Employers often conduct exit interviews with employees who are leaving. They ask the soon-to-be-former employees their opinions about the workplace, bosses and coworkers…why they’re leaving…and other questions that could help the employer. Those employees should take advantage of this opportunity to ask some questions that will be useful to them, too. In fact, it’s best to e-mail the questions below to whichever human resources employee will be interviewing you several days before the interview…
• Am I owed money for unused vacation days or paid time off? If so, how much? State law or company policy might dictate that employees get compensated if they have these remaining when they leave—but employers sometimes overlook this.
• When do my health, life and disability insurance coverage end? Employer-provided insurance benefits typically terminate at the end of the month in which the employee leaves the company, but this can vary.
• I know I am covered by a confidentiality agreement, but are there any other continuing restrictions I should know about? If you had access to your employer’s trade secrets, you almost certainly were required to sign an agreement prohibiting you from sharing that information. But it’s worth asking about additional restrictions. You might have signed a noncompete clause barring you from working for the employer’s competitors for some amount of time…a nonsolicitation clause barring you from trying to hire away the company’s employees or take its customers…a nonhire clause barring you from hiring the company’s employees even if they come to you seeking work…and/or stock-trading restrictions that limit your right to buy or sell shares in the company soon after leaving. If there are restrictions, ask for copies of what you signed.
• Can I get a copy of (or a look at) my human resources file? In some states, employers are legally required to provide employees access to their files upon request, and employers sometimes provide access even when they are not required to. Follow-up: If you discover anything negative in your file that you do not believe is correct, question it and ask whether it can be removed.
• When do you need my exit paperwork back? I’ll have my lawyer look it over. Outgoing employees inevitably are given documents to sign during their exit interviews. Take these home, and read them carefully before signing—you typically have 10 days to review them. If you’re not certain of the implications of any of the documents or if you have an existing or a potential dispute with the employer, have an employment lawyer review them as well.
• Who should I contact in the HR department if I have additional questions later? Having a specific person to call and a direct phone number can make it easier to get answers.