How to answer exit interview questions

woman being interviewed by man


When you resign from a job, it’s increasingly common to be invited to an exit interview. Here’s why employers want to hear from people who are leaving, and some advice on how to answer exit interview questions.

From an employer’s perspective, there’s a lot to gain from talking to people who are leaving the organisation. It’s an opportunity to get honest feedback about what it’s like to work there and to help identify any recurring themes about why people choose to leave. By understanding these things, they can take steps to reduce staff turnover.

What to expect from an exit interview

An exit interview is nothing to fear. It’s an opportunity to highlight things that the company could do better. It’s a chance to voice your opinion about it as a place to work.

Every employer may  conduct exit interviews in a different way. Usually it’s a face to face or online conversation, but you may be asked to fill in a questionnaire or discuss things by phone.

It helps to have thought in advance about how you might talk about your reasons for leaving and your overall opinion of the organisation. Fortunately, there’s a fairly standard approach in terms of the questions you might be asked.

How to answer exit interview questions

Typical questions in the exit interview process might include:

  • What led you to look for a new job?
  • What are you looking forward to about the new role?
  • What could your manager have done better?
  • What could we have done to keep you?
  • Do you think that your job description is a fair representation of the role you were doing here? If not, how would you change it?
  • Would you recommend our company to a friend or relative and why?

In terms of what to say in an exit interview, the main thing is to be honest – as far as you feel comfortable.

You might be in a very neutral situation: perhaps you felt it was time to move on, found a good job and feel positive about the progression. In that case, your interviewer will happily accept that there were no big issues with your employment.

Even so, it’s worth considering what it would have taken for you to stay and continue your career with the employer. This will be very useful for them.

What to say if you have had a poor experience

If you have more negative feelings about your job, it’s fine to share that too. Your interviewer wants to understand what the issues are.

Try to remain calm and professional. This is not a time for gossip but, that said, if you’re leaving because people are not behaving the way they should at work, you should certainly flag that.

If you are asked questions that you don’t want to answer, move on. Just say that you don’t wish to respond on that topic.

People often leave a role because they are incompatible with their manager. If your manager is a factor in why you are leaving, don’t be afraid to say so, but again keep it professional. Companies will want to know if a certain manager is driving others out of the organisation.

Making the best of the exit interview process

Most exit interviews take less than an hour. The whole process will be efficient and positive if you have done some preparation and are clear on what you want to say.

Feel free to bring notes with you to your session, to remind you of any key points you wish to make. You can also ask questions, which can make the interview feel more like a conversation. Thank your interviewer at the end of the session, and aim to leave on a positive note. You can then turn your attention to your new job and future career!

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