You’ve quit your job to move onto sunnier pastures. Or perhaps you’ve even been laid off. For whatever reason, if you’ve been called in for an exit interview, it’s best to be prepared. It’s a great opportunity to be honest about your experience at that company or in that position, and a great way to get honest feedback about your performance. And, while you may want to burn the place down on your way out the door, it’s important to keep things cordial and professional.
You never know when you might run into this HR rep or that co-worker again. Take the high ground and refrain from burning any bridges.
Here are 10 things you should never say before your exit interview.
1. "This place is ‘going downhill/a sinking ship/lost without me"
If you’re really as invaluable and under-appreciated as you feel, they’ll notice the lack of you just fine on their own. Don't alienate anyone in the process. Avoid sounding egotistical or nihilistic. Keep it classy.
2. "So-and-so was mean to me/did something bad/hates it here, too"
Pointing fingers is just rude. So is getting a colleague, no matter how hated, into trouble. And outing someone for being miserable in a job is never a kindness. What if they can’t find a suitable substitute and are stuck there? You will have made their lives miserable for no reason.
3. "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"
Don’t make it about money. Don’t insinuate the company isn’t viable or solvent, or that you’re just a total mercenary out to make as much as you can with no sense of loyalty whatsoever. If you must cast your new job in a more favorable light, emphasize your need for more challenges and growth and thank them for the opportunities they’ve given you to learn.
You may feel like running naked through the office with both middle fingers pointed high and dropping f-bombs in your path as you depart, but please curtail that urge. Stay professional, take the higher path, lead by example. The last thing you want is a reputation for being a loose-cannon lunatic in your industry. And believe me, word will get around if you fly off the handle.
5. "Never, ever again."
You may know your limits. You may be 110% sure you’d never ever consider working there again. But it’s best to leave unsaid.
6. "You could have made me stay, you know. If only you had…"
Insert: “offered me more money,” “given me Karen’s office,” “bribed me.” There is nothing productive that can follow this. If they really wanted you to stay, they would have tried to make you a convincing offer. There’s no sense pointing out the obvious.
7. "Nobody likes working here."
This is only marginally better than outing a particular colleague, but still not a wise choice. If management has no idea that everyone is miserable, then that is their problem. Nothing you do or say will make it any better. It might actually make it worse.
8. "I really think you should have put in a snack machine."
Anything that makes a very specific point about equipment or physical office space is probably a waste of (both) your time. Keep it in the neighborhood of things that matter.
Even if you just want to mention that you hated a particularly vexing software system, don’t resort to using the word "hate." It’s far too strong and makes you look weak and immature.
10. "My boss was just awful."
This is probably the worst possible thing you can say in one of these situations. Even if it’s true and your boss was Machiavelli himself, stay classy and don’t let anyone accuse you of having a vendetta or a bias. There are ways to be honest about the working environment or impediments to your being able to faithfully execute your job without being vindictive.
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