I have just handed in my resignation to my current place of employment, and have given my two week’s notice. After four months of a targeted job search, I finally landed a fantastic job that meets my salary and professional development objectives.
My managers were shocked to learn that I am leaving. I’ve been one of the select few top performing sales representatives on the team over the past eight years, and have been exceeding my monthly sales quotas. I have been unhappy for over a year due to a lack of recognition, and appreciation of my successes, as well as a lack of professional growth opportunities at this company. With this ‘”glass ceiling” and poor leadership in a highly bureaucratic workplace culture, I decided to look for better opportunities and workplace cultural fit.
The company’s human resources manager has requested that I meet with her to conduct an “Exit Interview”. I’m concerned about sharing my honest opinions as it might harm me and my reputation in the future. Please advise how I might best protect myself.
Signed: Evaluate the Exit (EE)
Exit Interviews are generally defined as interviews conducted with departing employees, just before they leave a job. In an ideal world, and according to popular website Business Balls, the primary aim of the exit interview is for the employer to learn reasons for the person’s departure, on the basis that criticism is a helpful driver for organizational improvement. Exit interviews (and prior) are also an opportunity for the organization to enable transfer of knowledge and experience from the departing employee to a successor or replacement, or even to brief a team on current projects, issues and contacts. This website provides several questions to help you prepare for this meeting which is usually held with the human resources staff.
The exit interview has a flip side to consider as well. In an article on AskTheRecruiter.com, Nick Corcodilos of believes that the decision to leave a company is personal and often complex. He suggests any comments a departing employee makes – whether they are positive or negative – will be of questionable value. Is the individual being polite to avoid burning a bridge? He presents some of the typical questions that you may be asked:
- Is there something you didn’t like about your boss?
- How would you rate our work environment?
- Were you happy with your salary and benefits?
- What did you think about your performance and salary reviews?
- How should we change the way we do things to avoid losing other good employees?
Unfortunately, adds Corcodilos, the questions should have been asked six months earlier, because these issues all combine to determine the quality of the employee’s life at the company.
In another useful post on the topic, Beth Braccio, Careerbliss blogger, suggests six strategies to help employees prepare for the Exit Interview.
Here are some tips from these experts:
1. “No comment”. If you have resigned your job or been fired, be aware that you are not required to answer any questions during an exit interview. A polite “no comment” from the employee is usually respected by the Human Resources (HR) representative conducting the interview. Even if you cooperate and answer the questions, you absolutely should not agree to sign the notes the HR representative has taken down during your meeting (being asked to sign the notes is common); you could be signing away your rights.
2. Beware of the risks and benefits. If you are a departing employee, an exit interview offers you no significant benefits, other than perhaps allowing you to “unload” on a seemingly sympathetic HR representative; to the contrary, it represents a big risk. Corcodilos quotes the US Society for Human Resource Management, who warn: “Good exit interview practices may just help you avoid costly legal action by a disgruntled employee. Therefore, whatever you say in that exit interview can be used against you later in court. That sympathetic HR rep is a potential witness against you, and her notes are Exhibit A.”
3. Confidential issues. Be aware of the fact that the notes from this meeting may be read by a new HR rep, who might not have conducted your interview. Suddenly, the one person, you never expected would read your comments, is reading them with great interest. Did you say anything that might compromise the quality of a reference you’re expecting? warns Braccio. Braccio and Corcodilos, both caution that smart HR managers are coming to recognize that the post hoc debriefing of employees isn’t a valid or reliable way to solve problems. Rather, the very practice of exit interviews is a symptom of larger problems within a company’s HR philosophy.
3. Next time: The best time for an employee to discuss concerns, dissatisfactions and suggestions with the employer, is while he or she is a committed employee, not on the way out the door. There is no upside for an employee in doing an exit interview, other than having the chance to vent. And the potential risks are dramatic.
4. Final impressions are lasting impressions. Not so fast. Final impressions are lasting impressions. Rushing through an exit interview with careless answers or treating it as your personal venting session can have repercussions. Maintain your dignity, and aim toward making the company wistful about your work and contribution to the company.
Both websites have extensive lists of questions to help you prepare for this interview. You are also not obligated to participate in the interview and can decline this invite. I would tell the interviewer that you are busy with winding up your current work and training a new staff so you don’t have time. As the famous saying goes, “Less is More”.
Congratulations on your new position and on building a sustainable and successful career path.