How honest should you be in an exit interview, especially if you need to stay on good terms with a company in order to potentially secure a positive employment reference in the future?
As a soon-to-be former employee, you have some valuable insight into how the company actually functions, as well as possible suggestions on how things can improve. While you don’t want to burn bridges you many need in the future, this could be an opportunity to offer some value to the company you’re leaving behind, particularly if you’re meeting with your organization’s HR rep or your boss’ boss. But, is now the time to be candid?
Liz Ryan of Forbes magazine offers some sound advice:
You must assume that your exit interview will be the least confidential conversation you’ve ever had. Nobody expects to keep a conversation confidential when the only person who would value that discretion (you) has already left the firm or is on their way out.
As an HR person I learned that you can’t teach people who don’t want to be taught. You have given your company three years to ask your opinion, and they didn’t do it.
The lesson here, according to Ryan, is to keep your mouth shut on the way out the door. If a company truly valued your opinion on work culture and department efficiency, they would have asked for it while you were still under their employ. Now that you’re leaving, you have nothing to gain by being honest, and a good employment reference to lose.
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