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Exit Interviews

I was just wondering on what one should be saying in an exit interview.

Should we be truthful and say why exactly we are leaving (like "I don't find any oppurtunities to grow in this company" or "I don't quite agree with the way things are managed out here"....) or should we just keep mum and say some non company related reason ..... ?

They say that its better to keep mum since we might need the references later.

Or somewhere in between ?

Vindy P
Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Simple; if you hate the place, lie and tell them how lovely it all was and how sorry you are to leave.

If you like the place, then giving some advice on what made you leave would be fair - if you think they'll appreciate it.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, July 7, 2004

I would say that you shouldn't view it as a gripe session to get everything out you always wanted to get out but never quite did. It is very dangerous to burn your bridges with a company. While (at least in the US) most companies can't get away with flat-out lying if someone calls them as a reference, they can make subtle hints, and unless you have documentation to refute it, it could cost you a job.

I would say, it's over, be as cordial as you can in the exit interview while keeping true to yourself.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Try to provide constructive criticism otherwise it could come back to bite you.

I was on a large project up until April of last year, then that contract died and I went elsewhere within the same company.  Then in November, I lost my position completely and found my way to another company.

Sure enough, last week, I'm assigned assist a new (to us) project.... it ends up being the original project that I was on 15 months ago.  I'm interacting with some of the same people and I've even read some of the docs that my previosu boss wrote.

It's a small world, especially in any specialized area...

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Whether they like to admit it or not, most people do appreciate honesty.  Nobody likes sitting through a gripe session, but if you do have honest issues with how things were done, try to phrase them constructively.

You never know, you may make a positive contribution to the company you are leaving, and they may remember this next time they have to deal with you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Never say anything bad.  What's in it for you?  If they act on your commentary to make the place better, you're already gone, so no benefit to you.  In the far more likely case, they ignore your commentary, but somebody hears about it and now you have an enemy for the rest of your life.

Foolish Jordan
Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Your goal in an exit interview is precise and simple: to leave wide open the possibility of return, should the necessity of such a ghastly horror fall upon you.

Your theme is this: "I loved this place, but I cannot pass up this new opportunity.  I wouldn't change a thing here."

If you confuse your purpose, you'll likely harm yourself for no good reason.  To those who advise candor, ask yourself what makes you think you can effect change in an exit interview that you couldn't produce while you worked there?  Don't be silly.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

"What makes you think you can effect change in an exit interview that you couldn't produce while you worked there?"

I don't.  If my reason for leaving is their inability to change despite my bashing them about the head and shoulders with the problem for a year, the exit interview is pointless.

On the other hand, the time I really *was* just leaving for a better opportunity elsewhere, I hadn't said much beforehand.  And that time, I felt that talking about it was a gift.  It seemed to me that the CEO I was talking to rarely got a partner with whom to discuss his company at that level, particularly one with the perspective of an insider and the candor of an outsider.  And honestly, when I run into the guy around town, it seems he remembers me, and more positively than before that conversation.  (I hope so, at least - I think I'm about to find out if a positive but honest exit interview is a detriment to returning to the company later.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

DEFINITELY LIE and be the happy-go-lucky-appreciative employee they want you to be!

Without a doubt, let the employer know how sad you are to leave, that you felt there was great opportunity here and, if they would accept it, at some future date would love the opportunity to return.

You have absolutely nothing to GAIN and deifnitely no way to HELP by telling the company the truth (your boss is a wimp, the opportunity is crap and the bathrooms are terrible). Remember, the exit interview is an interview . . . you should NEVER express ANY negativity in an interview!

Bottom line is leave them with:
1) You enjoyed your work there.
2) You contributed greatly (and appreciate the opportunity to contribute).
3) Look forward to, potentially, contributing again should an opportunity arise.
4) Basically, "saddened to leave, but excited for the new challenge ahead."

Don't even CONSIDER being honest . . . the exit interview (ie, last words) is neither the time/place.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

As all the above stated, never turn your exit interview into a bridge burning flame-athon. The person you talk to has no way to change whatever pain and anguish you chose to dump on them when you vented all your bile.

If there was some raging idiot who everyone hated, and had parties when they were fired/quit/arrested, then you may mention that things are somewhat better now that RagingIdiot is gone. But otherwise, never say anything bad. Nothing good can come of venting your bile, only bad things can happen. Was your PHB an idiot? Don't say it. When it gets back to him, and it will, and he gets called for a reference, most folks calling ask: "would you hire him/her again?" Any bad comments on your exit interview by you will change whatever answer your boss was going to give into a "nope."

Exit interviews could theoretically help a company get better, but are instead used as theater. Its like that interview question about "what is your greatest strength/weakness." No one seriously expects the truth.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

I had an exit interview once and within 5 minutes of giving what I felt were intelligent & sincere answers to her generic questions, it became apparent that it was just another item on the checklist.  I could have revealed the meaning of the universe with diagrams and it wouldn't have made any difference.

Tin Lizzy
Wednesday, July 7, 2004

To sum up the above:
Exit interviews are another gimmick thought up by HR drones to give the impression that they contribute to the bottom line, while actually proving that they don't.

Anonymous by default
Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Keep quiet as everyone else does; you're leaving so what do you care?

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Ah the irony... There two basic reasons lists above for not being honest.

1. Don't burn your bridges, you might be back.

2. Who cares if they get better after you leave.

This leads us to two possiblities:

1. You lie; the company stays sucky, and when you are force to return, you have to live with that suckiness.

2. You tell the truth; the company improves, puts the new company your working for out of buisness and refuses to hire you back.

Sounds like a Catch-22 to me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Folks, in most cases your exit interview will be conducted by a low-rent HR drone. All he/she is going to do is write down whatever you say during the interview and stick it in your personal file to complete the exit checklist. Anything you say will be shared with your boss, so if you ever expect to get a decent reference don't diss anyone.

If you choose to provide candid feedback, the drone will not understand what you're talking about (in most cases) or have the authority to anything about it anyway. Unless you trigger some crisis management programming in the drone's little mind (i.e.; "I'm leaving, on my attorney's advice, because my manager keeps sexually harassing me") nothing will come of it.

If your management actually cares about anything you have to offer at this point, they will simply take you out to lunch and ask for your input before your last day. But don't count on it. Most cultures deem anyone who leaves a "looser". Your input at this point is not considered valuable.

My suggestion: Skip the exit interview if possible without being too rude. If you must go, just run through the checklist and make polite noises when they asked for your thoughts on this solemn occasion. Be polite, be upbeat, and then be on your way.


Wednesday, July 7, 2004

I'd say that if it's a big company then just be totally positive like pretty much everyone else has said. 

If it's a small company and you're going to be interviewed by your immediate manage (or someone u have a good working relationship with) then some constructive comments could help them out a little.  Don't say too much though!

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

I'm with Tom. I never, ever do exit interviews any more. I will never ask someone who's leaving to do a formal interview with an HR drone, if I can help it.

The problem of quitting employees is not "unable to listen to what people are telling you after they've quit", it's "unable to listen to what people are telling you while they're still an employee and hoping things will get better so they don't HAVE to quit".

Brad Wilson (
Wednesday, July 7, 2004

I was actually in this situation a couple months ago.  I worked for a small company (~70 employees across various regional offices), and my exit interview was actually a one-on-one between me and the CEO.

What I learned from that experience is that the exit interview is a lot like breaking up with a significant other.  There's been problems, sure, but the employer is probably bitter that you're choosing to bail.  Even constructive criticism is taken the wrong way when received in the context of a negative situation.  Therefore, it's not an opportunity to effect change.  It's simply a process you have to go through so that everyone feels like there is "closure."

Be positive, be sad that you're leaving.  Don't lie outright.  For instance, don't say: "I just loved it here, everything was so great!" because they'll be thinking "Uhhh, right, so why are you leaving?"  But don't bring up issues either.  Just say "I'm glad I had the opportunity to work here, but now it's time for me to move in another direction and try other things."

One comment regarding other people's posts here:  Give up right now any thought of possibly returning to this company.  You're leaving for a reason, and you need to look forward, not cling to the past.  Since you kept your mouth shut and didn't burn any bridges, nothing says you can't evaluate the company again at a later date if the chance should arise, but for the foreseeable future, it's over.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

And it's not even about coming back to that other company. The truth is, no matter how big or small the development community is where you live, you'll end up running across the path of people you used to work for/with, or end up working for/with people they know. You don't want the word behind your back to be "God, what a jerk he was!" because the last impression you left was a torpedo.

Brad Wilson (
Wednesday, July 7, 2004

"Out of respect for everyone here, I decided to not provide any comments for this exit interview.  Is there any paperworks I need to sign?  *sign them after reading carefully*  Thank you, and have a pleasant day."

That's all.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

I'd always been in favour of telling the truth during an exit interview. What benefit is there in trying to say everything is a bed of roses when in actual fact it's a steaming pile of turgid dog-doo? Companies need to establish clear reasons for people leaving and if people side-step the core problems nothing will change for the better.

IMHO, it is possible to do this in a way that doesn't burn your bridges or involve making personal attacks against your (soon-to-be-ex) colleagues. Instead of getting emotional, strive to be dispassionate.

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Run, Will Robinson!


Flee. Fly. Foe.

I can tell you for a fact that your old manager will see notes of your exit interview if it is with HR.

Be very careful in what you say.

If you must make suggestions, make something obvious that is not a personal judgement, like "I wish we had better source code control," or "I'm sad I didn't get a chance to work on Project X34839-23984."

Don't say "My manager is a drooling retard" no matter how good it would make you feel.

dot for this one
Thursday, July 8, 2004

Never lie but don't say anything negative either!

There are probably a multitude of reasons you are leaving.  Review your reasons before the interview and *selectively* tell the truth.  The didn't get you to swear to tell "The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" so just go with "The truth and nothing but the truth" parts, two out of three ain't bad.

Friday, July 9, 2004

Companies conduct exit interviews because they WANT and WELCOME your honest feedback.  They use the information to help improve the company not to get back at employees.

There's no need to lie and pretend you were happy if you weren't.  Just be honest and tell them what you thought was good about the company and what you thought needed improvement. 

Being honest will be appreciated and will help the company make the workplace better for your colleagues that you are leaving behind.  It in no way affects your eligibility for rehire. 

Beth N. Carvin
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

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