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over 4 years ago by Debbie Lloyd

How to Navigate an Exit Interview

Hr Business Partner Sml

According to a new report from Total Jobs exit interviews provide employees with an opportunity to provide constructive feedback, not to vent frustrations.

It’s a small world out there. This is particularly true when it comes to the world of employment, with many individuals often working with old colleagues and bosses over the course of their career. As a result, the infamous exit interview should be treated like any other interview to ensure you won’t scupper any career opportunities in the future.

This blog provides you with everything you’ll need to know when it comes to leaving a job on a positive note. We’ll talk about the importance of bringing a professional manner to the interview in order to retain your own personal brand – after all you’ll still need a good employment reference from your employee when going on to pastures new.

What is the purpose of an exit interview?

In short, the exit interview gives employees who are looking to leave a company the opportunity to talk through their reasons for leaving.

The exit interview can also be useful for employers. Not all organisations conduct them, but those that do state that exit interviews help them fix problems that may be causing people to leave. It’s often conducted with an HR representative, who will ask a series of questions relating to your experience of working at the company; what you found challenging, and what you enjoyed about your role – to outline just a few.

How should I prepare before going into an exit interview?

Although the exit interview is slightly different to a regular job interview, you should think about what and how you want to put across your points. You should think about any particular issues you want to raise in the exit interview, and how you can put these across in a positive and constructive manner so that you can help you and your old employer to progress.

Conversely, you shouldn’t use your exit interview as an excuse to moan or vent any negative feelings towards your soon-to-be former employee. Although you should be honest in your exit interview, you should base your constructive feedback on hard facts, not your personal emotions – no matter how bad your experience. Professionalism at all times is the key to having a seamless and positive experience in these kinds of interviews.

What’s more, as you’re no doubt working in a relatively interconnected industry, you want to ensure that you leave on the best terms possible as you never know when you could come into contact with the company again further on in your career – whether this be the company itself, or some of your old colleagues.

What am I likely to be asked in my exit interview?

Below, we’ve listed out a number of exit interview questions you’re likely to be asked. All of these include tips for answering each question.

1. Why have you decided to leave your current position?

This is quite possibly the main reason HR departments want to hold exit interviews – it essentially gives them the insight they need to resolve any issues that may have caused you to hand your notice letter in, or ascertain whether there are any fundamental shortcomings with the role. At the end of the day, all employees want to retain as many staff members as possible.

Keep your answers concise and to the point. Again, even if you haven’t had the greatest time in your current role, try to give an answer that is constructive and based on fact. We all have a tendency to get too personal when asked to comment on why we’re leaving a job – particularly if we’ve had a bad experience. However, giving negative answers won’t be good for your future prospects, particularly if you’re staying in the same industry.

What NOT to say – “I’m leaving because I’ve hated working with ‘x’ and ‘y’” / “My new employer is offering me a much better salary.” / “The people working at my new employer’s office are much more talented.”

What TO say – “I’m leaving as I’m after new experiences to build my career in the industry” / “I’ve loved working with the team but feel my style of working may be better suited elsewhere” / “The new role is really exciting for my professional development, and although I’m sad to be leaving, it’s an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

2. Do you think you were adequately equipped to do your job well?

Having the right tools to do your job is essential – whether this be as a manual worker or an office based worker. When faced with this question in an exit interview, think beyond just talking about your office’s IT set up or office amenities. Think more broadly about whether you feel you had the right training to do your job too. You should also think about the support you were given by your team and senior managers to do your job effectively.

Again, ensure all feedback is framed in a positive way so that your feedback is construed as being constructive. Also, think back over your time at the company and try to quickly list any training you’ve received and any training you feel you should have received.

What NOT to say – “I’ve never had the support from the senior team that I’ve needed, they’ve been useless throughout.” / “The company has never invested in me as an individual…I’ve never received the training I’ve needed.”

What TO say – “For someone stepping in to my role, I think it would be a great idea for them to receive some training in X, Y, Z” / “I think my role probably demanded a bit more resource from the senior team to make sure client expectations were met and challenges were mitigated more quickly.”

3. What was your relationship with your manager like?

This question really will test your resolve when it comes to not making things too personal. Always remember that the feedback you give will be shared with your management team – so be sure not to burn your bridges with individuals.

That said, you should try and be as honest as you can about your relationship with your manager by listing good points along with the more challenging aspects of your relationship. By giving constructive feedback, you’ll help your former manager progress in their own career by highlighting aspects of their work which they should focus more attention on – whether this be interpersonal, communication, or leadership skills.

What NOT to say – “I cannot stand ‘X’ she/he was a complete pain and wasn’t up to the role of manager.” / “I really like ‘X’ as a person, but he/she is really difficult to work with”

What TO say – “On the whole I’ve really enjoyed working with ‘X’, although sometimes think she could have approached me with tasks in a slightly more positive way.” / “X has so many good qualities including his/her approachable nature and work ethic. With a slight tweak in her communication skills I think she’ll be a great asset to the company.”

4. What was the biggest factor that led you to accept this new job?

When faced with this question, it’s not necessary to give away every detail of why the other job is so appealing to you. However, you should try and give your old employer a steer as to what was so appealing about the new role you’re going to.

Maybe the new job will give you the opportunity to work in areas that you haven’t had the chance to work in before. What’s more, it may give you the opportunity to work with other talented people in your chosen field or offer a work culture that better suits your style of working.

You should aim to give your employer a general overview of the appealing nature of your new role without coming across as arrogant. In particular, it’s never a good idea to talk about salary when asked this question, as you could come across as someone who is completely driven by financial rewards or someone who is fishing for a counter offer to stay in your current role.

What NOT to say – “The new job is offering me lots more money for the same role.” / “The new job seems like it will be far less stressful than working here.” / “My new job offers so many more added extras like the use of a company mobile phone/tablet device.”

What TO say – “I feel I’ve reached a natural end to my time here at ‘X’, even though it’s been a great experience. I think the new role will give me some new challenges to get my teeth into.” / “I feel the company I’m going to work for would be a better fit for where my current interests lie in terms of my long term professional development within the industry.”

5. What did you dislike most about your job?

There may be a million and one things you hated about your role, but framing your thoughts positively is again the key to honestly answering this question – whilst safeguarding your future relationship with a company or individual.

Whether it was your junior team’s ineffectiveness; your boss’s micro managing, or the sheer workload placed on your shoulders, try not to list every grievance you have, maybe cut it down to the top three. By going in and really labouring this question with multiple points, you may come across as being led by your emotions which will reflect badly on you.

When airing your top three dislikes during the interview, try and suggest a solution to each of your points – this will give the impression that you’ve really put some thought into your answers, and that you really want the company to succeed in the future.

What NOT to say – “I’ve really hated lots of aspects of working here, particularly ‘X’s’ micromanagement of accounts.” / “My teams have all been useless when it comes to getting things done, something I hope I won’t be dealing with in my new job.” / “The work load here is unbelievably heavy, and no one seems to care.”

What TO say – “Every job has its challenges, one of the biggest challenges I feel I’ve faced in my current role is managing the expectations of my senior team when it comes to what I can and can’t achieve in my working day.” / “My team have been great, but I do feel some of the junior members may need more time management training.” / “Even though we’ve always delivered projects successfully, I do feel myself and ‘X’ have very different styles of working.”

Keeping your exit interview positive and upbeat

A successful exit interview should be a positive and upbeat exchange between yourself and your (soon to be old) employer. You’ve got to toe the line between being as honest as you can be without coming across as negative and emotional – a failure to do so could harm your career in the future.

Source: Total Jobs