Purpose of Exit Interview + 3 Tips on How Honest You Should Be

exit interviewWhether you’ve had a truly negative experience at the company or simply want to pack up your desk and head for bigger and better things, trying to articulate your feedback in an exit interview can be like walking through a mine field.   There are two purpose to an employee exit interview – one for the company and the other for you.

  1. For the company, exit interviews are often enormously helpful in letting the company know what the employee experience is like and what they should work on.
  2. For you as the soon to be ex-employee, handling your exit interview in a professional and constructive manner can help you build important contacts, get a good reference letter, and ensure that the door can be open to you if you ever want to come back.

It might be tempting to lay all your grievances out on the table, but you shouldn’t. A strong exit interview means telling the truth, but maybe not the whole truth.  Here are 3 tips on how honest you should be

Tip #1. What You’ll Be Asked
Exit interviews are a great way to decrease employee turnover and prevent wrongful termination lawsuits, so asking the right questions is important for every Human Resources department. You can expect a series of open-ended questions that aim to get you to discuss your time with the company, but of course, the most important one is – why are you resigning? Your boss probably assumes it’s about your paycheck, but a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 19,000 employees found that compensation is actually the third-most common reason for quitting. The first two? Lack of promotion opportunities and lack of respect from your supervisor.   Don’t be afraid to speak up if you fall into one or more of these top three categories. It’s likely that HR is very familiar with these complaints.

Tip #2. Framing Negative Information
When you start opening up about the job you are leaving, you can come off as more negative than you even intend to be, which is why practicing constructive criticism is crucial. If you have serious problems with company policies, or if you were routinely overloaded with paperwork and found your tasks difficult to complete, HR needs to know. They might consider redefining and reshaping your position before they find someone else to fill it based on what they learn from you. Complaints that are helpful are one thing, but rein it in when talking about disputes with your boss or other employees or petty things that bothered you. If possible, couch all your negative remarks with something positive and let them know you’re not just looking for an excuse to trash talk other people.

Tip #3. Things to Know Before You Consider Being Honest
Everything you say in your exit interview will make it back to related parties, whether that be your former boss or your coworkers. You may think you’ll never need references or connections from this company again, but it’s far better to play it safe. That’s not to say you should outright lie. Usually, HR staff are pretty savvy about who is afraid to really tell the truth, and if you are hedging or heaping glorious praise on a company you’re trying to leave, they’ll know it. It’s perfectly valid to say you feel stifled or you need more money or opportunities for growth. But when it comes to your personal gripes, it’s usually best to hold back. You are hurting your credibility by saying too much, and this kind of feedback doesn’t help the company or the other workers.

What you should say in an exit interview will depend on how bad the situation was that you’re leaving and how much you want to retain contacts at the company. But do yourself a favor and err on the side of caution. Not only will you look good in the eyes of HR and your former employer, you will present yourself as a courteous, helpful, and professional worker. That’s never a bad habit to get into.

Your comments:  How honest are you in your exit interview? Have these tips helped you? Add your comments below.

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Guest Author: Brett Harris blogs for several colleges that offer human resource degrees. A top online Masters in Human Resources degree can help further your career in the business world.

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