The Important Reason Why Every Personal Assistant Needs an Exit Interview

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Receiving an offer for a new job is an exciting time in anyone’s career and that is no different for every Executive and Personal Assistant. The trouble, however is that unlike most professionals seeking new employment as they have accomplished everything possible in their existing role, business support professionals leave for much different reasons.

In 2021 we interviewed 250 assistants in different sectors on the reasons they had started to explore new job prospects. The reasons included –

  • 89% directly experienced a consistent misunderstanding of their role with Executives in the dark of how to utilise them effectively according to their skillset. This same group felt pigeon-holed and had ‘hit the glass ceiling’ within 12 months of their employment.
  • 72% experienced bosses who were unable to set role specific goals that showed an interest in their professional development, meaning they were unable to fully embed themselves into the business with tangible results. This limited the possibility of pay-rises, bonuses and promotions that accurately reflected their value and impact.
  • 73% confirmed they had suffered burn out with expectations from their boss and or company. Combined with no form of recognition for regularly going above and beyond and a sacrifice of work life balance was a key component to the consideration of leaving.
  • 63% advised on feelings of loneliness and isolation even if they had colleagues fulfilling a similar or the same role.

So with such damning evidence of where companies and Executives are going wrong in enabling their support staff to flourish, how often is this feedback actually given and is it even important? Simply put…yes!!

According to Samantha Woodhouse, Channel Lead at business support recruitment company Crone Corkill, an average of only 20% of business support professionals are given the opportunity to provide feedback of their time spent in role in an exit interview.

‘Exit interviews for business support staff are vital. It’s important from the business and the Executives perspective to understand what’s not working. If you are leaving your role due to a specific problem you need to communicate that in order to allow the company to improve for the next person coming in.’

But what if you’re in that 80% bracket of individuals who will not be offered an exit interview?

What if you work for a small company with no HR department to mediate the conversation?

What if your Executive is intimidating or has acted inappropriately and giving feedback is the last thing you want to do?

Working in such an emotionally charged role where many Executives take your resignation personally doesn’t lend itself to a ‘safe space’ to organise your own exit interview.

‘In order for businesses and Executives to change they need to hear your side of things. Take the opportunity to share your experience and give them constructive feedback on ways to improve on the last day of your employment; after referencing checks for your next position have been completed. This will prevent any feedback you give your Executive from potentially impacting their response to a character reference or skillset confirmation requested from your new employer.’

So, if you feel that an exit interview is right for you (an exit interview is right for everyone) and you want to allow your Executive and company to do better, you may be left wondering where to even begin. So what’s the magic formula of delivering an impactful and professional exit interview?


The bread and butter of any Personal and Executive Assistant role is the ability to organise, communicate effectively, lead and manage upwards. Leverage these skills and plan your conversation in advance. Sam’s advice on the structure of your exit interview?

‘Take the classic sandwich approach – begin with something positive, move on to providing some constructive criticism and then end again on a positive note. Do not fall into the trap of trying to freestyle any situation where you are giving feedback so plan what these points are in advance and then communicate them confidently throughout the conversation’.

Example: You join a business which has a mission you are on board with, there are amazing benefits, the salary is great and you get on well with your Executive.

For the first 6-9 months you can’t wait to get to your desk every morning however you soon start to plateau and you ask your Executive if you can utilise your strengths in other ways, i.e. helping with projects, attending client events, improving processes etc.

Even though you reassure your Executive that your day job won’t slip, they deny your request to become more involved and you become stagnant in a position where your potential is ignored and you are no longer learning or developing as a professional. You wait it out for another 6 months to see if anything changes, unfortunately it doesn’t and your requests are constantly declined.

Exit interview conversation structure:

  1. Positive: ‘I started working here over a year ago and have enjoyed immersing myself in an environment which aligns with my values. The people are brilliant and I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside you and learning from you as an Executive.
  2. Constructive criticism: 6 months ago I spoke to you about developing new responsibilities outside of my job description which utilised my other strengths and skills. I reassured you that my day job wouldn’t be impacted as I could balance the new responsibilities with my support to you however I was disappointed when these requests were rejected. Even though I enjoy working here, it’s important to me to have the opportunity to be more involved in the bigger picture and use my other skills which my new role gives me. From experience in supporting you for the last 12+ months, there is definitely scope for your new assistant to be more involved with other areas of the department and support you in other ways. (This would then be a great time to provide one or two examples and recommendations your Exec can use moving forward).
  3. Positive: Thank you for the opportunity and I wish you and your new Personal/Executive Assistant all the best in building a great partnership. I would love to keep in touch!

By providing easy to action feedback combined with constructive criticism, you can leave knowing that you have created a lasting impact to give your replacement a fighting chance at overcoming the issues you know are present.

Good luck and be brave, you can do this!

For further peer to peer support on this matter or to join our next members workshop on how to deliver and receive feedback, sign up here.