The exit interview may feel like the perfect time to express your frustrations, but you should remain tactful unless you’re fine with burning a bridge. Even if your employer is the reason for quitting, anything you say could be used against you and may even make you lose a reference.
How to Leave an Exit Interview With a Good Reference
Exit interviews are often used by employers who want to understand what’s happening inside the company.
Here’s how to be honest in your exit interview without ruining future prospects.
Deciding Whether to Go to the Interview
If you’re asked to go to an exit interview, and you need to use this job as a reference, you absolutely need to go. A JobSage survey found that most employees don’t feel safe speaking to HR, so your apprehension makes sense. But if you don’t go, you may be seen as selfish.
Come Prepared by Knowing What to Say
Like a regular interview, you need to come prepared. Unlike a typical interview, HR will ask you a series of questions that may make you feel like you’re being interrogated. It’s essential that you review common exit interview questions so you aren’t caught off guard and slip up.
Be Professional and Keep Your Cool
Workplace mental health is at an all-time low, and employees often quit due to poor culture fit or depression. This can naturally make a person feel vindictive, but don’t enact revenge on your employer. Arrive for the interview on time and be well-dressed to showcase your professionalism.
Answering the “Why are you Leaving?” Question
Regardless of when, why, or how you’re leaving, the “why are you leaving” question will always be asked. This question could be direct or in a roundabout way. For example, HR may ask you if management adequately recognized your contributions or how the organization could improve.
The best thing to do is be nice, but try not to lie. If you’re leaving because your pay was too low, say, “I’m interested in learning more about X.” Not only is this statement still true (as jobs that pay more require more responsibility), but it doesn’t say anything specific about the employer.
Answering Specific or Two-Part Questions
Some answers are difficult to maneuver because they’re specific or come in two parts. For example, “were there any company policies you found difficult to understand?” For this question, it’s a good idea to say “no, everything was clear,” as “yes” will lead to “how can we fix it?”
It’s a good idea to avoid commenting on the company, your boss, and your co-workers during your exit interview, even if you think it’ll help. We’d like to say that all HR staff are there to help fellow employees, but that isn’t always the case. The less you say, the better you’ll look.
Answering Non-Job Related Questions
You are under no obligation to answer any question that inquires about your future prospects. If they ask where you’re going, what you’re looking forward to in your new job, or how much they’re paying you, decline to answer by saying, “I would love to tell you, but I’m not sure yet.”
If you do have answers to these questions, you can still say you’re not sure. Your job duties, salary, or place of work may change once you’re hired. Never say “it’s none of your business.” or “I don’t see how that’s relevant,” as that can make you come off as hostile or argumentative.
Leaving on a Positive Note is Best
Most exit interviews end with a “is there anything else you’d like to add?” type of question. The first thing you should do is hand over any passwords, receipts, or serial numbers that are tied to your accounts. This makes you look responsible and saves you time if you’re contacted later.
Then, say, “Thank you for the opportunity. I wish you well in your future endeavors.” Feel free to add “it was a pleasure working with you/at this company.” if that statement is true. Ending on a positive note ensures you’ve secured a future reference and shows you have no hard feelings.