Navigating Your Exit Interview

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If you resign from your job, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to participate in an exit interview. It can be nerve-wracking – maybe even more stressful than the interview you had before you were offered the job. Saying the wrong thing or acting unprofessionally could risk your losing a reference from your employer, or burning a bridge in the event you should ever decide to come back. (This may seem unlikely right now, but boomerang employment situations are not uncommon.)

What to Expect

Your HR department typically holds exit interviews simply for the purpose of having you fill out required forms. They don’t really want anything else from you. You’ve resigned and it’s time for everyone involved to move on. So if you do say something provocative, it just creates more paperwork because your interviewer is required to document it.

  • Proceed with caution. You may want to offer constructive criticism to help strengthen the company, without it being taken as sour grapes or bitterness. Watch what you say, as well as your body language. Don’t be rude or defensive, or walk out in a huff.
  • Take a “never close doors” approach. First of all, literally, don’t slam the door! Keep your emotions in check. Be pleasant, as difficult as that may be. Remember, this may be the last impression you leave your employer with.

Be Professional

Follow these additional tips for optimal success in your exit interview:

  • Vent beforehand, not during the interview. Once you’ve made the decision to resign, airing your grips to your employer won’t help. Your time to address these concerns was while you were still actively employed. If it helps, write down a “no-holds-barred” description with painstaking details of every negative aspect of your job. But don’t send or save it. Talk it out with a trusted friend or a professional career advisor. This way, you can privately vent and turn your concerns into productive criticism.
  • Focus on the positive. Companies want to learn ways to improve their workplace and its culture. For instance, if you are leaving for better benefits or a more flexible work/life balance, that’s valuable information for your current employer to have. Make sure all your statements are fact-based. Express what you liked about your job, as well as what you would change if you could. But keep it simple. Mention what you learned and how both you and the company benefited from your time there.
  • Use good judgment. When asked why you are leaving, put the situation in perspective. If you had a ruthless performance review or were dealing with another problem that you already addressed with HR, simply say “previously unresolved issues.” There is no need to go into detail. If there was a more minor issue, you may make a suggestion, such as “I wish the help desk was more responsive. IT issues made it difficult to deliver results in a timely fashion.” Pick your battles. Keep your exit interview short – and keep looking forward.

The career development professionals at PrideStaff Modesto can help you find your next great job, either temporary or permanent, within our extensive network of clients. And, we can help you make a seamless transition as you depart from your old employer. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.