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Why you must prepare for an exit interview
Any company that wants to improve itself, principally from a staffing point of view, will typically host structured exit interviews for all staff members who leave.
But what should you expect if you’re asked to attend an exit interview? Even though it’s not common practice in every business, the questions asked during an exit interview are designed for the key purpose of finding out what’s caused an employee to depart.
Reasons could include anything about the company’s culture, management, structure, policies and the employee’s role, responsibilities and workload, morale and recognition – and everything in between. So think of it as the optimal opportunity for when to raise these issues because such concerns and feedback will be expected. However, it is imperative to maintain a high level of professionalism and an appropriateness for what is shared in your testimonial for your soon-to-be former employer.
Here are some of our top tips for how to prepare and conduct yourself in an exit interview to ensure the process benefits both you and your employer.
Remember the purpose is improvement
Even if you’re leaving your company on bad terms, it pays to remember the purpose of the exit interview Q&A is to improve the business and its operations.
For example, you might be asked about your relationship with your manager. If it was a poor relationship, you can say so but come prepared with ways this could have been improved, such as better communication, more transparency, or more training.
Rather than use this interview as a time to go on the attack, use it to point out flaws that could be improved, and always make practical suggestions in order for the business to know what would have produced a more successful outcome.
RELATED: 17 honest reasons to leave your job
Come prepared with positives
Every job has its pros and cons, and an exit interview is a good time to point out all the positives of your role to demonstrate your appreciation and genuine enjoyment for your role.
Whether it’s the autonomy, challenging tasks, the team, networking and travel opportunities, company lunches, the great location, or excellent benefits package it’s good to make note of these areas to ensure they continue for other employees. It shows your interviewer you’re capable of seeing the attractive parts of the job, especially if you need to raise other complaints.
An exit interview is your chance to highlight company flaws but at no point should you lose your professionalism.
It’s therefore best not to throw certain people under the bus if it can be avoided, as this makes it sound more like a personal issue rather than a company-wide one. For example, if you had a specific problem with a colleague on the sales team, you can make a more general statement about how you found the sales team too interfering with your work (or whatever the issue was).
Stay calm and clearly state your honest reasons for leaving but do so by focusing on the company rather than personal dramas.
Bring your own exit interview checklist
It’s extremely likely your employer will have an interview exit checklist they need to cover off but there’s no reason you can’t bring one, too.
This will be highly useful if you know you have a number of main points to cover but are worried that you might forget to mention one, or that it might come across poorly if worded the wrong way. Formulating your own checklist can help you prepare, stay focused and ensure you make your point without offending if you otherwise explained something off the cuff.
Never burn bridges
It’s a cliché as old as time but the advice to never burn bridges still stands.
Even if you know you’ll never return to the same company, maintaining a good relationship with the business and former colleagues may open you up to future job opportunities elsewhere. It also ensures you’re likely to receive a great reference, and you could easily end up working with one or two of your old colleagues in a future job, who will have recalled you in a positive light.
Throughout the entire exit interview procedure, it’s important to be honest about your departure while staying professional, positive and purposeful.