The art of goodbye

December 1, 2013

Our seven tips for waving farewell to your job with good grace

Photo: Shutterstock


Finding a new job can be a logistical nightmare. Explaining away your multiple disappearances for interviews – quite apart from then having to conduct them – is mentally and often physically exhausting.

But here you are. The pain was worth it because now you have an offer or two in the bag for the job you really wanted. Surely the only thing coming between you and the next step on the ladder is the obligatory final-day shindig…

Not so fast. The resignation and acceptance process must be conducted with care and attention. For a start, this is where firms will want to check they’re getting the person they think they’re signing up for. And they’ll be particularly on their guard just now.

Headline-hitting mistakes

Many will have taken on board, for instance, the salutary lesson of financial litigation partner Thomas O’Riordan, who recently had to leave his firm Paul Hastings when it was discovered that he had fabricated a whole array of academic qualifications on his CV, including a first-class degree from Oxford. He actually just got a standard law degree from the University of East Anglia.

His deceit actually seems to have had little or no bearing on his ability to do the job remarkably well. It says something about the legal profession that he felt he had to lie to get ahead in law. But law firms are unlikely to use this opportunity for soul-searching so much as to ensure that they don’t make the same embarrassing and headline-hitting mistake.

As a candidate, therefore, you need to approach the offer, acceptance and resignation process in a way that maintains the same level of confidence that you obviously managed to instil through the interviews.

Apart from telling the truth, which always helps, the following key tips might help:

  1. Make sure that your CV is ‘offer ready’. Have academic certificates at hand in case proof is required and contact your former employers for references so that they are on standby before the offers come in. (You will obviously have to wait to resign before asking your current employer).
  2. Once you receive an offer, respond positively and promptly. You’ll have long enough to consider the proposal and clarify details before accepting any offer – but don’t take longer than two weeks, perhaps waiting on the outcome of interviews with other firms. If you’re holding out for something else, then consider whether it’s really the right job for you.
  3. If you’re not happy with aspects of the offer then, again, respond quickly with your concerns. Negotiating your pay may be expected – although remember and accept that there may be fairly fixed salary bands beyond which your prospective firm can’t go. And don’t expect to be able to negotiate firm-wide benefits such as the pension scheme.
  4. Once you’re happy with the offer, accept wholeheartedly to both your agent (if you used one) and the recruitment partner. Confirm your start date and hand in your resignation letter to your current firm and HR department, to get your notice period started. Ask for a reference and, above all, be gracious to your current firm throughout the process, even if they made your life hell.
  5. Make it as easy as possible for your current employer to give you a glowing reference. Clearly outline the new role, including the skills required, and explain your reasons to move in as diplomatic a way as possible. Be generous in your praise for the ‘time and support’ your boss has given you along the way, even if you’d like to stick a pin in him/her.
  6. Be prepared for a counter-offer from your current firm and know how you’ll respond in advance. Don’t let a counter-offer cause major delays or you’ll risk your new firm thinking you’re flaky. Remember, if you are moving for anything other than money, than the chances are your firm is not going to come up with the goods, or they’d probably have done so during the course of your employment.
  7. Start your first day with the smug satisfaction of a job well done. CP

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