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How to Handle Yourself in an Exit Interview

Whether you were unhappy at your current job or a new opportunity just happened to fall in your lap, moving from one company to another is common for today's workers. But if your employer asks you to participate in an exit interview before departing, you may not be sure what to expect.

An exit interview is basically an opportunity for your company to gather feedback about why employees opt to leave. You'll typically be asked what motivated you to move on and what you did and didn't like about working at the company.

Two professionally dressed women seated at a conference table and talking to each other
Two professionally dressed women seated at a conference table and talking to each other

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

One important thing to realize about exit interviews is that they typically benefit employers more so than the employees who participate in them. That said, if you're strategic about it, you can use that interview to your advantage. At the same time, knowing what pitfalls to avoid can help you breeze through that interview and leave your job on a high note. Here are a few tips for handling that discussion.

1. Be honest

The point of an exit interview isn't to convince you to stay on board, but rather, to understand what drove you to leave. In other words, your company is looking to see how it might have done better, so it pays to be open about the aspects of your job that left you dissatisfied. For example, if your company was unwilling to invest in the technology needed for you to personally grow your career, that's something to state point blank. And if you're not the first person to provide such feedback, your employer might start to reconsider its stance on the matter.

2. But don't be too honest

While it's good to be honest about your reasons for leaving your job, there's also no need to depart on a sour note. Therefore, you'll need to choose your words wisely and keep your statements as diplomatic as possible. If, for example, you didn't like the working environment, find a polite way to say that. You might try, "I felt that the atmosphere was too rigid for me" rather than "I just got sick of working in a sweatshop."

Not only will being diplomatic make you look more professional, but it could end up helping you from a career standpoint. After all, you never know when you might need your former boss to serve as a reference, and there may even come a day when you find yourself applying to work at the same company once again. Therefore, don't insult anyone or express your criticism in an overly negative manner, because in doing so, you'll close doors needlessly.

3. Come in armed with facts

If you really want your company to get something out of your exit interview, it helps to come in with data to back up some of the statements you might make. For example, if you're leaving because your salary was too low, prove it. Dig up statistics on your industry and show that you were being underpaid rather than say so without proof. This will give your company something solid to work with.

4. Share some positive experiences you had

Clearly, the company you're resigning from had its shortcomings. After all, if you were 100% in love with your job, you wouldn't be leaving. But that doesn't mean things were all bad, so whenever possible, aim to share some positive points about your job. Again, this will speak to your professionalism and also allow you to exit more amicably.

Though exit interviews can be uncomfortable, they're often a necessary step on the road to leaving a job. Go in knowing how to manage yours, and with any luck, you won't find it so daunting or stressful.

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