When you leave a company and job it’s fairly common to have to go through what is known as an “exit interview”.
When you hear “interview”, you might start to worry. After all, nobody likes interviews.
But an exit interview isn’t as stressful as it might first sound. We’re here to break them down and prepare you for what you’re going to face in your exit interview.
An exit interview is a final meeting before you leave a company. They are usually conducted by the HR team, your manager, or senior members of the business: Although this can depend on the size of the business you work for, and their specific policies behind exit interviews. You may not even have one!
An exit interview can be a questionnaire for you to fill in, a phone call or video call, or more likely a face-to-face interview.
These face-to-face exit interviews can be a formal affair, with a member of HR sat in the meeting to make sure that any HR policies are followed and compliant.
Or they can be very informal affairs. Sometimes all an exit interview is, is your manager grabbing you for a quick chat or taking you out to lunch, to find out why you’re leaving and wish you luck in your new role.
But exit interviews aren’t as scary as they sometimes seem to be, so don’t worry too much.
Exit interviews are mandatory in the sense that they take place during work hours: Meaning that they are a part of your usual work responsibilities.
So yes, they generally are mandatory.
However you can refuse to have one. After all, you’re leaving the company soon anyway, so there’s not much risk involved.
But it is still not something we would advise. Because even though you’re leaving the business, you should aim to leave on good terms. And if you’re working in a niche industry like Digital Marketing, and work in a specific location, then burning bridges on your way out of the door can have negative consequences for your long-term career.
But having a positive exit interview can help you to maintain strong connections with managers and senior members of staff, which can be useful in the future.
So no, exit interviews aren’t mandatory, but they also slightly are.
For you, they may not feel that important. After all, they can’t really affect you as you already have your new job. And you’re not going to be around any changes or improvements the business makes for after you leave anyway!
So are exit interviews important? We would argue yes, they can be. And there are a few different reasons you may not have thought of:
Even though you’re leaving your company for greener pastures, you may not leave forever.
You may wish to return to your old company in a few years when you’ve learned new skills or have more experience. Or your new role may not be all it was cracked up to be, and you may wish to return back to your old company.
And while we hope the latter doesn’t happen, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Future employers will likely ask past employers for a reference. And leaving on good terms is a great way to improve your chances of obtaining a glowing reference about how great an employee you were.
As we touched on before, depending on your industry and location, there’s a strong chance you’ll be working with the same people again, or at least connections of connections.
And your industry reputation is also something you should be concerned with preserving. And it can be damaged by small acts like leaving an employer on bad terms.
Again, it’s unlikely, but it’s better to not take the risk where you don’t need to.
Without further ado, here are 10 of the most common exit interview questions that you can face in your exit interview, with example answers.
Your employer will obviously want to find out what went wrong, and why you’re leaving. After all, why it may be too late to improve the role for you, they will want to improve it for the next person to prevent the same mistakes happening again.
Or they may actually try to use your answer in a counter offer.
Example Answer: “I’ve been interested in moving into a Paid Social focused role for a while, and this company is offering me the opportunity to up-skill in Paid Social and learn new technology and softwares that will be a huge boost to my career.”
Often when someone leaves a role, it can be due to a difficult relationship with their direct manager. After all, the popular saying goes “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers”.
And if your manager does need some extra training, then it can be helpful to have that indicated to them by someone who is no longer being managed by them.
Example Answer: “I don’t have any complaints about working with my direct manager. They always had the time to support me on new campaigns and client accounts, and I never felt like my workload was too much.”
While an exit interview will obviously be focused on the reasons that made you leave, they will also want to explore the reasons that could have made you stay.
For example, if you enjoyed the social events and spending time with the team outside of the work environment, that’s an incentive to increase the amount of social events the company hosts.
Example Answer: “One of the things I enjoyed most about my role was the variety of clients and industries I worked with. It kept my role varied, and meant I wasn’t writing the same kind of content over and over again.”
Similarly to the above, they will also try to identify reasons that you didn’t enjoy your role. This is your opportunity to voice any grievances you had about the role, and hopefully to improve it for the next person. However, we would advise being overly critical or listing too many things you disliked, as they may simply discount your opinions as venting, and not an actual analysis of your role.
Example Answer: “I disliked how rigid the working environment was. There was no flexibility on working hours or hybrid and remote working, with being in the office 5 days a week. My new role offers much more flexibility, and was a huge selling point to me.”
Often when people move jobs and companies, it’s because of the tools or software they’ll have the opportunity to work with. In digital marketing for example, it’s common to move roles to learn new skills, or work with clients in new industries.
So if there is a specific reason you moved, or if the business is falling behind in terms of technology, that’s something they would need to know!
Example Answer: “One of the big reasons I’m moving is for the opportunity to work on Amazon Ads. While I’ve enjoyed working primarily on Google Ads, I felt it was time to learn some new and complimentary channels and softwares.”
Sometimes they will be absolutely transparent and ask you what they could do to improve the position for your replacement.
Example Answer: “One of the major things that stood out to me was the onboarding process. While I enjoyed my time at the company immensely, I struggled when I first started and didn’t feel like I had the support necessary. As I progressed I realised I did and it was there, I just wasn’t made aware of it immediately.”
Nobody knows better what skills and experience your replacements needs, than you. So be honest if there were areas that you believe were important to the role that may have been overlooked when hiring you. Or if your role has changed, and the skills and requirements are different than they previously were.
Example Answer: “With the evolution of data analysis and how important it has become to the company, I think experience working with Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets is crucial to finding success in this role. And not just that, but being able to analyse these large data-sets, and draw meaningful conclusions.”
Company culture can have a huge impact on how much someone enjoys their work and job. So if there were clashes between your preferred way of working and the company culture, your insight can help them to either change the company culture for the better, or will give them something to consider with hiring moving forward.
Example Answer: “I loved the social events that the company hosted, as it was a great way to relax with colleagues outside of work. However I felt that the social and relaxed company culture conflicted with how regimented and inflexible the businesses approach to working with no flexible working hours or hybrid working.”
If you would recommend the position to someone in your network then great, that’s exactly what the company wants to hear. And they may even ask you for a recommendation. But if you wouldn’t recommend someone you know, then they will want to know exactly why so they can address it.
Example Answer: “I would definitely recommend working here to people in my network, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here. They would have to be a cultural fit for the business, and to want to be in the office environment, due to the lack of hybrid working.”
The business may well aim to give you a counter offer to try and tempt you to stay. And they may even use the exit interview as an opportunity to give you the counter offer. And there’s nothing more direct than asking you what they could offer to make you stay.
We strongly advise against taking counter offers, for a multitude of reasons that we have discussed in our blog here. So we also advise giving too much information away, that your ex-employer can use to tempt you to stay.
Example Answer: “While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, I’m ready to move on and explore opportunities. And while I may consider returning in the future and would love to keep in contact with you, there’s nothing at this time that could change my decision.”
Of course these questions are just the most common questions you might face in your exit interview. You could be asked anything, even if that’s not realistic.
So it’s important to consider what to say in an interview and what not to say. Not just what answers should you say to some example questions.
There’s no harm in mentioning the reasons behind why you’re taking the new job. After all, it could allow your ex-employer to understand what they’re failing to offer, and the reasons why they’re losing employees.
Although whatever the reason is, it may be used in a counter offer to try and make you stay. So if you don’t want to risk being tempted by a counter offer, then it may be better to give a nondescript but diplomatic reply like:
“While I’ve really enjoyed my time here in this company and I’m thankful for the opportunities you’ve given me, it felt like time to move on: And this new role is the next step in my career and a challenge I’m really looking forward to.”
One of the core aims of the exit interview is to find out ways to improve an organisation’s employee retention, and to stop employees leaving in the future.
And while it’s important to recognise what a company is doing wrong, it’s also important to find out what they’re doing right.
So it’s always worthwhile saying what you most enjoyed about your role, so the business knows where to concentrate its efforts.
Additionally, singing praises about the business and your manager is a great way to leave on a positive note.
A business will always be seeking ways to improve itself, and you can help by noting areas where you think the business can improve.
We would advise against giving this information without being asked however. As it may look like you’re just giving suggestions that are unwarranted.
Just as there are the right things to say in an exit interview, there are also plenty of wrong things to say.
While you may want to use the exit interview as an opportunity to vent about your role, this probably isn’t what’s best for your career.
While you might not have loved your job, especially by the end of it, we would advise against using the exit interview as an opportunity to vent or rant about your experience.
Being overly negative will likely discount your opinions from being used moving forward by the business. So if you have genuine suggestions about how to improve the business for future employees, then try to be as diplomatic as possible.
Even if you haven’t enjoyed your time at the business.
While it is very likely that your new job will come up as a topic of conversation at some point in your exit interview, you probably want to avoid talking about it too much.
After all, you don’t want to leave the impression that you haven’t enjoyed the time at your old job and company: Even if that was the case!
We would advise saying simply that it is a good opportunity for you, and you’re excited for the challenge. Short and sweet, without going into too much detail.
And perhaps the most obvious, we would advise against being rude or burning any bridges when you leave the company.
You are likely to need an employee reference for future positions moving forward. And leaving a poor lasting impression can prevent yourself from receiving that positive reference that you may need.
We're here to help. Check out our FAQs, send us an email or call us on 0208 629 6006.