4 Exit Interview Do's and Don'ts (with Sample Questions)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you resign from a company, they may ask you to answer some questions regarding your role and why you're deciding to leave. The information you provide can allow them to improve the company's policies and operations. Learning about the different questions your employer might ask when leaving your position with them can help you form answers beforehand to prepare you for the conversation. In this article, we define what an exit interview is, discuss why it's important, show sample questions and answers for you to review and examine the do's and don'ts of taking part in this interview.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a survey businesses can conduct to determine why professionals are leaving their position with the company. Not every company takes part in this interview, but some do to help develop solutions to improve the company for the current and future employees. Often, your manager or human resources professional conducts this interview with you. You have the option to decline the interview. It's important for you to determine if it's worth sharing your feedback with the company, such as if you had major challenges that led you to your decision.

Related: 14 Exit Interview Questions Examples (with Explanations)

The importance of exit interviews

Organisations may use these interviews to reduce their turnover rate. Asking questions about why you're leaving, what they could have done differently and how you felt about working for them overall can give them an idea about how their other professionals may feel. If a company conducts several of these interviews while asking the same questions each time, they can use benchmarks and metrics to help them determine changes they might make and what to keep the same for future professionals at the company.

As a professional, you may find these interviews beneficial to take part in because you can help current and future employees. If particular conditions caused you to leave, you can tell the human resources professional. When you share this feedback with them, they may change policies or strategies for the better.

5 sample answers to common exit interview questions

Here's a list of sample questions with tips on how to approach them:

1. Why did you start looking for another job?

When answering this question, it's helpful for you to be honest. Your answer may inspire policy improvements or a change in managerial positions overall to benefit the company.

Example: 'I experienced a challenge that was slow in its resolution. I felt I was being overworked with tasks that weren't part of my job description. When I asked for help from my manager, he kept putting it off instead of dealing with the issue. That wasn't the only reason I began my job search, but it was one of the key factors. In my role here, I didn't feel like my talents weren't being used to their full potential.'

Related: 15 Ways on How to Communicate Effectively at the Workplace

2. Why are you leaving?

This may appear to be the same as the first question, but being asked in this manner may yield an original answer. These two questions work in tandem to help managers determine where the problem began and what specific event may have led to the employee's resignation.

Example: 'The issue I brought up previously has been going on for quite some time now. Although I still tried my best to work around it, the issue hindered my work productivity. I also found the position I accepted better aligns with my values and can help me work towards my career goals.'

3. Did you feel you were well-equipped to do your job?

This question often relates to software and office equipment. For example, you might say that the company software was not up to standard. Do remember to be polite and descriptive when detailing the challenges you've faced while working at the company. It's helpful to remain polite to maintain your professional relationship with the company.

Example: 'In most cases, yes, but our computers would have benefited from software upgrades. Increased speed and performance would have improved our productivity. I feel I could've done my job more efficiently if we'd been given upgraded technology to keep up with the increase in work demand in the past year.'

Related: How to Be Efficient at Work in 9 Steps (Plus Benefits)

4. How would you describe the culture of our company?

This is another question in which the manager may try to identify trends. These trends not only help to identify concerns, but they can also separate legitimate problems from personal opinions. As a former employee, if you've experienced any challenges with the culture of the company or with a specific colleague, you can share that with the human resources professional. This can help them identify who they might speak to or determine how to make the culture reflect the values of the company better.

Example: 'We have a friendly atmosphere. My colleagues have been pleasant to work with. Management could be less harsh when mistakes occur, but as long as you do the job well, they keep to themselves.'

Related: What Is a Good Work Environment? (Plus Other FAQs)

5. What could we have done for you to remain employed here?

Asking a direct question like this gives employees a better opportunity to open up about their situation. The company can use your answer to change the way they operate certain aspects of the company. For example, you might share that you desired a hybrid working situation, where you worked from home part-time and worked in the office the other half of the time. The company may consider this and ask their current employees if that's something they feel they could benefit from and might help improve their productivity.

Example: 'I feel like if our team had more training opportunities and more time to collaborate, like sharing feedback on a project, I could've felt more confident in my work. Often, I felt I had to learn everything on my own time and work alone with little guidance or feedback, which I didn't enjoy. It brought my confidence down in my ability to perform my job well.'

4 exit interviews do's and don'ts

For exit interviews to be effective, it's helpful for you to understand what companies expect out of the meeting. The following list explores what to do and not do during an exit interview:

1. Reflect on the experience

During exit interviews, employers often ask about the overall experience. They do this to assess what worked and what didn't to improve.

Do: Consider what you learned during your employment. Determine if there were any situations where you became a better employee and why it happened. Explain what facilitated this and how to encourage similar situations in the future. Also, take the time to introduce the people you worked with and why you enjoyed working with them. During employment, if any circumstances could benefit from improvement, explain your thoughts in a friendly, informative manner.

Don't: Focus on all the negative situations that transpired. Employers understand that supervisors and their teams don't always synchronise effectively. If this occurred, try instead to offer helpful insight into how the manager could improve.

2. Plan and prepare

Give this interview the same importance as a job interview. Aim to be punctual, well dressed and prepared.

Do: Before the exit interview, review the course of employment and ensure you can explain situations positively. Bring any materials that might support your position, such as emails or other records.

Don't: Attend the interview in casual attire or without materials. Taking this process seriously allows it to become a learning experience for both the company and yourself.

3. Provide facts

Effective exit interviews offer measurable and provable facts. Neither party gains anything from the situation if the employee only contributes hearsay or biased opinions.

Do: Provide details on why you left and offer a viable solution. For example, if you left due to a low salary, provide data on national averages for the position. With this knowledge, they can take steps to improve their role in the future.

Don't: Spend the interview complaining about low pay. Employers can't help those who use the interview as an opportunity to voice their frustrations and nothing more. They require actionable solutions for change.

4. Maintain a relationship with the company

During the interview, you might share some challenges or negative viewpoints about your role and the company with the hiring manager. It's important to share your feelings and experiences, but it's also important to maintain a positive or neutral relationship with the company.

Do: Share your feelings and experiences that led you to find a new position elsewhere, but share some perks of working for the company. You can talk about how it helped prepare you for your upcoming role. At the end of the interview, thank them for the opportunity they provided you with and the skills you've developed with them.

Don't: It's important to share your feelings but avoid berating the company to the professional conducting the meeting. Be mindful of your tone and your body language when speaking. It's also important to remember this applies to social media. When you're online, avoid sharing the negative feelings and experiences you had with the company, and especially avoid using their name.

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