Recently, I posted an article about how to quit your job gracefully and I made the recommendation to prepare for an exit interview, if possible—and determine if the situation is right for you to participate. While not all companies conduct exit interviews, you can always request one. If you’re not sure if you should request an exit interview, or attend one at the organization’s request, continue reading.
The core purpose of an exit interview is to gather information…and hopefully, use that information to make improvements—for the company or organization as well as the person leaving, depending on the situation.
Some companies and organizations will request an exit interview—for a number of reasons. It is typically known that human resources conduct exit interviews to solicit your opinion about your reason for leaving, how to build a better workplace, what advice you can give your successor to make their job better, and perhaps they may ask where you are going.
They may also ask your thoughts on how your supervisor performed, or your co-workers, the pay, benefits, training, and even the culture. And yes, they may even require the interviewer to look for clues to any potential lawsuit the employee may bring.
Is an Exit Interview in Your Best Interest?
There are some cases when an exit interview may not be in the best interest of either party.
If the organization is requesting the exit interview, it is important to weigh your options based on the situation you are in and what caused you to resign. Did you complain about something and nothing was ever done about it, but now it might be brought up in the exit interview? Did something major happen and you just can’t deal with it any longer? Or, did you find another job that pays more, in a better location, and more in line with your values?
All the sudden, it doesn’t really matter because you’re leaving, right? There’s kind of a relief and neutral energy about prior situations now that compel you to want to say more because it no longer affects your status in the organization.
But a word of caution: be careful not to use this exit interview as a time to vent. The time for that has passed. It’s time to move your career forward and it might bring more peace of mind to just leave the past in the past.
If you need to say something that is potentially negative, just prepare your thoughts to say what could have been done different and leave it at that. Then, go into what you liked about working there.
With all that aside, in most situations, here’s how an exit interview can be one of the most productive meetings of your career:
- How would you improve the job description for your successor? Consider sharing this information.
- Use this time wisely to learn from another perspective.
- Have an open mind to what is said.
- Think about any corrections that might need made so they don’t carry over into your new job.
- Speak positively—what you leave out speaks volumes—about you and the situation.
- Recap your accomplishments.
- Thank them for the opportunities that were given to you to further your knowledge and career.
Consider asking the follow questions:
- What did I do well?
- What could I have done better?
- Would you recommend me to others?
- Would you be willing to serve as a professional reference?
- How can I make this transition easier for you?
People won’t remember what you said, they’ll remember how you made them feel, and vice versa, right?
How To Request An Exit Interview
It would be best to request your exit interview in writing, specifically as part of your resignation letter. This should be emailed or hand-delivered to your direct supervisor. It is also appropriate to provide a copy to the human resources department.
Here’s some sample language you can use, that might be helpful:
Thank you for the opportunity to work at ________. As my employment here is ending, I am requesting an exit interview. I’d like to gain insight into my performance, both good and bad, to help improve my professional opportunities.
I would also like to give you an opportunity to learn from my experiences to help make the organization better.
I’d appreciate speaking with you within the last few days of my employment. Please contact me with a time that is convenient to meet.
I appreciate your time and consideration.
If you haven’t already downloaded our sample letter of resignation, which this can be added to, you can do that here.
How To Prepare For An Exit Interview
It’s generally not as easy as people think to ‘wing’ an interview, and this is especially true of this interview because the topic of why you’ve decided to leave your job can be sensitive. Without preparation, unnecessarily harsh or negative statements could regrettably come out. Or you might forget something important that you wanted to cover.
To avoid this, it’s a good idea to plan in advance what you want to share with the organization and familiarize yourself with commonly asked questions.
I recommend you write a talking point list. Start with the positive. These things can include constructive feedback that might help the company or agency improve their culture or their processes. I don’t recommend just reading this list verbatim in the meeting, but it could be used to refer to during the meeting. It may also help with you select the topics to bring up based on how the meeting goes—and it might remind you how to answer particular questions.
MAGNETIC TIP: Don’t try to wing this interview. Look at this as an opportunity to end your employment on a high note—something you can be remembered for that is positive.
So be prepared for some commonly asked Exit Interview questions such as:
- Why are you leaving?
- What could have been done to persuade you to stay?
- What would you change about your job or the company?
- Were you happy with the way you were managed?
- What did you dislike most about your role?
- Is there anything that would have changed your mind about leaving?
- Would you recommend this company to a friend?
- Did you have clear objectives and goals?
- Did you receive feedback to help improve your performance?
- How can the company better it’s training and development programs?
- Would you consider coming back to work here in the future?
How To Participate In An Exit Interview
When handled correctly, an exit interview can provide you with closure and help you move on to your next opportunity. Make sure you are calm and constructive and stick to the facts while also being open and direct in your responses. Doing this will decrease your odds of burning bridges and actually increases your chances of leaving on good terms—even if it didn’t start out that way.
If you are asked how you feel about your manager and other leaders, use it as an opportunity to recognize good managers and leaders. You can share what made them great leaders and how they helped you to make good decisions and grow in your role. Try to stay positive while still being authentic!
Likewise, it’s always a good idea to share what you liked most about your job and the company. You should share specific positive feedback about your experience at the organization. What did you like most about your job, your team, and/or the organization? This could include the people you worked with, benefits you were offered, learning and development opportunities, or characteristics of the company culture that you most valued.
MAGNETIC TIP: Be SPECIFIC with positive feedback and be GENERAL with negative feedback!
If you feel like criticism is in order, try to frame it as ‘recommendations for improvement.’ You can identify one or two areas for positive development within the organization. If there are factors that might have kept you from leaving, this would be a great place to share those.
Perhaps you may have appreciated more flexible work options. Or, you may have wanted a culture that is more open to differing viewpoints. Perhaps there was room for better or positive feedback implementation.
Regardless of type of feedback you share, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Stay positive! This is not the time or place to vent. Use this time to show your gratitude for the opportunities you had to grow and to provide feedback for the person who will be succeeding you. Doing this will help ensure that you leave on a positive professional note and maintain relationships that could be valuable in the future. It’s a small world and you just never know when your paths will cross again.
If you need help with your exit strategy, reach out to us at Support@ccCareerSolutions.com.