How to respond when you are asked to resign

How to respond when you are asked to resign

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Did you resign from your job, or are you thinking about it? Not sure how to answer the interview question, “Why did you resign from your job?” or “Why are you resigning from your current position?” You’ll likely be asked this question during your interview.

Potential employers will want to know about your reasons for moving on, to help them decide if you’ll be a good addition to their company. When answering this question, you should strive to remain as positive as you can, focusing on why this new job is the right fit for you.

There are lots of good reasons to resign from your job. Some of them are easier to explain than others, and some should be phrased very carefully to avoid placing blame on your previous employer or colleagues. Hopefully, when you tendered your resignation, you were able to leave on a positive note, on good terms with your former company.

Remember to be honest with your response, but don’t mention any negative feelings you may have left with. Your explanation may well make it back to your previous supervisor, during a reference check or other routine contact, and your story should match what they will share.

How to Answer the Question

When answering this question, it’s crucial to try to remain positive. Keep your explanation brief, and turn the conversation to the qualities you have that will make you an ideal employee in the new position. Don’t go into detail about your terrible boss, or the horrible work conditions. You should answer the question honestly, emphasizing what you did like about working there, while explaining the unavoidable circumstances that led to your departure.

For example, maybe the job was ideal for right after college, but now you are ready for more responsibilities. Or perhaps the schedule didn’t fit your situation anymore, but this job’s schedule is ideal.

Along with being positive about your previous experience, you should keep the focus on the new job you’re interviewing for. Once you say why you left your previous job, you can give examples of the reasons why you think this new job would be a better fit. Take the time during your interview preparation to come up with a few examples of how you have successfully used the key skills for the new position during your previous employment. It will help you keep your answer positive while allowing you to segue into why you are an ideal candidate for the open position.

Sample Answers

Below are some sample answers to the question, “Why did you resign from your last job?” Use them to help come up with your answer to this challenging question.

How to respond when you are asked to resign


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Job seekers often wonder if recruiters and hiring managers look for the most difficult and challenging questions to ask during the interview process. Be prepared to feel like you’re in the hot seat when trying to give a plausible reason why you resigned from a previous job and take a moment to collect your thoughts before you answer. Respond with truthful and factual statements, even if you faced termination if you didn’t agree to resign from your previous job. Remember, interviewers aren’t necessarily testing you by asking certain questions. They just want you to reasonably explain the kind of work experience you have and why you left your previous jobs.

Call your former employer with questions about how job references and employment verification are handled for employees who resigned in lieu of termination. Learn how the company responds to prospective employers and whether the human resources department is solely responsible for responding to reference checks, or if the company forwards calls to supervisors to handle. Also, confirm whether you’re eligible for rehire. An interviewer may not be as concerned about the reason you were forced to resign, as they would be if the prior employer doesn’t consider you eligible for rehire; this implies that your performance was so poor that you can’t ever return.

Review your work history and rehearse how you’ll answer the typical interview questions about your experience and reasons for leaving each job. Draft your interview responses and read them thoroughly until you’re able to articulate your responses fluidly and without appearing to have rehearsed them. Practice emphasizing your work history in terms of performance and talk about your achievements and accomplishments, but don’t ignore pointed questions about why you left.

Focus on your responses to the most difficult questions, such as “Have you ever been fired from a job?” and “Have you ever been asked to resign, rather than be fired from any of your jobs?” Ensure that you’re able to respond to the interviewer’s questions in a satisfactory manner and without hesitation. Never conceal a job termination — failing to disclose information could cause you to lose the job.

Answer the interviewer’s questions about your previous job honestly and take responsibility for the actions leading up to your resignation. If you were asked to resign in lieu of termination, you could respond with, “Yes, I was asked to resign in lieu of being fired. I erred when I misinterpreted a workplace policy and chose to resign instead of the involuntary termination I faced. I’m fortunate that my former employer has agreed to provide a satisfactory job reference to prospective employers.” In addition, it’s important that you tell the interviewer whether you’re eligible for rehire and stress that your job performance otherwise met your previous employer’s expectations.

How to respond when you are asked to resign

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When you are having issues at work, and the situation cannot be resolved, you may be forced to resign as an alternative to being fired. What should you do if you are asked to resign? In this situation, you will need to consider the consequences of resigning versus termination and their impact on your current lifestyle, as well as career goals.

Resigning vs. Getting Fired

There are several factors to consider when you resign, including eligibility for unemployment compensation, benefits, recommendations, a possible severance package, what you can say at job interviews, and how the company describes your termination to prospective employers.

If you are asked to resign, you don’t need to give an immediate response. Take the time to consider the alternatives to resigning before you get fired. The following information will help you decide whether you should quit before you get fired.

Options for Keeping Your Job

If you don’t want to leave, there may be options for keeping your job. It can’t hurt to ask questions such as whether there is anything you can do to stay on with the company. If there are performance issues, ask if a performance plan can be implemented, perhaps for a probationary period. Ask if there are any work-related issues that can be addressed, or are there any other alternatives to being let go.

If there are no options other than resigning or being terminated, the next step is to find out if your resignation is negotiable. What is the company going to offer you, if anything, to get you to leave? Some people receive large severance packages simply because they don’t resign immediately upon request.

Before resigning, make sure you research the alternatives to ensure a smooth transition to your next job.

Know Your Rights

It’s important to understand your employee rights when you lose or are about to lose your job. If you’re not sure about your rights, the best place to start is with the human resources (HR) department. Even if they are in the process of terminating your employment, they can help you transition out of the company by answering your questions, as well as explaining your eligibility for any continued company benefits.

If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, or unfairly treated according to the law or company policy, you can get assistance. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor has information on each law that regulates employment and advice on where and how to file a claim.

Your state labor department may also be able to provide assistance. A labor lawyer can advise you, for a fee, and may be able to help negotiate with your employer. It’s important to know your rights when your job is terminated and where to get help if you need it.

Negotiating Terms

When you’re forced to resign, you’re going to have to leave your job at some point, but you may be able to negotiate your separation from the company. As the company no longer wishes to continue your employment, you may have an advantage in the negotiations—unless you are about to be terminated for cause. Inquire about receiving unemployment, severance pay, and continued health insurance benefits.

Also ask whether you can be paid for unused vacation, sick and personal time if you resign—or if you are fired; and whether your health insurance benefits can be extended for a given time period. In some cases, employers will provide health insurance for a set time—30, 60 or 90 days—after employment terminates.

Severance Packages

The company has no obligation to offer a severance package, however, depending on circumstances, a package may be offered, or you may be able to ask for severance. It certainly can’t hurt to ask, and severance pay can help with expenses while you are seeking a new job. You may be able to negotiate continued health insurance benefits for a specific period of time. Also, the company may opt to allow you to collect unemployment and not contest your unemployment claim.

Collecting Unemployment

You may not be able to collect unemployment if you resign. If you’re fired, depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible for unemployment. If you were fired because the job wasn’t a good fit, because your position was terminated due to company layoffs or because of reasons like poor performance on the job, for example, you might qualify for unemployment benefits.

Getting References

References can be an issue when you are forced to resign. You may be concerned about how the company might discuss your termination with prospective employers who check references. If the company isn’t going to give you a good reference, will they choose to not give a reference?

Many companies only confirm dates of employment, job title, and salary. If that’s the case, the circumstances of your termination of employment won’t be mentioned by your previous employer.

What to Say During a Job Interview

Before you say why you resigned during a job interview, be sure that your response syncs with your previous employer’s response in case they choose to provide one. It will be a hiring red flag if what you say doesn’t mesh with what the company says.

Review sample interview answers you can tailor to fit your circumstances when you are asked why you resigned from your job. Be direct and focus your interview answer on the future, especially if your leaving wasn’t under the best of circumstances.

Don’t Blame Yourself

Finally, don’t feel bad. In many cases, there is absolutely nothing you could have done to change the situation. Employees are forced to resign or get fired every day, and once the company has made the decision that you need to go, there is little you can do to change their minds. Instead, look at this as an opportunity to move on and work in a job that is a better fit.

Being asked to resign may not be a reflection of your work. It may be due to weaknesses at the company, such as inadequate training, lack of communication, or inexperienced management.

The bottom line when it comes to deciding on whether to resign is that it’s important to get the best deal you can and to try to leave on terms that don’t negatively impact your future employment prospects.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.

If you’ve ever been fired, you know it can be a tricky thing to discuss in future job interviews. It’s never a comfortable question, and even if you were laid off, there’s always the risk that the interviewer is judging your competency based on your answer. The key to getting past the question is to frame it up in terms of what you’ve learned—not what happened.

Career counselor Kristin Johnson, at Profession Direction , explains that if you have been fired or asked to resign, you need to prepare for the question long before your interview, even if you don’t anticipate being asked. You should assume the company you’re interviewing with is asking because they found out that you were (especially if you were a manager or executive), so don’t try to lie. Instead explain—in the most professional way possible—the reason why you were let go or asked to leave, taking responsibility for the decision. Then explain what you learned from the situation, and how you’ve changed since then.

For example, if you were asked to leave because you were chronically late, explain that you struggled with time management skills at your last job, and that since then you’ve embraced a routine (or even a new productivity system ) that helps you focus clearly on what’s important so you’re never distracted and short on time. She also notes to check with your references to make sure they’re all on the same page if they’re asked about a job where you were fired or let go, just so everyone’s delivering a consistent message.

Build Your Own Productivity Style by Remixing the Best

You’ve tried everything: asked around, played with a few theories about “how you work best”, and…

Hit the link below for more tips on how to prep for the big question and how to spin it to your advantage. You don’t have to let a pink slip from a previous job stifle your chances at a great one in the future.

I’m filling out a job application that asks the question “Have you ever been terminated or asked to resign from a position in the past?”

I did get fired from a job back in 1998. It was my first high-profile tech job after I graduated high school, and I was still very much a smug kid with a crappy work ethic. I antagonized my boss whom I despised, and I naively believed that finding work was pitifully easy since this was the height of the dot-com bubble at the time.

I won’t even try to spin this as “not my fault” because it totally was. I’m perfectly comfortable owning up to the mistakes I made because that was over 20 years ago and I was a literal teenager at the time. I’ve done a lot of growing up since then and I’m a different person now.

On the one hand, I want to be honest and forthright on a job application. On the other hand, HR departments often use this question to immediately reject potential applicants without consideration of the reasons.

I’ve had a long and successful career since then and I don’t feel that being fired an entire lifetime ago is relevant to the position I’m applying for now. I’d be fine with engaging the discussion in an interview if asked, but there is no room in a 400 character text box for that kind of nuance. The job I got fired from isn’t on my resume because it was so long ago, and the company doesn’t even exist anymore.

I’m looking for work because I’ve recently been laid off from a job I’ve had for 10 years due to an acquisition and workforce reduction. It was made clear to me by my former boss and my termination paperwork that the layoff is in no way related to performance or disciplinary reasons. In fact, my most recent performance review was positively stellar. But a layoff is already a small hill I have to climb and I don’t want to further taint an application to a potential employer with something that shouldn’t even matter anymore.

Is there an acceptable expiration date on such questions? Will I be branded a liar if I answer no?

If I answer yes, how could I explain it succinctly, and do HR departments typically consider those explanations when screening applicants?

Turning in your two weeks notice can be terrifying—because no matter how well you think you know your supervisor, you can never be 100% sure of his or her reaction.

Will he be furious and insist on walking you out the door immediately? Will she beg you to stay, enticing you with an enormous raise? Or will he be completely civil and wish you the best of luck?

However, if you know the right signs to look for, there’s a good chance you can figure out what kind of reaction to expect—and that can make the conversation go much more smoothly. Here are a few common reactions and how to anticipate which one you’ll receive.

Reaction 1: Tempting You to Stay

It’s a reaction that’s both good and bad: Your boss values you so much that he or she offers you a raise or promotion to stay. But it can leave you feeling conflicted: You have another great job lined up—but now that there’s more money on the table, do you really want to leave your current position?

Spot the Signs

You may receive this reaction if you’re a high-ranking executive or director. These positions can be difficult to replace quickly, so it may be worth it to your company to tempt you to stay rather than letting you go without a fight. It can also happen if you have extremely specialized knowledge that would make it challenging to replace you.

On the other hand, if you’re in an entry- or mid-level position, and someone could be hired into your position without much trouble, it’s less likely your boss will put up a fight—and a counteroffer.

Prepare for It

The best way to prepare for this reaction is to simply know your stance ahead of time by determining if you would even consider a counteroffer. Yes, it may be more money or a better title, but there’s more to consider—including your career goals, level of job satisfaction in your current role, and the opportunities that your new role offers.

Reaction 2: Asking You to Stay Beyond Your Notice

In this situation, you won’t necessarily get the promise of more money or a better title—but your manager will ask you, perhaps as a personal favor, to stay a few additional weeks or months until the company is able to hire and train a replacement.

Spot the Signs

Again, you may receive this response if you have specialized knowledge that would make it difficult or time-consuming to hire your replacement—or if it would be helpful for you to be actively involved in that search.

However, it could also be the reaction if your company is approaching or is currently in a busy season and needs the additional staff, or it’s experiencing unusual circumstances, like a hiring freeze, which would prevent it from replacing you entirely.

Prepare for It

Like the situation above, you should go into the conversation knowing how you’ll respond if your boss asks you to extend your notice.

If you’ve landed another job offer and have already set a start date, this may not be possible—so practice sticking to your guns: “Because I have a new opportunity lined up, my last day here is firm. However, I’m happy to help out however I can in the next two weeks.”

If you haven’t landed a new gig yet or your new start date is negotiable, know your limits. If you’re willing to stay an additional three weeks, for example, don’t let your manager talk you into staying three more months.

Reaction 3: Refusing to Let You Work Out Your Notice

This is perhaps the most dreaded reaction—that you’ll hand over your two weeks’ notice, and your manager will insist on walking you out the door immediately.

Spot the Signs

According to Alison Green, who writes the blog Ask a Manager, this is common practice for some industries, especially if you’re leaving to work for a direct competitor. However, in those situations, you’ll likely know it’s coming and can prepare accordingly.

Otherwise, look to the history of your company. How have your boss and other managers handled employees’ resignations? If you see a pattern of upper management refusing to let the team members work out their notice, you can likely expect the same.

Also think about your relationship with your manager. Would he or she have reason to think that you’ll waste your last two weeks or distract your co-workers instead of doing what you can to make the transition seamless? If so, you may be asked to cut your two weeks short.

Prepare for It

Your best option in this scenario is to accept it with dignity and make sure you’re ready to leave the office for good when you turn in your resignation letter, whether that means gathering up your personal items or making sure you’ve collected the names and contact information for the teammates and clients you’d like to stay in touch with.

Then, steel yourself for your manager’s reaction and react with grace.

Reaction 4: Acceptance With Displeasure

It’s possible that your boss won’t take immediate action like the reaction above—but will make it clear that he or she isn’t exactly happy about your resignation.

Maybe, for example, she’ll mutter a curt, “Thank you for letting me know,” followed by two weeks of obvious displeasure or denial that you’re leaving—through gruff comments (“You know, you’re really leaving us in the lurch”) or a refusal to interact with you more than absolutely necessary.

Spot the Signs

The most obvious sign that you’ll receive this reaction is if you haven’t had a healthy relationship with your manager in the past. Maybe you continually challenged his ideas, and he took that as a sign of disrespect. Or, maybe she always made unreasonable demands, and you were never able to see eye-to-eye on your to-do list. Or perhaps his moods were completely unpredictable.

In any case, if your relationship has been strained, you may receive a less-than-ideal response to your two weeks’ notice.

Prepare for It

In this case, all you can do is politely deliver your resignation, then strive to make the transition as easy as possible for your team. Your manager may not have the ideal reaction to your news—and your workplace may not be the most pleasant environment for the next two weeks—but to avoid burning bridges, it’s best to work through it with a positive attitude.

Reaction 5: Acceptance With Grace

The best-case scenario—and honestly, the most common reaction—is that your boss will accept your resignation with understanding and sincere congratulations. Your manager will be happy to see that you’re advancing your career and moving on to something bigger and better.

Spot the Signs

Do you have a good relationship with your manager? Is he or she relatively reasonable? Do you have regular one-on-ones where you talk about your career goals and growth? If so, it’s likely that your boss will accept your resignation with grace, help develop a plan of action for your last two weeks, and maybe even attend your farewell happy hour.

Prepare for It

This one is easy. All you have to do is smile and say “Thank you so much for your support. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’ve learned a lot from you. Let me know what I can do to make the transition easier.”

Are you always going to get reaction number five? Probably not. But if you look for the signs, you can likely anticipate your boss’ response, go into the conversation prepared, and come out stronger on the other side. Then, you can breathe a sign of relief and start looking forward to starting your new position.

How to respond when you are asked to resign


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Being told you have to resign or you’ll be fired is difficult to swallow and even more challenging to admit when you’re looking for another job. Some job seekers might be tempted to lie because of the stigma of being fired. However, trite as it may sound, honesty really is the best policy. Respond to interview questions about resigning in lieu of termination honestly, acknowledge your past shortcomings and move on.

Call the human resources department of your former employer to determine whether you’re eligible for rehire. Also ask what information your former employer provides to recruiters who are conducting a reference or background check. Ask if they state that you resigned in lieu of termination or if your employment record simply states that you resigned.

Answer interview questions about why you left your previous employer honestly. When you tell an interviewer that you had to resign before you would be terminated, explain the circumstances to the extent you can. Some resignations in lieu of termination have to do with policy violation and you may be prohibited from providing the details about your departure. For example, an employee who is discovered to have violated her employer’s sexual harassment policy may be given an opportunity to resign before the company fires her. However, details about her employment, the investigation and the resignation may be confidential. If that’s the case, explain to the interviewer that you cannot disclose details. But, reassure him that the matter that led to your dismissal has been resolved and you’re ready to move on with your career.

Explain your resignation if it’s not confidential and if the interviewer continues to press for answers. Don’t make disparaging remarks about your former employer for forcing you to resign. Instead, say that you understand the purpose of workplace policies and that you take responsibility for your actions. Tell the interviewer if you’re eligible to be rehired by your former employer — many times, that’s all a prospective employer wants to know, regardless of the reason you left a previous job.

State that you resigned from your job and are looking to re-enter the workforce with an organization that values hard work, commitment and enthusiasm. If your former employer indicates that your records simply state that you resigned, you may not have to disclose that you were asked to resign instead of being fired. However, if a prospective employer specifically asks, “Have you ever been asked to resign from a position in lieu of being terminated?” answer honestly. Say “Yes, I have,” and explain what you learned from the experience and the areas in which you’ve improved since your resignation.

Published on 2019-04-05 by John Collins.
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As a manager you will inevitably face a certain outcome: someone will suddenly quit your team, and you need to be prepared for that.

In this article I will not be looking at the reasons why someone might quit your team, but instead how you should respond to this unwelcome news. Your response to this, as a leader, is very important in terms of respecting the person who has quit, while also protecting the morale of the teammates left behind.

Do not overreact

Firstly, and most importantly, do not overreact in an emotional way. It may be tempting to take it personally, and then become defensive by for example blaming the person quitting, but doing so will just make you look worse to the rest of the team, while confirming in the mind of the person quitting that they made the right decision.

Remain calm and professional, and look at this as a learning opportunity.

Do agree a handover plan

Secondly, you will need to agree a handover plan with the person quitting. In order for this to work effectively, you need to maintain a positive attitude with the person, and ask them for their help and cooperation during this process. After all, they have knowledge that they will take with them when they leave, so you need to ensure a knowledge transfer takes place before they leave for good.

Do communicate with the rest of the team

You cannot hide the news that someone has quit, as every company has a healthy rumour mill. Rather than letting the gossip control the message, get out ahead of that early-on and announce to the rest of the team that a valuable team member has quit, that we wish them well, and that you should spend some time with them in the coming weeks on any required knowledge transfer.

In addition, you may need to inform partners or clients that the team member has quit, again the messaging is important here: you will need to reassure them that a handover is taking place, and introduce them to the new team member that will be taking over that relationship from the person leaving.

Finally, get ready for the awkward questions. Every time some has left one of my teams, I have always had people look to me suspiciously, like I done someone wrong to drive the person to quit. Be ready with those answers, because you will have to explain what happened.

Do an exit interview

If your company has a dedicated HR team, they will have this baked into their process. Regardless of that, do have an informal 1-to-1 with the person to gain insight into the reasons why they have quit. As a leader, this is one of the best opportunities you will have to get brutally honest feedback on your management style and shortcomings from a subordinate, as the person quitting no longer has anything to lose by being candid.

Value that feedback, listen intently, and do not argue their points (even if you may disagree).

Do take them to dinner

When someone leaves my teams, I always take them to dinner and drinks along with the rest of the team, ideally on their last day. Firstly, I want that person to leave my team with a positive memory of me and the company, to minimize the negative message about us that they might take to their next roles.

Secondly, I want to show the remaining team that all team members are valued, even those that have decided to quit.

Dinner is a simple act, but it is universally valued that to “break bread” with people is accepted as a sign of empathy and solidity.

Always pick up the bill!

Never take them back

Sometimes, very rarely but I have seen it happen, a person will quit a company only to realize they have made a mistake, and ask to be taken back. As tempting as this might be for you to have that valuable person slot back into their old role in your team, you should never do this.

The reason is simple: the frustrations that motivated the person to quit will still remain in your organization when the person comes back for the second time, so those doubts will remain. They may come back for a short period of time, but chances are they will soon leave again and you will have to relive the same disruptive handover process once more.


It is often said that “people leave their managers, not their companies”, and I think that is certainly true in many instances. As a manager, we cannot afford the freedom to take that personally, and overreact in a childish way. You may feel insulted, but that is your issue and should not be allowed to impact on others in your team, or the person quitting.

It is also often said that “hiring is the most difficult thing a manager does”, which is also quite true (certainly it is the most important thing). However, dealing with the fallout of team member quitting, especially a critical one, is a lot more difficult. Worse still is having to ask someone to leave, I would not wish that on anyone.

Hiring good people is a good way to mitigate quitting frequency later on, keeping them engaged on interesting and varied projects is another, but ultimately despite your best efforts people will eventually quit on you.