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Ace the Exit Interview

Acing a job interview is of utmost importance if you want to get one foot into that dreamed-of office door. Thankfully there is a wealth of wisdom out there to help you do just that. Ahead of time, you can already mentally prepare and rehearse your answers to commonly asked interview questions. On the day itself, you can dress to impress and even do power poses to boost your confidence at the last minute.

But, climbing up the professional ladder often requires you to part with your current company. But before you can enter your future work, you must face one final task with your present: the exit interview. Though not as dreaded as its twin, this last interview is also crucial – for how you leave a company is just how important as how you arrived.

Unfortunately not everyone of us can - nor should - pull off a dramatic goodbye like Jerry Maguire, so before saying “You had me at hello” to your new employer, here are some tips on how to fly away with flying colors from career coach Nick Thompson, in his article “Approach with caution: how to survive an exit interview”.

Decide what you want to get out of it

Companies have varying reasons for conducting exit interviews. Generally the intent is to learn from your leaving. Most employees however tend to dismiss exit interviews as a waste of time, while some take it as their chance to give feedback about their bosses.

But what about you, what is it that you want the company to know before you leave?

Do you want to inform HR that your boss is competent and valuable to the company? Do you want to compliment your team for a job well done? Or are they bound to suffer (or keep suffering) at the hands of your manager, and you want to give HR a heads-up?

Decide your goal for the exit interview and do your best to stick to it.

Approach with caution

Some companies, even when they have been informed of a problem or moral concern, such as a bully manager, may opt to just let it go. It’s still up to your best judgment, but generally letting HR know is better than not saying anything at all. But once you have said your piece, try not to be emotional and just leave as gracefully as possible.

Secure your reference and leave on a positive note

Don’t burn bridges, not even when you feel like it’s falling down, falling down.

Singing praises about the people you had the pleasure to work with, of course, is good for their sake and the company’s. But if it’s the opposite, and you have a lot of complaints about them, just be careful. Remember: it’s not your problem anymore. You are moving on, and your (former) office mates can choose to do the same. Make sure you maintain good relations with the people you are leaving, so you get to keep them as references.

Boomerangs can happen in our small world. You may still find yourself working at the company you left or with the colleagues you left behind. 

Live in the real world

It’s easy to shrug off exit interviews as useless so you may feel like you can tell-all with no consequences. But, what goes on and what is said in the HR room does not always stay in there. The manner of your exit, especially if less than amicable, may get people gossiping about you, and this can follow you to your next job.
Resist the temptation to offload: talk facts, not opinion 
If you really must speak up about important concerns that could be harmful to the company or could put someone in hot water, stick to facts. Avoid stating an opinion, just give examples. Instead of saying, “\<Name of boss> has no integrity,” give a specific instance, such as “She has been receiving gifts from clients worth more than what is stated as acceptable in the company guidelines.”

Be happy – you are leaving for pastures new 
As with everything in life: always forward. Brighter days (and hopefully bigger bucks) are ahead of you, so keep that in mind to keep that smile on your face as you go through the last hurdle that is the exit interview.