May 18, 2016
Participating in an exit interview is a great opportunity to reflectively close a chapter of your professional life. These meetings are typically conducted by human resources professionals. The data they compile is usually confidential, so you can feel comfortable sharing your honest feedback.
It’s much easier to prepare for an exit interview than a job interview. Unlike in a job interview, you are not being evaluated or scored for your answers. Your feedback helps professionals at your soon-to-be-former company analyze their hiring, leadership, communication, retention efforts and other practices.
It can feel very liberating to be asked to reflect on your experiences at a company that you are leaving. But proceed with caution, keeping in mind that you are still at work. You should share both positive and negative feedback that is relevant. But do so in a way that is thoughtful and respectful.
Aim to provide meaningful, professional responses. In other words, you don’t want to trash your experience if it has negative dimensions to it. It’s in your best interest to leave with your professionalism intact. So make it your goal to share feedback that is reflective, honest and helpful.
How to Prepare
Companies are always interested to learn why employees leave and how they can retain their talent longer. So prepare yourself by thinking through why you decided to leave and figuring out how to tell that story in a way that your HR colleagues can use. Reflect on these questions: When did you start thinking you were ready for a new job? Was there a particular catalyst, or were your surprised by an unexpected opportunity?
While still honoring your anonymity, HR can report that staff members are leaving because they get restless when there is no trajectory, for example. This feedback is more useable than “my job got boring.” So challenge yourself to really examine your situation so that you can offer some helpful perspective.
Consider how you answered similar questions during the job interview that you just aced, and don’t hesitate to use that feedback to assist your HR colleagues in their work.
Productively Discussing Leadership
It gets a bit tricky when you are asked to give feedback on the management. But again, you should feel welcome to share your honest thoughts. While it may seem like it would feel good to say, “My boss was an immature jerk,” challenge yourself to think this through more fully. Aimless venting is a missed opportunity on your part. HR will have a hard time using that feedback to enact change.
Instead, generate concrete and usable statements. For example: “My supervisor didn’t seem fully qualified for his role. He seemed to need his team more than I thought was appropriate. For example, he insisted I come into the office on a day I was sick because we had a donor event that he said I couldn’t miss. I understand that events are important. I had never missed one before or after, but I felt horrible on that particular day. I think part of qualifying to be a manager should be having the skills to troubleshoot an unexpected development like an ill staff member even in a special case like a big event.”
It’s fair to talk about whatever you think needs to be addressed, but do it in a reflective and professional way. Also, remember to cite examples to help clarify and support the points you aim to make.
Two vital skills in professional life are learning to strategically curb emotion and to take advantage of opportunities. Embrace this conversation and the chance it affords you to reflect on your time at the institution. Then you can move on feeling like a seasoned and mature professional fully prepared for the challenge ahead. Congratulations and best of luck!