How to survive an exit interview

How to survive an exit interview

So it’s official: you’ve decided to move on…

You’ve handed in your resignation letter, you’ve worked through your notice period and you’ve cleared up all of your belongings ready for the big push.

However, before you’re allowed out the door clutching that cardboard box full of priceless memories (the photobooth picture from the Christmas party where everyone’s wearing comedy moustaches, your borderline-inappropriate mug, etc.), you have to do one last thing: the dreaded exit interview.

To help you avoid any unnecessary awkwardness, here’s our comprehensive exit interview survival guide:

Relax

As nerve-wracking as it may seem making the long walk into the interviewer’s office, when you really think about it, there actually isn’t anything significant at stake.

Remember, it’s an exit interview, not a job interview. And, no matter how awkward or emotional proceedings get*, they won’t make a difference when it comes to your new role. Once you’ve handed in your notice, the hard part is essentially over. The pressure is officially off. You just need to embrace the process.

So be cool, be calm and be collected. You know, like a cucumber. Because cucumbers never fail.

Make a list

The absolute worst thing you can do at any exit interview is ad-lib.

After all, there’s a fine line between being honest, and oversharing. Without the proper preparation performed well in advance, you could only be a few poorly worded questions away from losing your decorum (a.k.a. launching into ‘full-on rant mode’).

To help stave off any temptation to provide a little too-much information, make a list of your pre-prepared answers to help jog your memory. Questions such as ‘what is your main reason for leaving’ and ‘what are the positives of your new role’ are likely to come up in some form, and a few minutes practice on each will certainly pay dividends.

Lead with positives

Ok, stay with us on this one. We are not asking you to lie.

You might have disliked some, or maybe many elements of your job, but we’re pretty sure if you scratch beneath the surface you’ll find a few nice things to say somewhere underneath.

It could be a hardworking co-worker, lacking the recognition they deserve. Or an element of the employee benefit scheme which initially attracted you to apply. Whatever it is, this is your only attempt to let someone (and/or anyone) know that they’re doing a good job. Take it.

And if there aren’t any positives? See: smile and nod.

Stick to the facts

If you do have any particular problems you wish to address, always use facts to back them up.

Management issues? Point to a particular appraisal you were disappointed with. Lack of progression what’s troubling you? Give examples of how you were passed over for promotion, or not given appropriate opportunities for training.

Without tangible examples, there’s nothing for your employer to act upon or learn from. Which, if anything, should be how you primarily view this opportunity.

Unfortunately, even if you’re 100% convinced that Tim from accounts has ‘had it in for you from day one’, without anything to back your statement up, it’s unlikely to be taken particularly seriously.

Ask about your own performance

Your exit interview shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. However, the ball is very much in your court.

The beauty of an exit interview is that you get to choose exactly how worthwhile your own one is. You can either do all of the talking, and point out all of an organisations flaws without pausing for breath, or you can decide to listen and, maybe, even learn some of your own. It’s entirely up to you.

If you’re good at taking constructive criticism, take the opportunity to see if there are any areas you can improve upon. It might just give you a few things to work on before reaching your new role.

If you’re not good at taking constructive criticism, please feel free to completely disregard this point.

Leave a lasting impression

No matter what the circumstances are that prompted your decision to move on, don’t be bitter.

If your first interview provides the first impression, your exit interview is undoubtedly the last. It’s far more endearing to be the person that left with grace and tact, than the person who went down in a blaze of glory, berating anyone and everyone they ever worked with.

Wish everyone present well for the future, be positive and keep your reputation intact.

Remember: you never know who you might need a reference from one day…

*Always try not to get awkward and emotional 

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