You're leaving your current employer and have the chance to discuss your motivations for moving on in an exit interview - is honesty really the best policy?
There are many reasons behind why you might choose to resign from a role which isn't quite right. It could be that you were micromanaged, the culture was unpleasant or, quite simply, you had a change of heart during the pandemic.
The question is though; do you make your feelings clear during an exit interview? Yes, on paper, it might seem like the road to achieving catharsis as you mentally unload, all without the added anxiety of losing your job. But is the exit interview the right time and place to do so?
There can be consequences in doing so, such as being denied a reference or your supposedly confidential observations being made public and damaging your reputation.
Whatever the pros and cons, a LinkedIn poll earlier in the year revealed how people approach exit interviews when leaving a job, with the majority (57%) saying that honesty is the best policy.
Under one-third (29%) felt that, when it comes to being open during an exit interview, it’s too little too late, while 10% said they would only be honest if they were retiring.
Whatever your thoughts on the sometimes tricky exit interview, here’s our guide on how to successfully navigate one.
Don’t use the interview as an opportunity to vent
It may be tempting to use the meeting as a chance to unpack your frustrations, but once you’ve made the decision to leave, making your thoughts public at this point won’t give them the airtime they deserve. This is because your time to talk about workplace concerns was while you were employed.
To avoid this, try penning an open, honest and detailed resignation letter before the interview takes place, including the factors which led to your resignation. This will give your manager or employer time to mull it over ahead of the meeting so that all parties can maximise its potential and not waste any time.
Expressing your concerns in a timely and coherent manner affords the chance for them to be rationally addressed and treated as productive, constructive criticism in the ensuing interview.
It also gives both employees and organisations the chance to discover where they themselves were the issue, where their approach to certain situations made things worse and how these negative traits could be amended moving forward.
Make careful preparations
Take the exit interview as seriously as you would one for a new role as it will add value for not only the employer you’re leaving behind but new starters too. Try speaking to an impartial person about your issues in advance so that you can introduce them in a way which is productive for the next candidate who steps into your shoes.
By framing your opinions to demonstrate that you’re considering the greater good of the organisation, you’ll be more likely to make your mark and be remembered favourably as a result.
Take the time to broach any tangible problem areas by mapping out the bigger picture and suggesting ways which will pave the way for doing things differently in future.
One method is to warn an employer against moving away from the company values which attract and retain talent in the first place.
Leave with dignity and pride
If you’re overly critical about the business you’re leaving behind, you could come across as being out to get revenge or damage someone’s reputation. This means that it’s important to give feedback in a calm and collected manner. Feedback which sounds bitter and petty will ultimately be ignored and brushed under the carpet, which won’t benefit anyone involved.
What companies want at their fingertips are a host of new ways to improve their workplace culture, in turn keeping staff engaged, motivated and productive. For example, if you’re leaving an organisation because the salary isn't great, they need to know that this is the reason.
If you care about the company’s future and want to help, make sure that your comments are delivered professionally and are based on fact. The majority of employers genuinely want to know what you liked about your job and the wider company and what you would change if you could. Offer up this information, but keep it simple and concise.
Give credit where it’s due and mention how much you learned there and why both you and the company benefited from your time as an employee. You can also say that you were honoured to have been part of the organisation and are inspired by their mission and values, if this is true.
However, it’s entirely reasonable for you to express dissatisfaction, for example if you felt that you were undervalued, by using specific examples of when this was the case. It’s also acceptable to talk about the actions and behaviour of your manager or a specific company policy if they directly impacted on your decision to leave.
If you’re planning to leave your current role and embark on the next step of your career pathway, please don't hesitate to get in touch if you need any support or advice.