Yes, You Need To Prepare For An Exit Interview

And please, keep your resignation letter off TikTok.

by Kristine Fellizar
Originally Published: 
Two HR experts share what to say in an exit interview, and how candidly to say it.

In the last couple years, as employees have mastered Zoom calls and Slack workspaces, their HR colleagues have mastered, well, conducting exit interviews. In the second half of 2021, more than 20 millions Americans quit their jobs, peaking in November with an all-time high of 4.5 million people. So if you’ve mulled over the idea of quitting yourself, you’re not alone. (Quick tip: Bookmark this page for later.)

As for the exit interview: Before leaving a job, you’ll likely meet with a representative of the company — often a member of HR — to talk about your experiences there. It’s an opportunity to give your employer some constructive feedback before you hand over your badge and lose email access. Ideally, the company will take your suggestions and use them to fix any internal issues, says Colleen McCreary, the chief people officer at Credit Karma. “Share why you’re leaving and help them understand what would have kept you there, if anything,” says McCreary, a longtime HR executive.

According to Andrew McCaskill, a LinkedIn career expert, there’s a standard list of questions employers typically ask, which will be modified based on your specific company and role. As examples, he shares five questions he’s apt to use:

  • Why are you leaving?
  • What could we have done better or differently, if anything, to get you to stay?
  • Are there any areas you’ve noticed where we could improve — on your team, in your department, or in the company more generally?
  • What is your new role offering that we weren’t?
  • Would you ever consider returning?

Many workers feel they can be honest during these meetings, since they’ll no longer be working there, says McCaskill, who’s built and managed teams throughout his 20-plus-year career. But you’re not required to do an exit interview, he says, and you are certainly not required to answer every question.

If you decide to take the interview, here are some best practices, according to McCaskill and McCreary.

How Honest Should I Be During An Exit Interview?

Honesty is the best policy, McCaskill says. “Giving specific feedback about why you’re leaving can give the company an opportunity to make changes that could help lead to a better work environment for the co-workers you’re leaving behind,” he says. The key is to be thoughtful in your delivery, regardless of why you’re leaving.

McCreary suggests going into the meeting with a list of facts prepared, such as salary differences and dates you asked for a salary increase. “The more descriptive you are, the better,” she says. If possible, share concrete examples to back up any claims you’re making, especially regarding overtime hours or communication problems with a supervisor.

Should I Talk About Burnout?

If you’re leaving due to burnout, help them understand how you got to that point, and how it affected your job performance. Your experience wouldn’t be unusual. In 2021 Limeade, a software company dedicated to employee well-being, polled 1,000 U.S. workers who’d recently changed jobs, and 40% of respondents reported leaving their previous jobs because of burnout. Companies want to know how to retain their employees. “Sometimes burnout comes from seemingly small things that compound over time,” McCreary says. “So help your team see how you reached this point. Ideally, this feedback will help other employees in similar situations.”

Can I Burn The Bridge, Please?

Both McCaskill and McCreary recommend staying professional throughout the exit interview. No, you may not have much to lose at this point, especially if you have no intention of returning to that company. However, you never want to burn any bridges, they say — even when it comes to social media. “Even though ‘public displays of resignation’ might be popular on TikTok, hiring managers and LinkedIn members [both] say it’s unprofessional to post disparaging content about a former employer — and could hurt your future,” McCaskill says. “It’s a small world and you never know when your boss or colleagues might turn up in the future.”


Colleen McCreary, human resources professional

Andrew McCaskill, marketing, communications, and crisis management executive

Photo Credit: Vero, Raymond Forbes, Victor Torres, Victor Deschamps, Sam Burton/Stocksy

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