A man and a woman sitting on opposite sides of a table conducting an exit interview.
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5 tips to help you prepare for your exit interview

14 Mar 2019

The exit interview is a delicate affair that needs to be handled with finesse. Use these tips to ensure your swansong goes smoothly.

There’s a lot of admin involved when leaving a role. You have to close off with clients, clear your desk and maybe say teary goodbyes to beloved colleagues. You may also be asked to do an exit interview.

Future Human

Exit interviews are extremely valuable to employers. They allow them to identify potential issues interfering with employee retention and make improvements. People who have gone through the cogs of the organisation can speak freely about where a company falls down, whether it be a managerial issue, a communication one or a resources one.

In many ways, the pressure is off once you already have one foot out the door. In all likelihood, you’re preparing to take up a new role. Contracts have been signed, Ts crossed, references sent over. However, this doesn’t mean the exit interview can’t be quite a high-stakes endeavour.

As we’ve discussed previously, there are some definite pitfalls you should try to avoid when leaving a position. If you want to make sure you don’t tumble into a gaffe during the exit interview that you’ll come to regret, read on.

Remember the purpose of the exit interview

Your employer stands to gain more from an exit interview than you do. This is an incontrovertible fact and a mantra you should repeatedly remind yourself of as you prepare.

What this means is that you shouldn’t pressure yourself to broach anything you aren’t comfortable talking about. Don’t wade into any topic that you worry might endanger your future prospects or make things quickly turn sour.

Vent to a friend

You may have a whole host of very valid grievances with your previous employer. That being said, relaying them in an emotionally charged manner will do more harm than good.

In the Careers section, we always advocate ending professional relationships on a good note. You never know how your path may intersect again with your previous workplace.

The best thing to do to ensure you keep a cool head is to get all of your ranting out of the way beforehand. Turn to a trusted friend, family member or even a colleague to air all of your frustrations. Doing this will help you maintain your composure when the actual exit interview arrives.

Prepare your answers

Even if you go into the exit interview with a cool head, there is still potential to run into awkwardness. You will likely be asked about the managerial style, resources, your training and what the company culture is like.

To ensure you don’t say anything that could be misconstrued, think of the main points you want to raise and write them down. Refine exactly how you’re going to phrase things, erring always on the side of diplomacy. You don’t need to learn off an entire speech – just think of how you do or do not want to convey particular thoughts.

Particularly when giving negative feedback, you should consider generalising as opposed to throwing one particular person under the bus.

Stick to the facts

While you’re entitled to give your opinion and will be encouraged to do so, your safest bet around stickier topics is to stick to the facts. If you want to avoid offending your soon-to-be-former employer, it’s better to state events plainly as opposed to ascribing a value judgement yourself.

For example, if you want to bring up communication problems, going in guns blazing saying that you think communication is lacking isn’t especially helpful to either party. It may fall on deaf – and possibly angered – ears.

Instead, you could simply say that when certain things came to pass, communication broke down. That keeps it general and sounds more impartial, all while providing your employer with genuine advice.

Remember the good times

Exit interviews don’t have to be entirely doom and gloom! Ultimately, if your employer is conducting an exit interview, they either are a good employer or are aspiring to be one. Barring an inordinately horrible experience, you likely had some good times at the company.

Don’t hesitate to bring up what you liked about working there and how the role helped you develop in your career. Being gracious throughout your departure will reflect well on you, and your employer will appreciate it to boot.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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