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Exit Interviews 101: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Businessperson at a desk is shaking the hand of a professional in a suit seated in a wheelchair during an exit interview.

So, you’ve decided to leave your job. You wrote and submitted your resignation letter, finalized and turned over your responsibilities, and are ready to head on to your next adventure. But wait, you still have to do an exit interview! You might have great memories of the company you’re leaving and be sad to leave it behind. You might be chomping at the bit and more than ready to be rid of your last gig. Either way, the exit interview is no less important than any other part of the employment life cycle so here’s how to handle it smoothly and effectively.

Don’t Burn Your Bridges:

We’ve all had terrible jobs that we’ve been eager to leave. It’s tempting to leave a scathing review, chew out your former supervisor, or even try to skip the interview altogether. However, even the worst job experiences teach us valuable career lessons and give us an opportunity to make professional connections and gain knowledge that could potentially serve us later down the line.

You’re almost out the door; a little patience can go a long way!

Be as professional and unemotional as possible in the exit interview: if there was a serious issue that led to your leaving, this should likely be addressed with HR before resigning so don’t mistake this as an opportunity to air every grievance you have. Focus on presenting yourself well as it’s far easier to burn a bridge than build one so don’t make it personal and stay calm.

Provide Something Useful:

For your employer, the exit interview is an opportunity to gain worthwhile insights and data from someone who can share genuine intel from having worked in the role and company. Providing honest responses in a professional, respectful manner might help your employer implement changes that will enhance the organization after you’re gone, and perhaps even help them address some of the things that made you want to leave in the first place.

Remember, professionalism and respect are mutual things.

You should try your best to provide helpful, constructive feedback with the hope that the employer will keep your information confidential and use it to better the business, promote employee engagement, and actively encourage positive retention practices. At the end of the day, you can also choose not to disclose information or to participate in the exit interview as a whole based on your level of comfort with the parties involved.

Be Prepared:

In order to better handle the exit interview, it’s always good to be prepared.

Indeed suggests some possible exit interview questions to ponder. Let’s go over a few of our favorites:

  • What is your reason for leaving? We recommend focusing on the positives, such as finding a job that aligns better with your career goals, as opposed to negatives, like saying you didn’t see a good career path at your current company. These two statements might be more or less the same in meaning, but it costs you nothing to put a positive spin on it.

  • How do you feel about management; how can we improve? Here, we recommend specific examples that are actionable. For example, you might suggest that more check-in meetings might help a new employee stay better aligned with company goals or alternatively, fewer check-in meetings might give an employee more time to get things done.

  • Do you feel this company has supported your career goals? If not, suggest actionable changes that could have helped, such as allocating time for employees to go to seminars, receive trainings, or go to conferences.

  • Would you recommend this company to others? Again, if not, a positive suggestion of how your employer can make their business more appealing, such as benefits and other tangible perks or perhaps less tangible items like improving the company culture and workplace values.

  • Would you consider staying on? If you’ve made up your mind to leave, it’s best to be direct about that. However, your former employer may offer you more money, better benefits, or additional training to keep you. The best way to be prepared for this question is to think about what it would take for you to stay beforehand, and then stick to it in the interview.

The exit interview is the last and final step before starting your new job. Your former employer can enhance retention practices and build a stronger workforce with the information you share so taking time to prepare, reflect, and provide meaningful feedback as you see fit while always maintaining a high level of professionalism is time well spent.


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