The Exit Interview – A guide to getting out of there graciously

You’ve resigned, hurrah! But be prepared because from now on, any day after you’ve handed in your notice, the exit interview is imminent. Research suggests that many people are unclear about exactly what an exit interview is but there is growing evidence from both the United States and the UK that such meetings are taking place more and more.

After reading this: You’ll learn how to make the most graceful exit possible if you’re asked to attend an exit interview with your boss

What is an Exit Interview?

In these times of low unemployment and high staff turnover, it’s only natural for your employer to want to identify the reasons for your leaving. From the company’s point of view, an exit interview can provide invaluable feedback about employee’s attitudes towards the working environment, the terms and conditions of their work, whether there are any systems or procedures that they need to adopt and the effect of morale (or lack of it) at the office.

As an outgoing employee, the best way to deal with the exit interview is to answer questions honestly and naturally. Certainly, you should aim to be as cooperative and open as possible but remember to remain calm and in control of what you say. As with the meeting you have with your boss when resigning from your job (click here to see the article on resignation etiquette), your aim is to conclude the meeting without getting angry or emotional.

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What questions can you expect to be asked at the exit interview?

Remember that ostensibly, the exit interview is there so that the company can find out why you’re leaving them. As a result of the things you say, the company may eventually change things to make sure that they keep their employees happier at work for longer; employee retention in other words. This means that the following questions (or variants of these) will almost certainly be asked:

  • What factors have led you to decide to leave the company?
  • What factors were most important in choosing your new job?
  • What are your views on the management? What is the management doing right or wrong?
  • Did you feel you were given enough support in your job?
  • What did you most like about the company and what did you like the least?
  • What are your views on the way we treat our employees? How could we improve effectiveness and morale?
  • Is there any way that we could improve the business?

You are under no obligation to divulge personal information such as your views on your colleagues, any personal enmity you have with anyone in the company or your views on the attractiveness of anyone working there. In fact, it would be highly unprofessional of your boss or HR department to ask you questions like this and is really of little relevance. After all, the company isn’t going to sack one of your colleagues after you’ve left on the basis that you didn’t get on with them.

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If you are asked questions of this nature, simply point out to your interviewer that you are happy to give your professional opinions about the firm but that some questions are too personal and you cannot see how these views would benefit the company.

What if I’m leaving because of personal reasons?

Sadly, it is true that many employees still suffer from sexual and / or racial discrimination at work and feel that they have no alternative but to leave the company. For example, in the UK in 1999 alone, there were over 7,500 cases of sexual discrimination at work.

If you’re leaving work on racial or sexual grounds, the resignation process and giving an exit interview can become tense and nerve-wracking procedures to go through. How much information should you divulge to your boss or HR department particularly if you are considering taking legal action against the firm? This is a complex question indeed and one that is discussed in a separate article.

When will the company give me my exit interview?

The straight answer to this question is “any time after you’ve handed in your resignation letter”. Once you’ve formally resigned from your job, you’re then working out your notice period and so will only be with the company a little more time, perhaps another month or so (depending upon the terms in your contract of employment).

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As such, the company may decide to give you an early exit interview because they want to acknowledge your action. Alternatively, an early exit interview may mean that the company may not want you to work out your full notice period. Even if you think this is the case, remember to stay professional and not to let off steam just because you’re leaving soon. The answers you give may remain on your personnel file and be used against you when it comes to writing references.

The same advice applies if the company gives you your exit interview on (or around) your last day of work. Just because you’re going, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stay professional.

A last piece of advice would be not to fret. Enjoy the opportunity to have a frank discussion with your boss or HR department and smile in the knowledge that it’ll soon be all over and that you are leaving party beckons. Have fun!

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