There is a good chance that your HR department will ask you to take part in an exit interview when you quit your job. It’s normal to have mixed feelings about the process.
Still, an exit interview can be an opportunity for you to be completely honest about your experiences with your employer and a chance to offer constructive feedback. Regardless of the reason for your exit, ensure that you remain cordial and professional during the interview.
Does the exit interview conversation matter? The answer is yes! An exit interview could be the last impression you leave with the employer.
At this time, your brand reputation will be on the line, and since it travels with you wherever you go, you never know when your current employer will be your boss again.
Let’s move straight to what you should never say during an exit interview.
If you feel underappreciated or invaluable, your employer should notice this on their own. So, keep it classy and avoid sounding nihilistic or egotistical.
We know you might be tempted to make the remaining employees feel like they are in the wrong place just because you are leaving, but it won’t cost you anything to wish them well, whether you are going on bad or good terms.
Wishing remaining employees bad things like “I wish this place dies a slow and painful death,” can only make you look petty and spiteful and say more about you than the company.
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The fact that you will not be speaking directly to your boss, unless you work in the HR department, does not mean that you should lose your cool and make careless comments about your boss.
Being too honest about your boss can be a disadvantage, especially if you ever get a chance to return to the company.
Even if it’s true that your boss wasn’t that good, make your comments about them general, kind, concise, and cheerful, and let no one accuse you of having a bias or a vendetta.
Direct insults to your former manager might be the biggest regret of your departure. There is a high chance that your new employer will do their due diligence on their new employee, and the first person they call will be your previous manager.
It might not work well if you also decide to return to the company. Therefore, never say anything negative to and about your manager.
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Pointing fingers at your fellow workers or managers or getting them into trouble because they hated you can be interpreted as being rude.
Attacking your colleagues is never kind and might not reflect well on you. It won’t benefit you and might indicate that you were a difficult person to get along with. Therefore, in your exit interview, do not get personal.
It is OK to discuss some of your colleague’s behaviors that you feel played a role in your decision to leave, but do not call out names or character assassination.
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4. I Was Excellent at My Job, Good Luck Running a Business Without Me, or One Thing I Hated About This Place
The truth is, the time to boast about how amazing you are and how lucky a company is to have you is during your entry, not your exit.
So, don’t boast about how good you are. It’s OK to point out incidents where you felt like capabilities and talents were not fully used but refrain from rubbing into HR’s face that they will be sorry once you exit.
Your exit is not an appropriate time to explain what you hated at your workplace. Keep it positive and leave the place on a high note. If you wish to give some constructive feedback to HR, be diplomatic and polite.
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Don’t make your exit be all about money. Don’t disclose your anticipated compensation, even if it’s true that it’s better than what you are getting.
Boasting about your new pay can only be interpreted as a negative slam on the company and might not reflect well even in future endeavors. Don’t be carried away, and remember to remain professional.
If you have to cast your new job to be more favorable, then emphasize the need for growth and new challenges.
Thank your employer for the opportunity to learn. Be optimistic about the future and show enthusiasm, but be keen not to do it in a manner that minimizes your former employer.
No matter how good the company you’ll be joining is or how well-paying your new job is, you should never brag. There is truth in the old saying that pride comes before a fall, and when you become too proud, fate may play a nasty trick on you that will bring you back down to earth.
Know your limits even if you are 100% sure you will never come back to work for the company. If your place of work was miserable for you, remember you’d chosen to stay before and earn a paycheck and benefits.
Leaving is a choice, so don’t make it dramatic; it only makes you look unaccountable for your career. Your exit interview might happen on your last day at your workplace, but that does not mark your previous affiliation with your employer.
I understand that it can be a bit hard to balance being cordial and honest, but it pays to frame your opinions to demonstrate your best wishes for the company.
It might also be challenging to remain warm, especially when you still have anger and frustration. However, placing what’s best for the company gives you a better chance of leaving a positive impression and having a real impact.
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Once you leave a workplace, there are high chances of a few administrative loose ends to tie up. Your employer will appreciate you more if you’ll be open and available to help whenever something arises.
You are free to draw boundaries, especially when the new employee abuses your willingness to help, but it’s a grand gesture and can earn you more respect from your former employer.
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While you might be overly excited and let every word slip your tongue, telling your HR to stay in touch might be unnecessary as it’s a phony proposition.
It’s OK to tell people you were close with and those you intend to keep in touch with, but don’t go full-blown telling it to people who rarely spoke to you for the many years you worked for the company. Try something like connecting with your former colleagues on LinkedIn instead.
Many people feel like their last working day should be a day to warn others. Many do it only to validate their exit and earn confidence that leaving is the right decision. Unfortunately, this can only be interpreted as disrespectful and rude.
Leave the remaining workers to concentrate on taking up your workload due to downsizing. It’s normal to feel the need to be vindicated about your exit by checking with others on any dissatisfaction, but this can be a dangerous endeavor.
Your soon-to-be former workplace might not have been the best, but remember, you can never trust your colleagues to be your confidants. Some might go out to ensure that you never come back to fulfill their trajectory up the food chain.
You’re better off venting your frustrations or concerns with friends or family away from the office.
This can be tempting, especially if you are terminated unexpectedly. You may want to drop in a few bombs and list problems or people you feel might have created the nightmare that cost you a job.
However, this might not win you points with HR. Instead, it might get back to your colleagues, and since some employers ask for references from your peers, it pays to maintain a positive relationship with them.
The management will have it all figured out if your termination was in the works for a while. Even if they didn’t have a plan at your point of exit, there is no point in them disclosing it to you.
While you may be curious to know what will happen to your role in the future, the question may be viewed as inappropriate. It does not matter how you craft the question; if it does not portray you as a helpful, polite, and professional employee, don’t say it, especially on your last day.
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Exit time is not a time to be unresponsive. Avoiding commenting could only mean you are hiding something or are not cooperative. Exit interviews are worth your time, and if conducted well, they can make you leave feeling good and a source of valuable feedback for your career.
It’s equally important to note that exit interviews are voluntary. Therefore, understanding your choices as an employee will help you pick the best ways to respond when asked to have an exit interview.
You can be sure to have an opinion on any question you’ll get asked in an exit interview after working for the company for a while, so it doesn’t make sense when you shy away from participating in an interview or simply saying, ‘no comment.’
Ensure that you also use appropriate language, but that does not mean you have to sugarcoat unpleasant things.
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The reasons for leaving a workplace can be many. It might be career advancement, a pay raise, professional development, a better work environment, or maybe you just got fired. Whatever the reason, your boss or colleagues might offer help with your job search or transition.
Do not turn them down. The truth is, you never know who your colleagues know in the company you’ll be joining or how they could be instrumental in helping you streamline your application for your next job.
Say yes to the offer, connect with them on LinkedIn, and contact them whenever you need more help.
Don’t speak for anyone else. When the right time to move comes, unhappy employees will move. Sharing what others feel about the company you are exiting hurts those who would have shared their story in confidence, so instead, make it all about you.
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Complaining about your sitting position on your exit can make you look like a high-maintenance person or waste other people’s time. Focusing on minor or trivial issues like the printer never worked, or there were many distractions in my sitting area, might also portray you as petty.
Instead, offer constructive feedback on more significant systematic issues that you feel might affect the company primarily.
How you communicate your ideas during an exit interview is more important than what you say. Your departure should never be the reason to throw words or speak crudely and unacceptably.
Whether your experience with the company was awful or great doesn’t matter. Strive to leave the company respectfully. The interview might not be conducted formally, but ensure that you give individuals their due respect.
Never say anything to insinuate that you are taking the exit interview exercise lightly. Do not take the interview casually if you feel like it’s a waste of time.
Be critical in answering questions and speaking cordially. An interviewer will also tell if you are serious about the interview through your body language.
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An exit interview is not an opportunity to criticize the company’s policies or rules. No matter the position you hold at the company, take it as your last responsibility or duty to your employer.
While some policies and regulations may seem wrong or ineffective, keep them to yourself as nothing is likely to change because of your words. Answer every question appropriately and to the best of your ability, and avoid saying things that might land you in trouble in the time to come.
Never share your views about the future of the company. Try your best to give neutral answers and if you are asked what you think about the company’s future, say that it’s promising, and with dedication and hard work, things will even be better.
It pays to say something positive, as being diplomatic is all you need to survive the business world.
Your departure should never be a chance to start threatening your employer. It will only portray you as a person with no decency and might get you into legal trouble.
The truth is, no company takes threats lightly, and it only takes one harsh or threatening word to unleash the ruthless side of the company. The people you work with are only good to you if you are good to them, too, and the moment things go south, things are bound to get ugly.
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As you go through your interview, no matter what you say, ensure that you remain confident and avoid saying anything you may regret. The employment world is unpredictable, and you may never know when you need that person.
You may be intimidated by words. Remember, the more extensive your network, the better for you. Say every word after careful consideration lest you have regrets in the future.
Your experience with the company should also guide you on the kind of answers to give—no need to get nervous as exit interviews are more of a formality or company protocol.
Be honest as much as you can and avoid giving lengthy answers as no one has time for long conversations at this stage. Exit interviews need no significant preparation, so stay calm and ensure that you don’t say any of the above statements.
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Many exiting employees have said the dumbest things on their way out. But your exit can be different.
Remember, some people do it because they feel entitled to say whatever is on their mind, while others may be bitter due to job loss.
No matter the reason for leaving, always strive to leave a company on the best terms without burning bridges. Your last day is no day to gossip or have a pity party; treat it like any other day and wrap it up professionally.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.