Exit interviews, when you think about it, are the opposite of your original interview. During your final interview, you’re explaining why you’re leaving, and during your initial interview, you’re explaining why you want to be there in the first place.
It might sound like a strange practice, but it’s invaluable to your soon-to-be former employer for you to complete an exit interview. Your answers help them spot trends—so they can ensure they’re doing everything they can to retain good people. And while you may wonder, “What’s in it for me?” leaving on good terms is always smart. You never know when you’ll need a recommendation or professional favor.
With that in mind, here are three suggestions for acing your exit interview.
1) Be prepared
There are a few questions you’ll almost always get. Think of your answers ahead of time so you can find diplomatic and honest ways to deliver them.
For example, most interviewers will ask, “Why have you decided to leave your role?”
A too real answer: “My boss is the worst.”
A too polite answer: “I got an even more amazing opportunity. I love this place!”
A just right answer: “My working style is very different from my manager’s and it impacted my productivity and general engagement levels.”
You should also be prepared to explain what you liked most and least about your job; whether there’s anything you would’ve changed about the organization, team, or role; and if you felt like your experience somehow fell short of your expectations.
2) Vent to a friend
Sometimes, people are tempted to use the exit interview to blow off steam. You may have guessed this from the first section, but this is not recommended. Nine times out of ten, ranting will make you seem unprofessional (even if you’re making valid complaints).
To avoid accidentally going off during the exit interview, schedule some time beforehand with a friend, mentor, or even a blank piece of paper. Use this “session” to get out any lingering frustrations or resentments. It’s best to do this a day or so in advance so you don’t walk into the exit interview with your emotions running high.
Giving yourself a safe space to process your emotions will let you handle the exit interview with grace and professionalism.
3) Mention the positives
An exit interview shouldn’t be 100% focused on the bad. On the contrary, you should make it a point to mention some pros along with the cons. Maybe even more pros than cons, depending on how happy you were overall at the company.
For instance, if the exit interviewer asks about your relationship with your manager, you could mention that you really appreciated her transparency about internal changes, but that sometimes these were delivered without any context, which could make announcements stressful and confusing.
Or, if they ask, “Did you have the resources you needed to succeed?” You might respond, “I loved our tuition reimbursement program. It encouraged me to learn new skills and continually stretch myself. I think an on-site training program for new employees would also be incredibly beneficial, since I started my role without training and had to figure everything out by myself.”
A balanced answer will help you leave a great final impression while getting the point across.