Many organisations like to conduct exit interviews with departing employees towards the end of their notice period. The point of an exit interview is supposed to be the organisation’s chance to find out what went wrong, so they can learn from the exiting employee’s feedback and hopefully avoid losing other employees for similar reasons in the future. However, giving too much honest feedback and venting your spleen about your megalomaniac boss might burn bridges and have negative consequences on your career. Think before you speak because ultimately, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
To help you avoid any unnecessary awkwardness, here’s some practical exit interview tips:
Don’t feel stressed about your exit interview because in the grand scheme of things it means very little to you. You’ve already done the hard bit and there isn’t anything significant at stake unless you say something really stupid. This is an exit interview and not a job interview so there’s no pressure to impress. Just be honest but tactful and it will be fine.
You may feel that now is the time for you to deliver some mind blowing, game-changing revelations about a business process that could be improved or somebody who's a HR disaster waiting to happen. Just bear in mind that unless management are particularly narrow minded or useless, they will already be aware of the situation. They may also question why you’ve never mentioned something that you consider so serious before. Either way, don’t expect a organisational change to result from your observations.
Some companies have on-going culture problems which are never really dealt with. You must remember that although you're escaping, your colleagues will left behind, and if you work in a negative atmosphere or poorly-ran office, they will have to deal with the consequences of anything you say which involves them. Don’t speak for anybody else and focus on your own experience and any issues you’ve encountered personally. You don’t need to tell them that Beryl is stressed out and that Clarence is searching job boards every lunch time.
No matter what problems you’ve had with the organisation, or the reason you’re leaving, try to keep your answers professional and as free from emotion as possible. Always stick with facts, not opinion. You might have to deal with the organisation again in the future so keep everything civilised so you can leave with your reputation intact. Remember that anything you say about your manager or colleagues will probably get back to them so being nice is a safer option because you never know if your paths will cross again or if somebody informally references you.
It’s best to prepare for your exit interview in advance and think about what you’d like to say. This is the best way to get your point across tactfully and not say anything you or somebody else might regret. Always be diplomatic and give honest feedback. Here’s a list of typical exit interview questions so you can think of ways to answer them:
Whilst it’s true that going in all guns blazing about the horrors you’ve faced would be a dreadful idea, you shouldn’t be completely dishonest either. It’s perfectly fine and it is usually expected that you will not be completely positive about all aspects of your employment.
It’s okay to say that the role was no longer challenging or that you have been offered a better salary and package. Just keep your reasoning professional, refrain from getting too emotional and never mention colleagues except in a positive fashion – maybe Clarence deserves more recognition or Beryl has been especially helpful with new starters.
The key thing to focus on is your professionalism and reputation. Leave your old company on a positive note and never make an enemy by accident.