Present it as a plan, a solution so to speak. (you know the old saying don’t bring me a problem bring me a solution) You’ll negate the bonus issue, and that should give you ample time to finish your current project or at least prepare for a smooth hand off which is the professional way to exit and which should be appreciated by your current employer AND your future employer.

    If your new prospect will wait, exemplified by an offer letter with that start date, and the “or sooner” caveat, you can go to your current employer and signal your departure, noting you’ve arranged a start date that lets you do a clean wrap up, train a replacement etc. If they walk you, which I doubt you’re covered. Once it’s in the open you can ask to be excused from the bonus chain if you wish. You’ll have to play that by ear based on their reaction.

    If your prospect won’t wait, and wants to play hardball, i.e. doesn’t appreciate your plan, walk away from them.
    If indeed this industry change abounds with opportunity you’ll find another one(s) when the bonus issue is gone. You’ve already tested that new market & have done well, you’ll do OK again.

    Changing jobs is stressful enough under normal circumstances, don’t create more stress for yourself by injecting an issue that is about to go away anyway.

    You are in a good position because you’re not in a bind. You have a job, sounds like your current employer likes you, so take your time. Time to look, time to transition, is about the most valuable thing to have when making a change. Take advantage of it

  65. Hope for your help…I have previously tender my resignation as I find no prospects and have to spend money apple polishing my manager so I can have a peaceful day at work. However on the 2nd day, I found out I was pregnant then I quickly asked to rescind my resignation so I can provide for the baby. This is a big joke…After being humiliated and cursed at…I kept the job but my baby is gone. The company which previously offered me kept inviting me to take up their offer again…but I am stressed to tell my manager I want to quit…what is a good excuse?

  66. I am in somewhat similar situation. I have been with my employer for past 3 years. Recently in febuary i moved to states from india. I was a shadow resource in a IT Project and worked for 3 months till April. Only to realize that my project is not final yet and i may be moved to a new location or moved back to India.

    So i decided to look for better options in market, and luckily landed up with one. Now i want to resign from my current job but the problems are :

    1) The project that i was working as a shadow has now decided to start billing me from next week. Will it be ok if i resign now?

    2) My manager is in India on a vacation and will return in a month. Can i tell him on phone that i am resigning ?

    3) I am worried about my experience and relieving letters. Can my employer blackmail me with that?

  67. @Honey: I’m not sure what a shadow is or if it’s legitimate. I think the key here is whether you are certain you have a lock on the new position. As for any documentation that may be used to hurt you, you must take that up with an attorney. I wish you the best.

  68. Thanks Nick.
    Yes the new postion is confirm and locked.

    Shadow is working as NON BILLABLE for client for a certain time till BILLING starts.

  69. Hello everyone, let me see if I can explain what is going on.
    I’ve been working as a server since March 2015 lets call RESTAURANT 1, and I just got another opportunity in a better restaurant LETS CALL IT 2 which I took the offer.
    I’ve divided my schedule so I can work both jobs but I had to call my first job and ask them to take me off the schedule on that Wednesday I also called another server to cover my shift that day.
    So far so good.
    So I am working at my new job and my boss’s wife from my first job showed up and star telling me that they are very disappointed in me in finding out from someone that I had a new job and i didn’t telling them, how unprofessional they thought of me.
    I explained to her that my next shift would be Thursday and than I was going to talk to them about my new schedule and availability which I initially would cut only 1 day from restaurant 1, but I felt so uncomfortable, embarrassed because than I had to explained to my new boss what’s going on which she was very understanding about the situation.
    They assumed I had abandoned or quit or I have no idea what they were thinking, but now I don’t even want to go back to their place.
    What should I do and what when wrong? did I do something wrong?
    Was she in her right to show up at my job to tell me anything?
    Thank you

    • @Vera: She has a right to fire you and to discuss this with you the next time you appear for work – but not to come to 2 and do it there. If you don’t feel comfortable going back, then don’t. While what you did might be a bit questionable, I know the restaurant business, and servers are usually paid tiny wages — they live on tips. That means no restaurant really “owns” your spare time. You do. As long as you deliver the work promised, you are free to work anywhere else you like. Use your best judgement and do what you think is best.

  70. So today I had something very similar happen to me. I called in from my job at (let’s call it) BIRD because they weren’t clear on when my schedule from my other job was supposed to be in and they conflicted. My boss from BIRD comes into my other job which I’m a manager at and is confronting me about how I was supposed to work and all this trash while there were customers in my store. I was going to call later that day to explain some things because I was going to quit, but I ended up quitting right there and had to watch her storm out. I was mortified. Is there anything I can do about this? I thought it was very unprofessional and there were MANY other ways she could have handed the situation. Would a letter or call to the corporate office suffice? Or should I leave it be. I’m just worried she might show up again.

  71. Hi,
    I’m on contract through a recruiter and now I found another position somewhere else, they offer the job and I accepted.

    My 1st question is: who should I direct my resignation letter?
    a- To my recruiter (the staffing firm)


    b- The manager of the department I’m working at (my recruiter’s client where I’m working at)

    I’m scared of telling whoever I’m supposed to tell and and later receive a letter from my future employer saying that they decided to close the position for internal reasons or something like that.

    Help ASAP please

  72. @Will: If you’re on contract, your employer is the contracting firm. You need to tell them. Of course, the right thing to do is also tell your manager – but I think it’s best to notify your actual employer first.

    As for being scared that the future employer may rescind the offer, that can always happen. It’s a risk you take when you accept a job. But you can minimize the risk:

    1. Make sure you have the new offer in writing. (Is this another contracting firm or an actual company where you’d be working? I think if it’s a contracting firm, your risk is bigger.) An oral offer is not good enough to risk your old job.

    2. Make sure you have met and talked with the manager you will report to. This forces the employer to put some skin in the game, and you can judge for yourself whether the job is for real. Ditto HR.

    3. The more discussion you have with your new boss, the better your chances that this will work out. So ask him/her about your job responsibilities, on-boarding process, what tools you’ll be using. This gets the relationship started and makes it emotionally harder for them to back out.

    4. Here’s my favorite thing to do. Ask to meet some of the team members you’ll be working with, before you start. The sooner the better. This will reveal how serious they are about really filling this job and having you there.

    It’s more about personal politics than anything else, because in a state where employment is “at will,” they can fire you day #1 for no reason, or they can rescind the offer any time. You’d need a lawyer to protect yourself. I think the better thing is to get close to the new boss and team. Then there’s less chance (I think) that this will go south.

    Make sense? Sometimes you just must make your best judgment and make the leap. Or, if your gut tells you something is wrong, listen to your gut.