OFFICE POLITICS 101: The exit interview – what should I say?
Q: I’ve resigned my job and will be leaving in a few weeks to take a position with another company. My supervisor and I did not get along, which is one reason I’m leaving. Now our human resources department wants to do an “exit interview” with me. What should I say? Can I be candid?
Exit interviews are prescribed by many companies so you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable with the prospect of meeting with someone in your HR department.
It is important to remember that exit interviews are really more about the company than you.
After all, you’re leaving in any case so any information you provide will be used to assist management in understanding staff concerns and building morale.
You can expect your interview to be somewhat formal with a structured approach designed to elicit views that can be compared with those of others.
While you won’t need to prepare for the meeting—unlike a job interview, for example—you could nonetheless reflect on what you will plan to reveal should the questions become more pointed.
Under no circumstances should you consider the exit interview as an opportunity to “tell all” or slam your employer.
This will likely be your last interview with the company so you don’t want to leave a negative final impression.
You state that you and your supervisor did not get along; however, while he or she may be content that you are leaving, you might need a reference in the future so you don’t want to destroy this relationship.
As to being candid, I’d recommend you keep any criticisms of your supervisor to yourself.
As noted, a future employer may want to make contact so you’ll need to ensure that your work record is largely positive.
Besides, even though human resources is professional and confidential, it is possible that a few of your comments could be communicated informally to your supervisor.
Don’t worry about the exit interview: all departing employees will have such a meeting.
Be somewhat cautious with your comments and resist the temptation to detail condemnations of the company—and your supervisor—which will not impact you in any event.
• Simon Gibson is an experienced university professor, marketing executive and corporate writer. He has a PhD in education from Simon Fraser University and a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to firstname.lastname@example.org.