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What You Need To Know To Nail The Exit Interview

Tackle it the same way you did the first: professional and prepared.

09/29/2017 12:19 EDT | Updated 09/29/2017 12:48 EDT
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The exit interview is the final opportunity to have your voice heard.

Quitting a job is awkward and has the potential to burn bridges. Our VP of people & culture, Jerry Gratton, shares how to do it right.

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So, you've decided to quit your job. Once you've handed in your notice, you're likely to experience a lot of different emotions. You also might have a few things you want to get off your chest — and that's exactly what the exit interview is for.

A productive and honest exit interview is one of the best ways for companies to learn how they can improve the workplace. It's also a final opportunity to have your voice heard, to inspire change and to make lasting network connections. How you leave a job is as (if not more) important than how you start it. Here's how to have the most productive, impactful exit interview possible.

1. Air your grievances (privately) ahead of time

Bad bosses, unexpected workload, new opportunities elsewhere — all of these are common reasons people leave their jobs. However, if you're quitting with a negative opinion of the company, it can be tempting to use the exit interview as a chance to vent your frustrations. Unless you want to tarnish your reputation and burn bridges in the process, that's a bad idea.

Instead, take a moment to hash out any negative feelings well in advance of the interview. Rant to a friend, call your mom. You can even write a fake resignation letter, no holds barred — just don't actually send it!

Once you've got everything off your chest (in private), you can boil your message down to the facts and face your employer with a level head.

2. Be constructive, not critical

If you've been asked to attend an exit interview, it's because the company welcomes your feedback. But that doesn't mean it's time to attack with your claws out! Instead, see it as a chance to point out areas for improvement.

The trick here is to keep your emotions out of it (see step one), and to offer concrete solutions. For example: instead of bashing your manager as incompetent, recommend that the company invests in proper development training.

Criticism hurts. Feedback helps. So when you share your experience with your interviewer, always try to filter it through a positive light.

3. Back yourself up with hard facts

While you shouldn't point fingers, the whole purpose of an exit interview is to have an honest conversation about why you're moving on. If the company is truly invested in the process, they'll take your review to heart (and act on it).

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Less-than-favourable feedback will go further if you back it up with facts. So if you feel like you're not being compensated fairly, provide tangible proof that you'd be making more elsewhere. If you think the culture needs improvement, provide specific examples to illustrate why. Empty complaints make you look petty; evidence gives you credibility. And it provides your employer with actionable advice to make changes.

4. Treat it like a first interview. Be professional and prepared

If your new job is in the same industry as your old one, you'll likely run into the same people in the future. Every job you have is a networking opportunity, so be sure to leave your position as strongly as you went into it.

Tackle the exit interview the same way you did the first: professional and prepared. Anticipate the questions you'll be asked, practice what you want to say and (most importantly) how you'll say it. It's your last chance to ensure you leave on a positive note, and to maintain healthy connections in your business network.

5. Just do it — they actually make a difference

Resigning from a job is uncomfortable, no matter how you do it. And being straight-up with your employer about why you're leaving can be a whole other level of awkward. Not everyone is comfortable calling out negative experiences or providing feedback to their superiors.

That's why (like most companies who do them) our exit interviews are entirely voluntary. It's a no-pressure program designed to show us what we need to stop doing, start doing, and continue doing in the future. Some companies use interviews, some use surveys, and some (like us) use a combination of the two. Fortunately, we've had 100 per cent participation so far.

Tackle the exit interview the same way you did the first: professional and prepared.

Over time, the data we collect helps us identify trends within our business so we can take appropriate action. For example, if one person trashes a manager that other employees love, we take the feedback with a grain of salt. But if one employee consistently gets the same complaint, we know we need to address the issue. Similarly, if people are leaving to pursue a new opportunity that we can't offer them, the exit interview process highlights where we might be falling short.

When you quit your job, it's hard enough to tough it out the last two weeks — let alone hang around to wade through the reasons why. But if you want to make a difference, take the opportunity to gain closure before you move on to your next chapter.

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