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For you, life as you once knew it is about to change. You’ve handed in your resignation. Your new career path has been set and your brand spanking new contract has been signed. The countdown is on, with the final two weeks of your current employment approaching. Your mission is to tie up loose ends, possibly assist with training your replacement, clean out your desk and say your goodbyes. But alas, we have a potentially unexpected speed bump about to strike: the exit interview.
Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths you Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success, describes that the purpose of the exit interview is to get the departing employee to divulge why they are leaving and how they feel about their experience with the company. Likely providing data that senior leadership will use to improve things, bettering themselves as employers and as a company that people WANT to work for.
As an employee, you may have a completely different reaction to being asked to complete that somewhat menacing ‘exit Interview’. Right?! On the one hand, you’ve been given the ideal opportunity to tell your bosses exactly what you think of them, albeit this may not be the best idea to go ‘full barrel’ at them. Others however may be more diplomatic in their approach. Regardless what your tactic is, there will always be pro’s and cons’ as to how you, the employee should conduct the exit interview.
Let’s stay up beat, unbiased and let’s work through the best possible way to present yourself through your exit interview.
This is not the time to get personal. Attacking any one particular person (manager or employee) will only reflect poorly on you, and make you come across as bitter or vengeful. This is the ideal time to discuss some behaviors (in brief) that may have had an impact on your decision to leave. This can be accompanied in the third person, with no name calling or character assassination. This could potentially make it appear that you were the one that was hard to get along with. Hold your dignity and reputation.
Sometimes, the things that are left unsaid are those that will be your biggest asset. An exit interview is not the place to offload a host of negative feelings. If you do, really truly believe that you need to make the company aware of something inappropriate or detrimental then stick strictly to the facts. Andy Teach, corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time, says take out the emotion, remain unbiased and don’t express an opinion, just give truthful accounts. For example instead of playing the blame game say, “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but I did want to make you aware of a particular situation in my department,” you’ll make good leverage with your HR employee.
There is a very fine line between the two. On the one hand be as honest as you can bearing in mind it is your reputation at stake. Ultimately your end goal is to get a great reference, so don’t leave with a sour taste in your mouth. Write down your thoughts, stay on task, confide with a trustworthy colleague - a second opinion may be just what you need, and don’t speak of trivial matters
The exit interview is no more than the closing lines in a chapter of your career history. Exiting times lie ahead and it is this thought that should carry you through your last days with the company.
Don’t leave them guessing, make your exit a positive one to remember. As Michael Kerr, international business speaker and author of You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humour to Work,says that if you are first and foremost thinking about what’s best for the company, you’ll have a far greater chance of having a real impact and leaving with a more positive impression.