How to answer the most common exit interview questions

  • The number of Americans leaving their jobs peaked at 4.4 million in September.
  • Exit interviews are not just a formality but an important tool for employers and employees.
  • During an exit interview, employees should be honest but respect their scruples.

The Great Resignation is reaching its climax – again.

The number of workers leaving their jobs in the United States peaked in 20 years in September, at 4.4. million, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sectors that experienced particularly high quit rates included the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, and the government education industry.

As millions of Americans from all walks of life leave their jobs, many will participate in a usual practice: the exit interview.

While often seen as a formality, the exit interview should be handled with the utmost professionalism, career experts told Insider. This is an opportunity for the employer to learn about team issues and for the employee to leave the door open to networking with former colleagues.

It can be difficult to navigate. It is important that you remain professional throughout the process, but also honest with the challenges you have encountered during your time with the company.

Brie Reynolds, Career Development Manager at FlexJobs, told Insider how anyone can answer the six most common exit interview questions.

Why are you leaving?

This is one of the most asked questions and allows the company to determine if there are any issues within their organization that have prompted you to change jobs.

Reynolds said honesty is always the best policy.

“The exit interview from a business perspective should be an open place where you can really share things,” she said. “You’re not going to work there anymore. So you should feel a little more open.”

But she cautioned not to be too critical of the company or your former manager. Keep your answers truthful but vague to avoid unnecessary burning of bridges, she said.

Did you have the tools to be successful in your job?

While a phone or computer may be necessary to do your job, so too are mentoring and professional development tools.

Employees shouldn’t use this question as an opportunity to complain about things they didn’t like about their jobs, Reynolds said. They should primarily share feedback which is actionable, she said.

“One of the most important things we always recommend is finding ways to help the transition,” Reynolds said.

Employees need to identify the tools that they would like future employees to have and that they believe are necessary to be successful.

How was your manager?

When answering this question, employees should treat it as if their manager would hear their answer. As companies try to determine whether you’re leaving your job because of the job or your boss, employees need to be explicit in their compliments but general in their criticisms, Reynolds said.

“You never know when you’re going to meet someone again,” Reynolds said. “You never know who will be your boss in the future.”

By the time employees complete an exit interview, they should have a good understanding of how the company receives feedback, and they should use that information to help determine how much or how little to share, Reynolds said.

What did you like and dislike about this job?

The rule of thumb is to always start with something positive, Reynolds said.

This will lighten the mood before delving into more critical comments.

“Just start by saying that overall your experience has been very positive and you wanted to mention this thing because you think there is room for improvement there,” Reynolds said.

Employers will use the answer to this question to determine what might change in the position.

Would you recommend the company to others?

Much like most of the previous questions, employees shouldn’t go into too much detail, Reynolds said.

Employers ask this question for one obvious reason: to figure out what they can change about the job to make it more attractive.

Some companies will take the exit interview information seriously and pass employee feedback to the team leader or manager, Reynolds said.

What are your recommendations?

This is one of the last questions companies normally ask during an exit interview.

Answers to this question should highlight the facets of the business or work that you think should change, but should avoid giving a step-by-step description of how the change should be implemented.

“I think when you suggest things you also have to give them the opportunity to implement them in a way that they think is desirable,” Reynolds said. “But also because you are leaving this business, you also want to be mindful of your own time.”

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