You did it. You gathered up your courage and put in your two weeks notice. You’re ready to make it through your last few workdays, bid your co-workers adieu, and then hit the road for greener pastures.
You feel confident that you’re over the hardest part of the process, when suddenly HR contacts you to inquire about a time for your exit interview.
“What?” you think to yourself, “My exit interview? I thought I could just pack up my desk and sneak right out of here. I don’t want to rehash my entire employment experience!”
Yes, there’s no doubt that exit interviews can be a little nerve-wracking. Quitting your job was stressful enough. But, having to attend a meeting in order to explain all of the nitty-gritty details of why you’re quitting? Well, that’s enough to have you breathing into a paper bag.
Don’t stress! This doesn’t need to be an anxiety-inducing experience. In fact, this can actually be productive for both you and your employer. You just need to make sure you know what you’re in for. After all, you want to leave on a professional note—not an unprepared one that ends with you turning this final meeting into an impromptu “why I hate this job” therapy session.
So, here are a few exit interview questions you can expect to be asked. Whether it’s your first one or your tenth, brushing up on these commonly asked questions never hurts.
1. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Position?
As you might guess, this is likely the key question that your employer wants answered during your exit interview. What the heck caused you to want to pack up your bags and go?
You’re asked this for a few different reasons. First, your employer wants to identify whether or not there was a single event that precipitated your departure—such as a falling out with your manager or a co-worker. Secondly, he or she’s hoping to determine if there are any shortcomings with the position that need to be resolved before bringing in a replacement.
Remember, one of a company’s key goals is employee retention. And, your feedback is critical in helping to achieve that!
2. Do You Think You Were Adequately Equipped to Do Your Job Well?
Companies also want to gain some insider insight into how qualified employees felt, and this question is a great way to determine that.
It might seem a little strange to air your grievances about lack of training, unhelpful technology, or a completely uncommunicative team. But, keep in mind that getting that all out into the open will actually help your employer to improve in the long run.
Your HR department isn’t daft. They know that you’re leaving for a reason, and they’re well aware that you won’t only have sweet, sunshine-y things to say about your job. So, don’t hesitate to be honest. Just remember that you don’t want to be absolutely brutal with your feedback either—burning bridges is never recommended.
3. What Was Your Relationship With Your Manager Like?
Your working relationship with your boss was probably the most influential in your daily work life, so your company wants to know the good, bad, and the ugly. What did your supervisor do well? How did you feel about his or her management style overall?
Be prepared to also provide some suggestions for ways he or she can improve. It might seem counterintuitive to say anything negative about your supervisor—especially when the “don’t ever complain about your boss” rule has been ingrained in your memory for years. But it’s necessary feedback.
Again, just remember that you don’t want to go off the rails and begin berating your boss. After all, much of your criticism will likely be relayed back to this person. So, when in doubt, keep it constructive.
4. What Was the Biggest Factor That Led You to Accept This New Job?
Of course, you don’t need to feel pressured to share all sorts of details about the position you’re moving on to. However, you should be prepared to hear a few questions along those lines. The people in charge simply want to get an idea of how they’re matching up with other organizations in the same industry.
Perhaps the pay at your new job is way better, and your employer needs to reevaluate its salary structure. Or, maybe something about the company culture really appealed to you. Whatever it is, sharing that information helps your employer to stay on track with its competitors—something that’s undoubtedly important when attracting new talent.
5. What Did You Like Most About Your Job?
While the main goal of exit interviews is to get constructive feedback, that doesn’t mean you won’t have the opportunity to highlight any positives.
In a typical exit interview, you’ll be asked what aspects of your position you liked the most. Whether it was a particular job duty, your team members, or the weekly happy hours, your company wants to know what made you look forward to coming in each day. This knowledge helps your manager not only continue to expand on these positive attributes, but also play up the appealing traits when listing your position!
6. What Did You Dislike Most About Your Job?
Here it is—the flipside of the coin. It’s time to share those not-so-great aspects of your position.
Maybe you hated having to coordinate the monthly board meeting. Perhaps your boss was a complete meddling micromanager. Or, maybe you think your entire department needs to be restructured in order to work more efficiently and effectively.
Now’s your chance to be honest and share those complaints that you normally reserved for mutters under your breath and venting sessions over cocktails with friends.
7. What Skills and Qualifications Do You Think We Need to Look for in Your Replacement?
Who has better insight into what it takes to do your job well than you? Spoiler alert: nobody. You were the one who got the work done day in and day out. And, chances are, you did it well. So, your employer wants to know what qualities they should keep their eyes out for when replacing you.
Perhaps your original job description emphasized that you needed to be great with database management. But, once you were there, you realized that database was rarely even touched by anyone in your office. It was an obsolete job duty that they kept pasting over from description to description. Instead, you think that looking for someone with strong organizational and multi-tasking skills is a way more important facet to emphasize. Trust me, your employer will appreciate (and use!) this information.
An exit interview is really nothing to stress over. Think of it as your chance to have a valuable and honest discussion about the ins and outs of the position you’re leaving. And, if you do start to feel stressed, just ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen. After all, they can’t fire you.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author