BlogJob InterviewsExit Interview: Definition, Sample Answers, & 5 Tips for Success

Exit Interview: Definition, Sample Answers, & 5 Tips for Success

exit interview

An exit interview is the final meeting an employee has with the company’s representative before leaving the organization. It’s a voluntary interview that can help employers improve their businesses and their soon-to-be former staff members maintain good connections for the future.

In this article, we’ll explore the specific reasons companies conduct exit interviews and the questions that are most often asked during this offboarding event. You’ll learn how to best answer them while remaining honest and helpful. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Companies conduct exit interviews to find out how they can improve and retain talent.

  • Employers can use exit interviews not just to give companies feedback but also to part ways on good terms for potential future benefits.

  • When answering exit interview questions, you should be objective and provide constructive criticism.

  • To leave the company gracefully, you should be honest but tactful and not let any potential personal grievances get in the way of professionalism.

  • For the best outcome, you should prepare answers to the most common questions in advance and practice giving them.

Why Do Companies Conduct Exit Interviews?

STAR method

Companies conduct exit interviews to determine what they can improve within their organizations and how they can retain talent. These meetings put much less pressure on the interviewees than job interviews for several reasons.

Firstly, most exit interviews are voluntary, and you don’t have to take them if you truly don’t want to. Moreover, confidentiality is paramount since employers want honest answers to improve their operations and maintain the rest of their staff. That’s why it’s unlikely you’ll have your exit interview with your supervisor or that your manager will see it.

Instead, exit interviews are typically held by unbiased HR professionals who have a series of questions prepared in advance. These questions are designed to determine why individuals are leaving their company, what their impressions of it are, whether there were any unwanted changes in culture or management styles, what areas for improvement there are, etc.

Still, even with the relatively relaxed nature of exit interviews, you should try to ace them. By being polite and helpful, you’ll leave on good terms, which will help your networking efforts and likely net you better references in the future. Furthermore, you’ll keep the doors open should you ever want to come back and work for your former employer.

Finally, the completion rate for exit interviews is between 30 and 35%. Completing it further helps you to stand out as a dedicated professional.

7+ Common Questions Asked at Exit Interviews

interview questions for managers (1)

Exit interviews cover a broad range of topics, much like typical job interviews feature everything from cultural fit to behavioral questions. Let’s explore some of the most commonly asked questions and the best answers employees can give at exit interviews.

#1. Why have you decided to leave the company?

This is a standard question HR professionals ask during the exit interview with the intent of finding the primary reason behind your departure. It’s a broad question that can help them identify underlying issues and core concerns that need to be addressed.

Your answer might indicate the existence of structural or cultural challenges or issues of which upper management is unaware. Since you’re leaving the company, you have the opportunity to provide genuine insight without fear of repercussions.

Here’s an example of a polite answer to this exit interview question:

Good Answer

“I have decided to leave the company to pursue new career opportunities that better align with my long-term goals. While I have enjoyed my time in this organization, I feel that I have grown sufficiently, and I am now ready to tackle bigger challenges and take on more responsibilities.”

#2. Do you have any feedback for the management team?

Constructive and valuable feedback for the management is vital to improving the company’s efficiency and output, as well as interpersonal relationships among its employees. Managers are in charge of a lot of important decision-making—they organize individuals and teams, delegate tasks, and more.

By answering this question, you get the opportunity to talk about any potential problems related to leadership styles, transparency, communication, collaboration, delegation, and so on.

Here’s how you can answer this exit interview question:

Good Answer

“I believe the management team could improve their communication with other team members. More specifically, I feel like they could be more transparent regarding company decisions and changes before they are implemented. Lastly, I think they can put more emphasis on the professional development of their team through various programs and mentorships.”

#3. Would you recommend our company as a place to work to others?

Even though you’re leaving the company, you can still hold it in high regard. This question aims to assess your general feelings and satisfaction with the company as a whole, including your team, supervisors, culture, work, and so on.

A solid answer should have a healthy mixture of the pros and cons of working at the company. You can be eager to recommend it to friends and colleagues while still having some ideas of how they could improve. Let’s see that in an example of an answer:

Good Answer

“Yes, I would definitely recommend this company to my friends and peers. I found your work environment and atmosphere rather healthy, and the team is incredibly supportive. Moreover, based on someone’s goals, there are plenty of opportunities for professional growth. Still, I believe this could be an even better place to work after addressing some of the feedback I’ve provided.”

#4. What did you enjoy most about working at our company?

HR professionals ask this question to determine what their company’s biggest strengths are. While uncovering and fixing potential underlying issues is vital, it’s just as important to nurture what’s already working and possibly make it even better.

When faced with this question, you get the opportunity to talk about what you liked the most while working there. Your answer can make the place even better for future employees down the line while making you stand out in the eyes of HR professionals as a sympathetic and cordial colleague.

Here’s an example:

Good Answer

“I particularly enjoyed the collaborative work culture that you fostered in your organization. The opportunity to work as a member of interdisciplinary teams on large-scale projects helped me improve my skill set. Moreover, your commitment to innovation and staying updated with the latest technologies motivated me to do the same.”

#5. Do you believe the company fostered career growth and expansion of your skillset?

Your answer to this question can help the company determine whether they need to put more effort into their employees’ career growth and skill enhancement. Upskilling and reskilling are essential not just for individual professionals but for their employers as well.

They lead to better efficiency and improved output, subsequently helping organizations stay competitive in today’s volatile and rapidly growing business market. Even if you’re satisfied with the company’s current programs and policies, you can still offer methods of improving them further.

Let’s see that in an example:

Good Answer

“Yes, the company has provided me with ample opportunities to advance my career and improve my abilities. Interactive workshops and comprehensive training programs helped me polish everything, from my software proficiency to my communication abilities. However, I do believe your career development plans could be more personalized for higher individual impact.”

#6. What would we have to change for you to stay?

This question asks for a specific answer to help interviewers understand whether there’s something immediate they can do to retain you. You should answer this question even if you don’t have the intention of staying or you’ve already accepted a position in another organization.

Your answer can help them locate specific issues and circumstances that led to your job change. By addressing these, the company might prevent some of the other employees from leaving in the near future while it works on fixing the bigger issues to enhance retention on a wider level.

Here’s how you could answer this question:

Good Answer

“If I hadn’t already accepted a position at another company, I would’ve needed to see improvements in work-life balance and reduced overtime work to stay. Additionally, I feel that the lack of opportunities for professional growth had a negative impact on my career growth, so I would need to see those implemented if I were to stay.”

#7. Have you spoken about your concerns in the past? How do you feel that was handled?

The purpose of this question is to determine the company’s transparency, communication, and consideration for its employees. The company will use your answer to determine if they have healthy mechanisms in place to optimally address employee concerns and whether employees feel heard and valued.

You might uncover some issues with the management and point out the weaknesses in their practices. The information you provide will help address those, leading to future improvements.

Here’s an example of a good answer:

Good Answer

“Yes, I have spoken about the increased workload in the latest quarter and the lack of opportunities for career advancement within the company. While the manager listened to and noted my concerns, they didn’t respond afterward, and I saw no changes.

A lack of communication made me feel unheard, contributing to my decision to move to another company.”

#8. Do you have any feedback regarding the onboarding process?

Your feedback regarding the onboarding process can help the organization improve its approach. That will lead to a smoother experience for new employees, and the company will get new hires up to speed and working at full capacity faster.

Check out an example of a solid answer:

Good Example

“I found the onboarding process well-structured and organized. The initial training introduced me to my role effectively, and the paperwork was simple enough. However, I felt that there was a lack of role-specific, in-depth guidance. I feel that having a more dedicated mentorship program and clearer roadmaps with detailed goals and expectations would be highly beneficial.”

5 Tips For a Successful Exit Interview

career goals

Before we wrap things up, here are some exit interview tips from experts to help you get the most out of the experience.

#1. Be Objective

Your answers to exit interview questions should be as objective and impartial as possible. They should contain constructive criticism instead of personal grievances or gratuitous praise. The interviewer will likely notice your subjectiveness, rendering your answer useless to them and negatively affecting the outcome of the conversation.

By being objective, you’ll give the company concrete information it can use to make meaningful changes and worthwhile improvements within the organization.

#2. Prepare Answers in Advance

Preparation is invaluable for a successful exit interview. Just as it can assist you in coming up with perfect answers to the most common job interview questions, preparation can also help you ace your offboarding meeting.

For starters, it helps to be aware of the most likely questions HR professionals might ask you. That way, you’ll be able to reflect on your experiences and work history in the company and focus on the specific details.

You can write the most important information down to ensure that you’ll remember it. Furthermore, you can practice giving answers alone or with a friend or colleague. You can even conduct a brief mock interview to cover all bases.

#3. Exit With Grace

Your goal after an exit interview is to leave gracefully and on good terms. Because of that, you want to maintain a positive tone and professionalism throughout the conversation and finish it on a high note.

Even if you have some pent-up frustrations with the company or some of its members, it’s smart to vent ahead of time. That way, you can be composed and positive during the interview, give objective answers, and part ways with grace.

Maintaining a positive relationship with the company and its members is important for networking purposes and can help your career.

#4. Be Honest but Tactful

While honesty is the best policy with exit interviews, you don’t want to come off as unmannerly or disrespectful. Even when you’re pointing out potential flaws in the company’s operations, you can still do so in a polite, helpful, and professional way that will be appreciated.

An untactful answer, however valid, might antagonize the interviewer and end up being counterproductive. The company might end up ignoring your suggestions, and your relationship with its members might deteriorate.

That’s why you want to choose your words carefully and emphasize that there’s no ill intent behind your answers.

#5. Give Feedback Outside the Exit Interview

Your observations, advice, and feedback aren’t limited to the exit interview. You can share them outside the privacy of an offboarding meeting as long as they are in good taste and genuinely helpful.

However, this is the time to be extra careful about your approach. One of the best ways to go about it is to honestly compliment your coworkers, management, supervisors, and anyone with whom you start a discussion.

After that, you can subtly work in a piece of advice or a suggestion on how they might improve their operations or work environment.

Final Thoughts

The main purpose of exit interviews is for companies to get feedback from former employees to improve themselves and enhance talent retention. Still, you can use the opportunity to leave on good terms, obtain better references for other employers, and leave the doors open for future collaboration.

The bottom line is that you should care about exit interviews as much as companies do. That’s why we’ve given you examples of typical exit interview questions and answers, as well as tips on how to have a successful meeting. Good luck in your next big role!

Exit Interview FAQ

#1. Can you decline to attend an exit interview?

You can usually decline to attend an exit interview since it’s typically not a mandatory procedure. However, making an effort to attend can help you leave on good terms, improve your networking efforts, obtain better references, and give you the option to return to work for them in the future.

#2. How long does an exit interview last?

A typical exit interview should last anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour. However, the actual length varies depending on the individual and the circumstances. Sometimes, exit interviews can be extended to 90 minutes or even longer.

#3. How honest should you be in an exit interview?

You should be completely honest with the HR professional in your exit interview. Your answers can help improve the company, whether by resolving underlying issues or doubling down on the positives. However, you should still be tactful and polite when giving answers and not bring up personal grievances.

#4. Why do exit interviews fail?

Exit interviews can fail for several reasons, including respondents not being objective, honest, or caring enough to give comprehensive answers. Also, the confidential nature of exit interviews means that HR shares only part of the information with management, making it difficult to paint a complete picture of potential problems.

Jeffrey Stromes
Jeffrey Stromes
HR Expert
Jeffrey Stromes is the backbone of our team and our HR expert. He is obsessed with making things fair, addicted to comic books, and in love with his golden retriever, Molly. He’s the big brain behind our company’s policies, the development and management of talent, and whatever else there is! Although he looks quite serious at first sight, Jeffrey is a sweet guy who is equally good at making our whole team laugh and ensuring that everything runs smoothly. Just be sure to provide him with enough coffee!

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