Make the Right Lasting Impression During Your Exit Interview

“I found a new job and recently gave my two weeks’ notice. My current human resources department would like me to participate in an exit interview before I leave, but I’m nervous about what I should and shouldn’t say. Help!” Shelley from Little Rock, AR

Congratulations! Preparing for a new job is always an exciting time, but there are loose ends that must be tied up first. One that many find uncomfortable is the exit interview. Each organization views these differently, and your approach may depend on your organization’s culture.

Regardless of how your organization will use or perceive the information, there are ways you can put your best foot forward to ensure that your last impression is a good one. Just as you would for a job interview, consider practicing your responses in advance so they come out naturally and in the way you intend them.

  • Be professional, positive and polite. Regardless of your feelings about the organization, your supervisor or even the person interviewing you, there is no reason to go out on a bad note. You never know where your career will take you—you may come across the same people in the future, or you may even want to come back to the same organization for another opportunity. Do not give them any reason to raise red flags when your name comes up.
  • Remember where you came from. Generally, when you are leaving one job for another, it is in part because of the experiences and opportunities you had. During your exit interview, focus on the positive aspects that you took from your current position—growth opportunities, special projects, collaborative efforts. Rather than highlighting the faults of your old job, spin your answer to reveal why you are moving on to something else.
  • Stick to the facts. An exit interview is not the time to point fingers and call out people who are not doing their jobs well. It is, however, a good time to provide constructive criticism, based on fact and supported by suggestions for improvement. Use your best judgment, though—you don’t want to be perceived as overly critical or as a sore loser.
  • Compliment those who deserve it. While you don’t want to call out bad behavior, praising good behavior is absolutely appropriate. If you’ve worked with someone who provides amazing customer service, suggests innovative ideas or is simply a pleasure to work with, share that with your interviewer. It can never hurt to applaud a job well done.
  • Answer the questions or don’tit’s your call! If the interviewer asks for direct feedback on specific instances, it’s your prerogative to share as much or as little as you’d like. Some experts say that it’s ok to tell a little white lie to get past the question unscathed while others think it’s better to be honest. It’s also your prerogative to respectfully decline the question all together. Whatever you decide to do, as long as you remain calm, professional and polite, you can’t go wrong.