How to Handle the Exit Interview
You did it! You mustered the courage to put in your two weeks’ notice and are now anxiously awaiting the beginning of a new career opportunity. Even though you may think that giving your notice was the most anxiety that you would encounter while leaving your current position, think again. The exit interview is right around the corner and can be more stress inducing than actually quitting. Go into your exit interview with your employer, manager or HR manager prepared to answer their questions calmly and confidently by taking the following do’s and don’ts into consideration.
DO this: Vent before you go into your exit interview. This venting session can be an hour or two spent talking about your “jerk” manager to a trusted friend, or if all of your friends and family are tired of hearing your work rants, write every dirty detail down in a letter. Obviously this letter should never make it to your HR Manager, but it is one way that you can work through your frustrations before you step into the exit interview. Doing this will allow you to stick to facts and figures and leave the venting in the past to ensure that you remain unemotional, composed, and professional.
NOT that: Use the interview as an excuse to vent about projects that didn’t go as planned, members of your team that didn’t follow through on commitments, and preferential treatment in the workplace.
DO this: Help the company that you are leaving to turn their turnover into retention by sticking to unbiased facts and figures that can help the company stay competitive in the future. When you are asked why you are choosing to leave the company, an appropriate response would be to say that you found a position that offers a higher salary and better benefits. This is an unbiased response that your manager will appreciate. Another response may be that you are leaving because you found an opportunity to work remotely and felt like you would be able to cultivate a better work/life balance as a result. Again, stating that you are leaving because of the opportunity to work remotely is unbiased and factual. By sticking to the facts and figures, you can help the company to better retain valued employees (such as yourself) in the future.
NOT that: Gossip about members of your team and the managers that you worked with throughout the exit interview (especially when it isn’t relevant to the conversation).
DO this: Focus on the positive. Since you have already vented your frustrations to a trusted friend, a piece of paper, or your keyboard, you should have released many of the negative feelings that you had about the company and your position. As a result, you should use the exit interview to focus on the positive aspects of your time with the company. Realistically, focusing on the negative reflects more on your level of professionalism than the inadequacies of your manager or coworkers, and you never know when the connections and impressions that you make will come back to influence your career in the future.
NOT that: Spend the entire exit interview complaining about what you disliked about working for the company. This can be difficult if you were unhappy in your role, but focusing on the positives will help to leave a positive impression of you and your work.
DO this: Practice what you want to say before your exit interview. By practicing what you are going to say, you are more likely to keep your emotions at bay and the facts in focus.
Consider questions such as:
- What was the primary reason you chose to leave?
- What did you like most about the company?
- What did you like least about the company?
- Would you recommend the company to a family or friend?
- What can we do to retain employees in the future?
- Do you feel that you were given the tools to succeed here?
NOT that: Blow the exit interview off and go in unprepared. Even though you have already quit, going in unprepared to answer their questions will be portrayed as unprofessional.
DO this: Thank your employer for the opportunity to work for them. Even if it wasn’t the perfect fit, you most likely learned valuable lessons that you can use in the future. Regardless of how your employment with the company came to an end, they took a chance on you by hiring you. Therefore, it is important to give them the respect of acknowledging that you learned something while under their management that you will be taking with you in your future endeavors..
NOT that: Trivialize the time that you spent with the company. Avoid making comments about how you didn’t learn anything from working for the company or that your new position is going to be such a better experience for you.
By using the exit interview dos and don’ts above, you can rest assured that your exit interview will leave your managers and coworkers impressed with your level of professionalism.