How to Handle an Exit Interview in the Workplace

After turning in your resignation letter, most employers want to schedule an exit interview. Exit interviews follow a similar format to traditional job interviews.

During an exit interview, your employer asks you a series of questions about the job. Your employer has two primary purposes during the exit interview. The first goal of an exit interview is to find out the exact reasons why you resigned. If there are any issues with the workplace, such as leaving due to harassment or unsafe working conditions, your employer uses your feedback to correct the issue.

The other goal of an exit interview is for your employer to get advice for your eventual replacement. During both parts of questioning, you do most of the talking. Employers often ask about recent projects you completed to get an idea of what your replacement needs to know. If you work with clients, your employer may ask you to contact your clients to inform them about the change, if you have not already. Your employer may also ask if there is anything you recommend including in the training for the new employee. Navigating an exit interview can be tricky, especially if you do not like to speak. Your exit interview may change slightly depending on your job, but there are several general pieces of advice to follow for a successful exit interview.

Common Questions during an Exit Interview

There are many job specific questions your employer asks during an exit interview, though there are additionally a good number of generic questions you can expect at the beginning of the process. Some common exit interview questions include:

  • What are the main reasons for resigning?
  • Did you enjoy working for us?
  • What can we improve as a business?
  • Did we provide enough training?
  • Did we provide enough developmental opportunities during your tenure?
  • What did we do well as a business?
  • If you already have a new job, why did you choose your new employer?

After the general questions, your employer moves on to other questions relating to your work. The length and difficulty of these questions varies depending on both your job and how long you were with the company. In most situations, the longer you were with the company, the more questions your employer has, as they need to gain an understanding of what a new employee is tasked with handling when filling your vacant role.

The more details you provide during the exit interview, the better. Even if you do not care for your employer, the information you provide can make the job easier for your replacement. If you recently worked on a project, bring along any documents relating to the project as these can be beneficial for the individual who is replacing you. It helps to bring information about all your clients as well, as your employer may need to determine if he or she must redistribute your clients to other employees. It is not only a professional courtesy to provide as much information as possible during your exit interview, but your exit interview additionally determines whether your employer provides a positive or negative reference. Even if you already have a new job lined up, it is professionally beneficial to provide a good exit interview.

Avoid Venting

During an exit interview you need to provide feedback about your time with the business. It is acceptable to give negative feedback during your interview, but you want to limit the negativity. The entirety of your exit interview must not consist of venting about the company. There are a couple reasons you want to limit your venting during the exit interview. If you spend your whole interview venting, it creates a negative environment for both you and your employer. Your employer is less likely to give you a favorable review if his or her last memory of you is you complaining about the company. Overwhelming your employer with feedback makes it difficult for him or her to take away anything constructive from the exit interview which means he or she is incapable of improving workplace conditions when necessary. If you have a large amount of negative feedback for your employer, arrange a meeting before the exit interview to air your grievances.

Other Subjects to Avoid

It can be difficult to determine what is helpful feedback during an exit interview. Even if you are no longer employed, it is important to remain professional. Do not air personal grievances you had with your coworkers or your boss. You can talk about decisions your boss or coworkers made you did not enjoy or made your work harder but avoid being bitter or aggressive. Do not resort to name calling or character assassination. Make sure your feedback is factual and not based around office gossip.

If you have another job, limit how much you discuss your new employment unless your employer specifically asks about it. When you talk about your new job, do not boast about how much better your new job is compared to your previous one. If you talk too much about your new job, it may come across as passive aggressive towards your previous employer.

Prepare for Informal Exit Interviews

Once everyone else at the work place knows you are leaving, expect to have multiple conversations about why you are leaving or where you are going to work. Even if you are speaking with workplace friends, treat these conversations as informal exit interviews. You never know when you might need to use one of your old coworkers as a reference, so you want to leave on positive terms. These informal exit interviews are a good opportunity to share positive work experiences. Make sure to leave any relevant work information with your coworkers. If you were part of a team, make sure everyone has access to any files or documents relating to your previous projects. Take the time to brief everyone on your team, even if it is only to tell them you are no longer part of the team.

End on a Positive Note

As your exit interview is ending, make sure you take the time to thank your employer for everything he or she has done for you. Mention some of the skills or lessons you learned working with your employer. Leaving on a positive note ensures your employer is a reliable reference. If things do not work out with your next job, your employer is more likely to hire you if you end your exit interview on a positive note.

Related Article: Things to Know When Considering a Career Change

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