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How to Handle an Exit Interview

Puja Lalwani
You've taken the plunge and handed in your resignation letter. Yet, you have to face an impending exit interview. Knowing how to handle this will help you ease the stress of facing one.
Some organizations do not concern themselves with the resignation of some employees, there are others that require you to be a part of an exit interview that is conducted for the purpose of receiving constructive feedback about the organization and your experience there.
Exit interviews are becoming more common, and preparing for one is extremely essential.
This is because, if you are leaving the organization and even opting for a full-fledged career change, you don't want to leave on a bitter note and spoil relations. It affects your future, and remember, your potential employer will always go back to your former employer for a reference, or for some general feedback regarding you and your job performance.

Commonly Asked Questions

An exit interview is usually conducted by the HR manager, or a member of the HR team, where you will be asked to provide feedback on your experience in the organization, and the factors that led you to leave it. Be careful to think before you speak. After a resignation letter is submitted, you can expect an exit interview to be conducted soon. 
Usually, it is conducted on an employee's last day at the organization. However, it is already a very stressful time, so a lot of organizations have started doing so some time after the resignation of the employee, when she/he is more comfortable and relaxed, and capable of giving the right feedback.
Here are a few questions that you can expect:
  • What triggered your decision to leave this organization?
  • Was your job and your position satisfying to you?
  • What was most dissatisfying about your job?
  • Were you satisfied with the reviews you received about your performance?
  • Did you achieve some of your career goals while at this organization?
  • Were you satisfied with the pay and benefits you received at this organization?
  • Were you satisfied with the human resource management at this organization?
  • What is it that your potential employee is offering you, that this company doesn't?
  • Is there anything that this company can do to change your decision?
  • Would you consider working for this company in the future?
  • Would you recommend someone else to work here?
  • Do you have any suggestions as a replacement for your position?
  • Were you ever harassed in any manner while on this job?
  • Is there anything else you would like to add to the feedback you have provided us so far?
Also, for those of you looking for information on how to hold an exit interview, these questions will serve as a guideline.

Useful Tips

As an employee, you may be able to candidly answer some questions, but the others may pose tricky, as you know you don't want to do anything to leave behind any bitter feelings.

Don't Complain

A lot of employee's use an exit interview as a medium to rant about all that has made them unhappy in the organization, and what they truly feel about it. This is not the correct way, as such behavior may be perceived as immature. Always maintain your calm, and provide constructive feedback about the place you have worked at for so long.

Don't Point Fingers at Individuals

When providing feedback, do not specifically pinpoint people you were unhappy with. Always speak of the organization as a whole.

Avoid Being Misunderstood

Many times, what you say is misunderstood as a direct attack at the organization. You don't know where this feedback is going. It may go to your manager, supervisor, or directly to the CEO of organization. In such a case, you don't want to be misunderstood. Ensure that your HR understands exactly what you are trying to say, and that it is not misconstrued.

Be Honest

This tip is essential when you are leaving the organization because of certain practices there, or if you have faced any sort of harassment from co-workers or superiors. An exit interview is held for the purpose of attaining feedback, and learning what can be done to improve the organization. 
As such, in matters such as these, put the information across as clearly as possible, without blaming anyone.

Some organizations may also give you forms that you need to fill up as an alternative to going through a face-to-face interview.
A common belief about exit interviews is that it is an invasion of an employee's privacy, as more often than not, an employee resigns for personal reasons. They also believe that such feedback should be taken from employees at regular intervals during their tenure in the organization, and not when they have decided to cross over to a rival organization.
Yet, until this thought is seriously considered by different organizations, it is a practice that is followed by many companies, and until you come across an organization that thinks otherwise, knowing how to handle it is essential for you.
The bottom line is to maintain your calm, and be confident about what you are saying. Do not risk your self-respect simply to keep your employers happy. Yet, do not point fingers at anyone and be diplomatic.