Complex Made Simple

Exit interviews: A look at how employees and employers should act

Exit interviews offer employers the information needed to improve internal processes and reduce the expensive process of hiring new employees as a result of excessive staff turnover

A record 4 million people quit last April and another 3.6 million did so in May You want to make sure the majority of your relationships while working are positive Maintain a balance between honesty and politeness when answering

Exit interviews offer employers the information needed to improve internal processes and reduce the expensive process of hiring new employees as a result of excessive staff turnover. For resigning staff, it’s a chance to leave a good impression. 

But there are potential risks to your career if you vent out your frustrations with your ex-boss or fellow employees.

People are resigning in mass

The so-called Great Resignation is well underway this summer, with some workers feeling empowered by the recovering labor economy to quit unfulfilling jobs.

A record 4 million people quit last April and another 3.6 million did so in May, leading many employers to reevaluate what they can do to keep people on their payroll.

While the exit interview will focus on your time and experience with the company, HR is primarily looking for data around how to keep the rest of their employees.

Try to leave emotions out of the interview and stick to the facts, says career coach and resume writer Chelsea Jay. For example, you could focus on the reasons you’re excited about the new job that your current one can’t give you, which could keep things from getting too personal.

She cautions against going into the conversation angry and ready to bash your employer or colleagues. You never know if you’ll need them for a future reference she says. And even if you never intend to work with someone directly, it’s possible you could still be connected through the same industry, or have common connections that could impact your work.

“You want to make sure the majority of your relationships while working are positive, and that people will say kind things about you when you’re not in the room,” Jay says.

Estimates for hiring a new employee versus retaining an existing employee range from a low estimate by Employee Benefit News of around 33% of the employee’s salary, to highs of 50%-70%, according to the Society of Human Resource Management. There are likely additional “soft costs” ranging from productivity losses as work must be reallocated to morale impacts on the employees who remain.

Common questions and answers 

Many employers conduct exit interviews at the end of an employee’s tenure at their organization to gain context around why an employee is leaving their position, why an employee is leaving their position, what they think about their job, supervisor, organization, and more. 

Whether you are leaving due to a new career change, better opportunity, or dissatisfaction with your job, it is wise to answer thoughtfully, objectively, and with a professional tone.

Q: Why are you leaving your position, or what led you to the decision to leave?

Maintain a balance between honesty and politeness when answering, and if applicable, mention the skills or experience you’re hoping to get from your next job.

Answer example: “I have really enjoyed working here, and I have learned a lot over the course of my employment. However, I feel like I have accomplished all I can in this role and need something different. I feel the time is right to expand my experience and strengthen my abilities.”

Q: How do you feel about management, and do you have any feedback or suggestions for how we can improve?

Stay objective and fair when sharing feedback.

Answer example: “Overall, I am satisfied but management sometimes overlooked the ways they could utilize my role in a way to be more innovative and add value to the company’s success.”

Q: Do you feel you received proper and complete training?

If your training did not cover enough, let your employer know and share practical ideas for improvement.

Answer example: “I didn’t always feel as though I had the resources to do my job well, so I think new employees can benefit from more thorough and frequent training.”

Q: Do or did you think the company supported your career goals?

Here, provide feedback on how or why you felt supported and when you did not.

Answer example: “The company has given me opportunities to learn things I have aimed for in my career, I believe that I have gathered sufficient knowledge working with this firm.”

Q: Would you recommend this company to others seeking employment?

Consider offering suggestions that might make the position more attractive.

Answer example: “It would depend on which positions were open and what that person’s career goals might be. A comprehensive benefits package would make the job more appealing.”