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How to Handle an Exit Interview

how to handle an exit interview When you leave a job it is typical that you will have an interview set up by the human resources department upon your exit. It is important to know how to handle an exit interview tactfully and appropriately depending on the situation in order to further advance your career and move on to the next step in your professional life.

The reason that HR representatives request that you participate in an exit interview is because they are interested in determining why it is you are leaving, and possibly use some of your information to improve the company.

How to Ace an Exit Interview

Obviously some people leave their jobs because they are unhappy with their workplace, and it can be very tempting to give HR an earful during this time. But you must stop and think about what the best course of action is. The “right” thing can vary quite a bit.

Sometimes you should be brutally honest and explain exactly what compelled you to leave, and other times you must grin and bear it as the short-term satisfaction of telling them how you feel will have long-term consequences. Don't spout off to fulfill your emotional needs. You are probably better off making up some excuse that is reasonable rather than complaining about your dissatisfaction. Just suck it up and move on, flourish in the next job.
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How to Prevail at an Exit Interview

So what direction should you proceed with your interview? Should you give the employer a piece of your mind, or be very polite and not have very much to contribute. Try asking yourself the following questions to determine what is best for you:

How to Proceed
  • Why have you decided to leave?
    Narrow down the true reason for your resignation. Is the reason superficial like you don't get along with your coworkers, or boss and there is a hostile work environment? Or are you underpaid, not being challenged enough, or simply not respected in your company.

    Some of these previously listed reasons are serious and legitimate justifications for you to quit a job. If you truly believe that you could help someone else in the future by bringing some of these issues into focus, then you should think about perhaps bringing them to light.
  • Do you want anyone as a reference or future connection?
    You have spent time at your workplace and have no doubt made some connections during your time of employment. Keep in mind that just because you will not be employed by that company any longer does not mean that they are no longer of any use to you.

    Determine the level of credibility your employer holds in your field, will you need them for a reference in the future? That can tell you if you should try not to burn any bridges, and therefore not speak up about any concerns in the workplace.

    Most of the time the latter choice will win and the concerns that you once felt were important will not seem to matter anymore since you will no longer be working there anyway. Sometimes it is better to just let things go and move on in life.

Handle It with Class and Professionalism
  • Prepare Yourself
    When you sit down with the HR rep. you will be asked explicitly specific questions about your job and the time spent there. If you are overly emotional about your situation you may give vehement replies. Mitigate this by preparing yourself mentally and even practice what you will say (even if it is untrue).

    Compile a list of reasons why you have decided to leave, although they may not necessarily be true: note your feelings about your coworkers, managers, and the positives of the new job that you are about to take. Edit it down to an appropriate version that you can explain easily.
  • Be As Honest As Necessary
    You need to keep in mind that your responses may be reviewed by your previous employer so refrain from saying anything too honest about the company. It is expected that you are honest, but that doesn't mean you must include every detail in your response.
  • Keep It Professional
    This is the most important aspect of your interview, and much of how you maintain a professional atmosphere has to do with how well you control your emotions. This is not a time to start crying about your awful experiences, or bad mouth any colleagues.

    End your experience with the company on a positive note by only mentioning the good things that you associate with the company. Point out what goes right in the company and how they have helped you succeed and advance your personal career.
Discovering how to handle an exit interview can be tough when powerful emotions come into play. But just remember that every interaction that you have with the employer can have a lasting effect on your career. Try not to make decisions based on emotion, but rather from the perspective of what is best for your career.