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Things to Ask HR in an Exit Interview

by Mary Bauer

Whether you’re leaving your job to start your own company, to pursue further education or because you’ve landed an even better job, don’t let yourself be so blinded by your hopes for the future that you forget to take advantage of the present moment. Your exit interview is an opportunity to ask last minute questions about benefits and the possibility of returning if your future endeavors don’t turn out as planned.

Clarify Insurance Coverage

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, also known as COBRA, requires most employers to provide departing employees the option of continuing their health insurance coverage at group rates on temporary basis. This insurance probably will be more expensive than you paid while employed with the company because the employer’s contribution will cease, but it is usually less expensive than coverage on the private market. The exit interview is an excellent opportunity to clarify how you can obtain COBRA coverage and how much it will cost.

Get HR Contact Information

At some point in the future, chances are good you’ll need to supply references from this employer or at least a means to confirm this portion of your employment history. During your exit interview, ask for contact information for employment confirmation and ask the HR representative to explain what kind of information the company shares with prospective future employers.

Build a Return Path

Life doesn’t always go as planned. That new dream job may turn out to be a nightmare beyond your wildest imaginings, or your new employer may decide to conduct layoffs six months from now. If you’re going into business for yourself, you may not succeed. Your plan to take time off to be with children or aging parents may be scuttled if your spouse loses his job. Whatever your future plans, leave yourself a safety net just in case they don’t work out. During your exit interview, make it clear that you want to leave on good terms and ask for the best way to contact the company if you decide that you want to come back.

Leave the Sour Grapes at Home

You may be tempted to use the exit interview as an opportunity to lay out everything the company does wrong or to vent about how awful your boss is. Don’t do it. Remember that companies in the same industry share information with one another. Anything bad you say about this company may be passed on to a future employer, and you risk being labeled as a whiner or malcontent if you gripe too much. As painful as it may seem, take this opportunity to convey to the company, via the HR interviewer, your thanks for the opportunity to work there. While it may not have been the most pleasant experience of your life, the company provided you with a salary, as well as experience that will help your professional growth and advancement.

About the Author

A retired federal senior executive currently working as a management consultant and communications expert, Mary Bauer has written and edited for senior U.S. government audiences, including the White House, since 1984. She holds a Master of Arts in French from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, French and international relations from Aquinas College.

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