While it may seem unimportant, it’s still a good idea to be prepared for common exit interview questions before beginning the conversations. Remember, what you say in these interviews can still have an impact on your career!
This guide will teach you how to answer exit interview questions in a way that’s helpful and still leaves a great impression.
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Why Do Companies Conduct Exit Interviews?
Exit interviews are a way for companies to gain more insight into employee satisfaction and how they can improve. They typically occur on your last day. Whether in person or through a video call, these interviews are a big deal for employers.
They serve to help organizations make improvements for future employees. While not required by law to conduct, it’s an opportunity to be helpful and leave a good impression on your way out. Companies care about your experience while working there, and your answers can ultimately inspire change aimed at improving the employee experience, lowering turnover rates, and creating a better work environment.
Exit Interview Questions and Answers
While this interview might seem like it holds no weight for you, maintaining a sense of professionalism is paramount. It’s best to approach these interviews with grace, respect, and plenty of preparation.
Think carefully before you answer all exit interview questions and evaluate whether your answer could negatively impact how the company regards you professionally. This is not the time to discuss all your grievances with the company or about your manager. Prioritize the main point you want to make.
Here’s a collection of common exit interview questions you can expect to hear (plus some tips on how to answer them).
1. Why are you leaving?
You can almost guarantee that this exit interview question will come up. It helps the company understand your thought processes. It also helps determine if your decision was based solely on something related to the company or if your choice to leave is because of a situation that’s out of your hands.
Remain tactful. Explain your reason for selecting the new job without going into more detail than you want.
“I’ve enjoyed working here over the last several years, but I found a position that better suits my career goals. It’s for a leadership position, and I believe it provides more growth opportunities.”
2. How did you feel about the company culture?
Companies work hard to develop an attractive culture for employees. However, that doesn’t always pan out. This question is tough to answer, and it can be challenging to remain professional if a toxic work environment is to blame for your departure.
The best approach is to identify positives while recognizing that there’s room for improvement if that’s the case. Use specific examples of behaviors that could be improved rather than pointing a finger at a person.
“I believe that the culture is on track to being more positive. Now that management sees the value of employee input, morale is starting to improve. I think that the culture can benefit from more opportunities to empower employees. Giving people a voice and easy channels to communicate ideas with management can make a noticeable difference.”
3. Did you feel supported by your manager?
Here’s another exit interview question that you want to approach carefully. No matter what, avoid bad-mouthing your managers. If there are issues with that leader’s management style, the company likely already knows about it.
If your relationship was good, don’t hesitate to say that. But if it was not great, acknowledge that while finding something positive to say.
“I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with my manager, but they provided enough support to help us complete several projects successfully.”
4. How did you feel about management, and what can they do better?
This question is an opportunity to share some things you didn’t like. Once again, honesty is the best policy, but objective responses are the best way to remain professional.
Develop an answer that helps the interviewer see things from your perspective. Be specific and provide actionable advice if possible.
“Ultimately, I feel OK about how management supported me in this position. But there’s always room to make improvements.
If I had any feedback to give, it would be that my role felt underutilized in several situations. I believe that a little more independence at the start of my employment could have created more innovation, allowing me to add more value to the company.”
5. What could we have done to keep you from leaving?
Companies ask this exit interview question to get actionable feedback from departing employees. Interviewers want to know what the company could have done to prevent you from leaving. The goal is to take that feedback to heart and hopefully apply it to remaining employees and reduce turnover.
You can provide that feedback if it’s professional. Otherwise, the best way to answer this question is to simply say that you were ready for something new.
“I’m not sure if there’s anything the company could have done directly to prevent me from leaving. I’m ready for the next phase of my career. I’m looking for new challenges and opportunities, and I must leave to get them.”
6. What should we look for in your replacement?
Here’s an exit interview question that gives you a chance to facilitate real change. You know your job better than anyone else. Was there anything about the day-to-day in this position that you had to adjust to because it wasn’t mentioned in the initial job description?
If so, talk about it. This feedback could guide hiring managers in the right direction when searching for your replacement.
“My job involved a great deal of problem-solving at the eleventh hour. It wasn’t something I was prepared to do initially, but I adapted and got better with time. I think that my replacement should come into this position with some problem-solving skills so they can succeed from day one.
7. What caused you to start looking for a new job?
This question aims to determine if there was a catalyst for your decision. Was there any specific moment that made you think it was time to move on?
Again, avoid pointing fingers. You can talk about that “ah-ha” moment, but it’s usually better to keep things general.
“I had a great time working here and learned a lot in my many years in this position. However, I felt that it was time for a change. I needed new experiences and challenges, so I decided to begin my job search and expand my horizons.”
8. Did we give you what you needed to succeed?
Of course, every company wants to give you the tools to succeed. Your success is their success. Unfortunately, leadership isn’t always aware of issues that occur in the day-to-day.
This exit interview question aims to unveil those problems so that leaders can address them. The best approach is to understand the organization’s limitations. You don’t want to place too much blame on the company.
“Generally, I had what I needed to succeed. However, I think that future employees could benefit from additional training and more in-depth onboarding. I understand that resources are limited, but more training could help future position-holders fulfill this role to the best of their abilities.”
9. Would you recommend working here to others?
This question is a way to see how you truly feel about the company. If you had a great time there, why wouldn’t you recommend people?
When answering this question, you can be provide examples of when you would and wouldn’t recommend working there.
“I would recommend this job if it matched someone’s career goals and aspirations. It’s not for everyone. But for those looking to gain experience in this field, it’s a great opportunity to do so.”
10. Would you ever consider working for us in the future?
Here’s another tricky exit interview question that could burn bridges if you’re not careful. It’s a question that helps the company see where they stand with employees.
You don’t have to get into the details if you don’t want to. In fact, the best answer is often one that leaves the door open to the possibility of future employment.
“This company has provided us with many opportunities to learn new skills and gain experience. Ultimately, my career goals are my biggest priority. But if the right opportunity and job offer came my way, I’d certainly consider returning sometime in the future.”
11. What did you like most about this job?
It’s not always about the negative! Exit interviews can also highlight what the company does right. This question serves to identify the company’s strong suits, giving leadership more insight into what positives they can lean on.
Be honest here. This question is usually easier to answer than others. Think about what you liked most and talk about it.
“My favorite part of this job was collaborating with my colleagues. This company provided many opportunities for teamwork. It’s expanded my creative skills and forced me to think outside the box. Thanks to the constant collaboration, I believe my skills have improved dramatically.”
12. What did you dislike most about this job?
With the good comes the bad. This question is about providing direct feedback. Feel free to objectively talk about your pain points.
However, you must be prepared to justify the things you don’t like. Be specific and provide a reason as to why you didn’t enjoy certain aspects of the job.
“My least favorite aspect of the job was having to be on-call during the weekends. As a parent, I spent weekends with my kids and creating those all-important memories. While I know that being available was paramount to the role, I would have liked to enjoy my weekends without having to keep an eye on my phone.”
13. What does your new position offer that you can’t get here?
This exit interview question has a more direct purpose. The interviewer is trying to see how competitive the company is in the current job market. Organizations need to provide attractive employment packages to get the best people onboard.
Whether it’s a better salary, more growth opportunities, or better benefits, don’t hesitate to bring it up.
“The biggest thing I’ll get from my new position is exposure to more demanding clients. Here, I was responsible for overseeing relatively small accounts. While that helped prepare me for a bigger challenge, I cannot get that exposure to major accounts here.”
14. Did we provide you with clear direction?
Here’s a question that’s more focused on the performance of management and leadership in the company. They want to know that you were led in the right direction while you worked here.
Again, this is a trick question to answer. You don’t want to bad-mouth your managers directly. Doing so may lead to them providing a negative job reference in the future.
You can be honest, but throw in some positives in your response.
“For the most part, I felt very supported in this role. I received clear direction, but I think future position-holders could benefit from more transparency. A little more clarity into project objectives may make things easier when tackling complex initiatives.”
15. Are you proud of any work or projects you were involved in?
This exit interview question is another chance to say something positive. Companies want to know that it wasn’t all bad. It doesn’t matter why you’re leaving your job. There are likely some moments you’re proud of during your time working for the company.
Reflect on your experiences and talk about your proudest.
“There are plenty of projects I look back on fondly. The one that comes to mind most is the first major project I led. I was nervous about the responsibility, but the final product is something I stand by today.”
16. Did we give you enough training when you first started working here?
Training and onboarding are something that all companies strive to improve. If there were any issues when you started, bring them up. Again, be objective and don’t lean too heavily on the negatives.
Your feedback can help improv training programs for future employees.
“I felt like my training was adequate, but I wasn’t always clear about my role in the organization. I didn’t always feel like I had enough resources or support to do my job to the best of my abilities. In the beginning, I felt a little lost until I got into the swing of things.
I think more personalized coaching catered to this role could eliminate that confusion for future employees.”
17. Do you think the company did a good job of supporting your career goals?
Last but not least, we have this exit interview question about expectations. Everyone goes into a job hoping that it serves their long-term goals. With this question, companies want to know if that was the case for you.
Did the job help you move forward? Think about where you were before applying and where you are now. Then, talk about the difference the company and job made.
“This role absolutely helped support my career. When I first started, I had limited experience in this field. I learned so much at this company and now feel confident enough to take those skills elsewhere.
I’m forever grateful for the opportunity, but I’m ready for new challenges.”
How to Answer Exit Interview Questions
Exit interviews can be tougher to get through than you think. Your job is a big part of your life, and your reasons for leaving could be emotionally charged. Don’t make the mistake of going to this interview to cast blame or vent your complaints.
It requires just as much thought and preparation as any other work meeting. Follow these tips, and you can get through it without any issues.
Practice Your Responses
Early preparation can make it far easier to answer exit interview questions. Look through the list above and develop good responses for each. Then, practice reciting them to others so that you sound confident.
It’s easy to let your emotions get the best of you during an exit interview. Unfortunately, many scorned employees use it as an opportunity to unleash their pent-up anger about the job. Please don’t be that person. It’s not worth it!
It’s much better to remain on good terms with your former employer. Burning bridges will only hurt you in the future.
In addition to staying professional, keep individuals out of your conversation. Again, it’s tempting to target one person. Maybe you had beef with a manager.
There are ways to talk about individuals without bringing them up directly. Keep it objective and focus on the company itself rather than specific people.
Find Something Positive to Say
It’s always good to end on a positive note. Before your exit interview finishes, find something positive to say. You might have to dig deep, but there’s always something good to take away from experience.
Perhaps you learned a new skill or had a fantastic relationship with a specific manager or colleague. Talk about those positives!
Like any other interview, you can jot down some notes to record what you discussed. Notes will help you keep your ducks in a row and avoid confusion about agreements or arrangements.
Finally, stay calm! Nonverbal body language can be just as telling as harsh words. Take a few deep breaths and get yourself in the right mindset before entering an exit interview.
Being ready for some of the most common exit interview questions is good for everyone. Not only will you be able to provide valuable feedback to the company, but you’ll leave a fantastic impression on your way out the door.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.