You’ve quit your job and accepted a position elsewhere. You want to leave on good terms without burning bridges, and your employer asks you to participate in an exit interview before your last day. You immediately wonder:
We break down these questions and more to help you successfully prepare for and navigate the exit interview process.
An exit interview is a manager meeting with an employee before they leave a position. Typically this happens after an employee submits a resignation letter and before the last day. Some employers use an exit interview to learn about the individual’s experience working in the organization, their perception of the company culture, and their reasons for wanting a new position.
For employers facing a labor shortage, this is critical information. A Pew Research Survey found that the majority of workers who left jobs in 2021 reported their reasons for quitting as:
In an ideal workplace, the company uses this information to change its pay scale, reevaluate the opportunities for advancement, coach supervisors and managers, and improve morale. After all, employee retention is one of the biggest challenges companies face, and with it comes a steep price tag.
New data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that the average cost per hire was nearly $4,700. So, it makes sense for companies to understand why someone wants to leave.
Depending on the company’s process, a human resources representative, a senior manager, or the CEO may conduct an exit interview. Some companies even hire neutral third-party organizations to elicit the most honest and direct feedback from a departing employee.
Did You Have the Tools to Succeed at Your Job?
Why they ask it: An employer should give you the things you need to do your job. This isn’t just physical tools, like a computer or phone. Tools include training, professional development, mentoring, and timely feedback. HR is asking if you had what you needed to succeed because if you didn’t, it might be something they can provide current and future employees.
How to answer it: This is a case where you can probably be more honest than with other questions, but choose wisely. If your biggest problem was a loud office or a lack of training, bring these things up as they may be easy to fix.
For example, “I’m not really a fan of open office plans. And the bench-style seating didn’t work for me. It was very distracting. Also, I would have liked to receive feedback about my work more often than I did. I’m not the kind of person that likes to wait for my annual evaluation to see how I’m doing.”
Why they ask it: There’s a saying: People don’t quit jobs. They quit managers. And this is exactly what HR is trying to find out. Did you quit because of your manager?
How to answer it: If your manager was fantastic, say so! That’s a time for open praise and honesty. If, however, you and your manager didn’t get along, that could be a time to keep things more general. You can go with something like, “We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but we managed to succeed on multiple projects.”
How to Handle the Exit Interview
Most exit interviews happen on your last day. When you’ve given your notice, you’ll have time to think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Here are some things to keep in mind.
No matter why you’re leaving the job, there’s a good chance you might feel emotional about it. Jobs play a huge role in our lives, and even when leaving the job is the right choice, you may feel strong emotions.
Beyond that, treat an exit interview like any other interview by anticipating the questions and practicing your answers. Preparing for the exit interview will help you remain calm and professional.
An exit interview is your last opportunity to express your feelings about your workplace, your boss, and the company’s policies. And, it’s a chance for you to provide constructive feedback about what you do and do not like about the job.
When it comes to the “not awesome” aspects of your job, honesty is important, but so is leaving things a little bit vague. You don’t want to lie about your reasons for leaving. HR should understand why you’re leaving.
However, no matter what you say, how you say it is just as important. Keep your tone level and professional, as now is not the time to show anger and bad-mouth your boss or colleagues.
Regardless of why you’re leaving, find something good about your experience. Maybe you picked up new skills or had incredible coworkers. This is the time to name names. Be specific about who helped you out and how they did it.
What Did You Like And Dislike About the Job?
Why they ask it: They’re asking you this because there’s a chance that they want to compare your notes to previous employees who had your role, or they may rethink the position.
How to answer it: Talk honestly about what you liked and about what you disliked, but keep things professional. Or, feel free to make a small (but tactful and tasteful) joke about your dislike. “I really like the amount of training I received over the years. I learned a lot about the strategic aspects of marketing and will be able to use those skills wherever I go. I disliked the coffee! But, seriously, there wasn’t anything I ‘disliked,’ but I do wish the company offered more flexible work options.”