THE CLASSY WAY TO LEAVE
First things first, before you get to your exit interview you need to have actually resigned. Without going into too much detail, we’re going to cover the standard rules of resignation. Not sure if you should resign or not? Check out our article on ‘Should I Resign?’
Giving In Your Notice of Resignation
Never hand in your resignation unless you have a signed offer from your new employer. You don’t want to resign then end up with egg on your face when it all backfires and you end up with no salary for months on end.
Make sure you know how much notice you need to give. This should be established in your contract of employment, but if you’re at a more informal company then the general guideline is 2 weeks’ notice.
Determine the best time for you to resign. If you have a benefit plan, or something similar, then you should see how resignation affects it and if a certain date/month would be best. Try stick it out until then if you can, since it’s in your best interest.
Remove all personal files from your work computer (if you have access to one) before handing in your resignation. If there’s a chance of your manager having a case of sour grapes with your notice, you don’t want them to have access to your personal documents – just in case.
Give your resignation face to face. It’s easy to want to send an email or even over the phone, but it’s far more professional in person. This degree of professionalism will come in handy if you’re not on the best of terms with your employer.
ALWAYS inform your employer of your decision to resign BEFORE telling your office bestie. Not only is gossip sometimes too juicy no to share, which could land in your employers ear before you’ve had a chance to get there, letting your boss know first shows a degree of respect and professionalism that will stand out in your favour.
Make the Last Days Good Days
This is your last chance to leave a favourable impression on both your clients as well as with your employer.
Help with the transition of losing you – if there is someone appointed in your place, aid in their training and explain what your duties were. Show appreciation for what you learned whilst in the position.
Resist the urge to brag about the next step of your career. You don’t want to come across as smug and you also don’t want to sow any discontent in the workplace.
Although these are your last days and it’s easy to have a ‘whatever, I’m leaving soon’ attitude, avoid confrontation at all costs. This is not the time for you to settle old scores. On the other hand, you might encounter management or other colleagues with the urge to get feisty – disengage yourself from any situation like this and make sure that you are not at fault. Those bridges need to be standing when you leave the company.
Contact clients and send a blanket email informing them of your departure from the company. Keep it classy; no bitching or reasons need to be given, and don’t try poach. Add the contact details for your replacement or another of your colleagues.
Try say goodbye to each individual colleague if possible, otherwise personalised notes will suffice. An email is sufficient if you had a large team with very little interaction. Be sincere.
Question to Prepare For
An exit interview is literally as its name implies – an interview of sorts. So there are going to be questions. How you respond to these questions greatly effects on what sort of terms you leave the company, as well as their reaction afterwards (was it something they could have prevented, and how?).
It is important to prepare your responses to these questions beforehand, since the last thing you want is to sit there with your mouth open and be hit with a mind blank. That way nothing can or will be resolved, which can lead to discontent from either your side or theirs, or both. If you’re not sure you’ll remember what to address, then write bullet points on notepaper and put it in your pocket just in case.
What Are the Main Reasons for Your Resignation?
Why are you leaving? This is your opportunity to clear the air but it’s also important to stay diplomatic and to keep your emotions under control. Don’t get personal with your remarks. If you’re not sure whether or not your response is suitable, have someone you trust (preferably whose not in the same industry and not connected to your employer in any way) listen to what you’d like to say beforehand and have them give you feedback.
This question can also be asked in a different way: “What were the deciding factors, or triggers, which made you decide to leave?
Did Working Here Help Reach Your Career Goals?
Think about promotions, think about all the training you’ve received whilst working there (whether formal or informal training). Consider new techniques you were taught, customer service skills you picked up, problem solving and problem management skills.
Do not disregard anything you learned and make sure you mention how grateful you are for all this added knowledge and experience.
Which Part of Your Position Did You Enjoy the Most?
Be sincere. Mention more than one, if you can. If there wasn’t much you enjoyed, then really dig deep and mention at least one thing, even if it just the great coffee available for employees or the staff discount (try think of something better than that!).
Which Part of Your Position Did You Enjoy the Least?
Do not go on a witch-hunt here. Again, be diplomatic and impersonal. You can mention lack of opportunities for growth, salary, attitude of the management, attitude of fellow colleagues, etc etc, as long as you remain professional and relevant. Think before you talk and consider if what you’re saying is petty or a real problem.
Were the Duties You Performed What You Expected When You Joined?
Did things change? Were you carrying out duties for which you weren’t trained or prepared? Did you find yourself having to complete the tasks of others? Was the possibility of having to do this explained to you when you first joined the company?
Did You Receive the Training and Support Necessary for Your Position?
Formal or informal training can be included here. The lack of any training which you felt was pertinent may also be mentioned.
Do You Feel You Received Recognition for Good/Bad Work?
Be honest and fair. Try think back to each incident you felt deserved attention – did you get it?
Did You Feel Your Performance Reviews Were Fair?
Be honest with yourself here. We love to think we’re the bee’s knees because we’re so afraid of being average and ‘just like everyone else’. Were you though?
Did you receive criticism which wasn’t addressed so you didn’t know how to change what you were doing wrong? Relate all this as best you can without crossing the boundary of professionalism.
What Would You Change About the Company to Make It Better?
Be careful! You don’t want to be stepping on toes! If the company is small enough for you to be dealing with the owner directly, the last thing you want to do is insult their business.
Rather, mention factors which would have kept you there had they been implemented, be these salary increase, better benefits (be specific), working hours, staff encouragement, etc.
Would You Ever Consider Returning to the Company, and Under What Circumstances?
This ties in with the previous question quite well and your answers can be very similar. Ensure you mention issues like training or salary if these are problems for you.
As long as you stay professional and impersonal, be fair and honest with both yourself and the person conducting the interview, you will get through your exit interview with flying colours and all professional bridges still intact.
Do you have questions? Are you still not quite sure what to expect? Do you have any feedback like questions you’ve been asked before that haven’t been mentioned? Let us know in the comments so we can all learn from your experiences :)