Exit Interview Tips for Professionals

Note: This is not at all an opportunity to tell your boss to take this job and shove it.

Exit Interview Tips for Professionals

An exit interview can actually be cathartic.

Leaving a job always comes with mixed emotions depending on the underlying reason that you’re moving on. In order to make a clean, healthy break, you will likely be asked to take part in an exit interview.

While it might seem grueling if you’re itching to get out of there and start a new job, an exit interview can actually be cathartic and help the company that will soon no longer employ you make some improvements.

What Is an Exit Interview?

An exit interview is an interview between a departing member of an organization (you) and—typically—someone from the human resources department.

Exit interviews offer you the opportunity to openly talk about your experience in the job—the good, the bad, and the ugly—without the fear of repercussion. However, an exit interview is not about living out your fantasy of telling your boss, “Take this job and shove it.” It’s a chance to share your honest feedback about your employee experience, both positive and negative, without letting your emotions take over.

No matter what information you share, your ultimate goal when leaving a job should be to part on good terms, while also providing useful insights for the human resources team on how it can improve the employee culture.

What’s the Purpose of an Exit Interview?

Though they might feel like an exercise in futility, exit interviews are a literal means to an end—the chance to get some closure when your tenure with a company is over. Just as important, this is your chance to ask questions regarding your remaining benefits or retirement plan moving forward and how it may affect you.

On the employer side, exit interviews are probably even more critical. You’re giving them a sort of report card letting them know which areas they excel at and which areas need improvement when it comes to the overall employment experience. The info derived from an exit interview can show a company where they need to devote additional resources that could improve employee satisfaction.

How to Prepare for an Exit Interview

Just like when you prep for a job interview, there are some things you can do to get ready for your exit interview. Come prepared with a list of any questions regarding your benefits and current 401(k). In addition to this, you should compile a list of things you enjoyed about the company as well as things you believe the company can improve on.

Expect to field questions such as if you thought the internal communication was effective, whether you were satisfied with feedback from management, if there was enough work-life balance, and if you felt you were given opportunities to advance.

Beyond making lists, the days before your exit interview is a great time to take a moment to reflect on your tenure with the company. Think back over your experience with the company—from onboarding and training through today.

There are three main exit interview questions you should focus on answering:

  1. What went well?
  2. What was lacking?
  3. What suggestions do you have?

Other things you may discuss:

  • your specific team/department dynamics
  • the leadership of the company
  • the benefits package
  • time off and flexibility
  • the technology and tools available to you

If the organization has gone through changes, share your feelings on those as well. Be specific and give examples whenever possible.

Watch Your Tone

No matter how professional you are, leaving a job to go work somewhere else could potentially stir some hurt feelings, so do your best to temper that. If you are combative, aggressive, and throwing people under the bus left and right, the person you are talking to will be putting more effort into being defensive rather than hearing you out.

Instead, focus on being gracious. You don’t have to shy away from mentioning the things you aren’t happy with, but you do have to deliver the feedback in a professional, polished, and positive way—with an eye toward helping the company improve.

On the other hand, if you are leaving a toxic workplace behind, you may feel uncomfortable discussing more complex issues during the exit interview, and that’s understandable. In that instance, you can decline offering any details and instead request to speak with someone on the HR management team privately.

Leave Your Exit Interview on a High Note

At the end of your exit interview, try to head out on a positive note. Thank the company for giving you an opportunity to develop your skills. Avoid burning bridges and ruining any chances for you to work with the same people or company in the future. Especially in a niche industry, there’s a good chance that you will cross paths with members of the company at some point again.

Along those lines, be sure not to disparage the company even after you leave. Be mindful of what you put on social media, and remember your legal obligations under any employee agreement.

Use These Exit Interview Tips, Then Take This Next Step

Leaving a job can be complicated—an exit interview is just the final phase of that process. Could you use some additional tips on leaving a job and starting a new one? Monster can send you free career advice to help you make your way up the ladder.