A second interview message is designed to tell candidates that they have been invited back for another interview. It’s easy to think that this is simply an exciting moment for interviewees and a chance for them to get to know you better, but in today’s competitive hiring market, it’s also a time when a talented candidate decides if they want to continue pursuing the job.
This is not a pleasant task, but it’s a necessary one, and your letter plays an important role in outlining essentials, like when an employee will receive their final paycheck and how they move forward with certain benefits you’d extended to them, like health coverage and life insurance (if applicable). It goes without saying that termination is an anxiety-inducing event for employees, so your document should provide details that diminishes any additional unnecessary confusion.
As you write a letter of dismissal, you’ll also want to get legal approval, from your in-house team or otherwise, that the termination letter has been executed in an aboveboard manner. You want the employee to leave, but you don’t want any backlash that might harm your company or its reputation as a positive place to work.
So how should you proceed?
For starters, keep in mind that you should deliver the news in person prior to sending your letter. Your document shouldn’t be the first occasion that an employee is learning about their own termination.
Otherwise, use the following tips to write your own straightforward but empathic letter of dismissal.
How to Write a Letter of Dismissal
1. Check the rules before sharing reasons.
Depending on the laws in your state, you may or may not be required to share the reasons for the dismissal. If you don’t have to explain why the employee is being dismissed, consider doing so anyway as it’s recommended best practice by the Society of Human Resource Management. Regardless of whether you’re required to share your reasons, make sure they’re both lawful and accurate, and then present them in the briefest possible terms. You want to use clear but concise language to diminish this possibility of a former employee laying a charge against you in court. (Remember that at-will agreements exclude acts of discrimination, so make sure your decision has nothing to do with your employee’s race, gender, religion, age, etc.)
2. State the next steps.
Your reader will probably have two important questions: “Why is this happening?” and “What should I do next?”, so within limits, you’ll need to provide answers. After sharing your reasons (or omitting them, depending on your preference), offer clear instructions and next steps. Explain how your employee can obtain supplemental health insurance coverage if it’s relevant. Explain how and when they will receive payment for unused vacation time. Explain how and when they will receive their final paycheck. Explain what the company will and won’t do to support their job search. (Some companies provide references and letters of recommendation for dismissed employees and some don’t.) Explain how the employee can apply for unemployment compensation, if applicable. And finally, present any paperwork that the employee may need to sign in order to make the severance complete.
3. Monitor your tone.
As you write a letter of dismissal, keep in mind that your communication may be difficult for your reader to receive. For this reason, try your best to make your letter respectful and diplomatic, but also empathic. Don’t be overly sentimental though. Most important, don’t present this decision as a personal matter between you (or the company) and your reader. This is just business.
4. Offer a resource for additional information.
Let your reader know where to turn for additional information, but don’t suggest that your decision may be open to appeal or renegotiation. Use a closed statement, such as: “For more information, contact my office”, or: “For more information on how and where to return company property, contact HR Manager Sally Wilson.” Don’t suggest that the decision warrants further discussion if it doesn’t.
5. Get legal sign-off
Once you’re happy with a finalized version of your letter, send it to your internal legal team for approval. If you don’t have an in-house team, consider using the services of a third-party firm that specializes in employment law. While you may have to make a small financial outlay for this, these fees will be far less substantial than any court costs you’d have to finance if a former employee lays a charge against you based on a point in your letter.
Close your letter with a respectful sign-off, and share your contact information if you will personally serve as an information resource.