Money·3 min read

Have an Exit Interview on Your Cal? Here's What You Can Expect

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Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Dec 6, 2022

After you hand in your resignation letter, you might be itching to pack up your desk and leave ASAP. But some companies want to know why you’re leaving before you say goodbye. That’s where the exit interview comes in. We sat down with career coach Allison Peck, aka @allifromcorporate0, to learn more about exit interview questions you can prep for and how to answer them.

What is an exit interview?

It’s when your employer meets with you to have a convo about why you decided to leave your job. If you’re wondering, ‘What’s the point of that?’ Peck tells us that your employer has good reasons for sending an exit interview invite. “Exit interviews are conducted so a company can understand how they can improve from an employee's perspective,” she explained. “Some companies don't have a psychologically safe environment that welcomes honesty so you really get to see this honesty in some exit interviews. The employee is leaving...why hold back?”

But that isn’t the only reason. Your feelings matter, too. “An angry employee has the ability to destroy a company's reputation” she told us. Which is why companies make sure to take time out to hear employees' concerns. 

How honest should I be in my exit interview?

It’s all about balance. And tact. Otherwise, transparency may come off as mean. “I think an employee who can give truly constructive criticism should do so in their exit interview,” said Peck. She also noted that the corporate world can be a lot smaller than it seems. In some cases, you might run into your old colleague during a future interview or job. In other cases, you might wind up boomeranging back to your old company. So be honest about your experience, but don’t burn bridges in your exit interview.

What exit interview questions should I prep for?

Before your interview, make sure you spend some time reflecting on your work experience so you can properly answer any Qs that come your way. Here’s Peck’s take on the most common exit interview questions and how to answer them: 

Q: Why are you leaving?

A: Be honest, but stick to “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Example: “I'm looking for a manager who trusts me and gives me autonomy and I didn't experience that here.”

Q: What improvements do you think we could make to this company going forward? 

A: Frame your answer in a way that will benefit your employer. Think: “Give people more paid days off so they preserve their mental health and don't get burned out.”

Q: Which specific skills should your replacement have?

A: Be transparent. Remember, your response to this one will help your coworkers who are taking on the work when you leave.

Q: What was your relationship with your boss like?

A: Be empathetic with this one. Focus on the facts and stay calm.

Q: What drove you to your decision to leave the company?

A: Feel free to discuss salary if that’s your reason for leaving. Or you can say something like, “It's just time for me to move on and this is the direction I want to take my career in.”

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Exit interviews are a good opportunity for you to get closure at your old job and help your former employer improve. Knowing which questions to expect is the best way to prepare…and help your employer without hurting any feelings. Or your chances for a solid reference.

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