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Should you ever be truly honest in an exit interview?

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Is 'telling it like it is' a good strategy for an exit interview? Photo: Getty Images

You’ve handed in your resignation, cleared your desk and you’re ready to leave. But first, you’ve been invited to do an exit interview.

Unlike a job interview, you’ll be doing most of the talking. If you’re leaving your company on good terms, it’s a chance for you to let your bosses know they’re doing great, as well as what they can improve on. An exit interview is also your chance to resolve any issues, however.

Exit interviews are usually carried out by a company’s HR department to ensure you can feel comfortable talking openly about the reasons you are leaving and any problems you’ve had during your employment. But how honest can you really be – and can it ever backfire?

“An exit interview is essentially a post-mortem examination; a chance for businesses to gain insight into where an employee’s career journey might have hit stumbling blocks,” says Chris Huffen, regional managing director at the recruitment company Macildowie.

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“If done correctly, the exit interview process can be an incredibly valuable tool, shining a light on areas for improvement and, in some cases, positive aspects to the job that an employee may have enjoyed.”

For exit interviews to be of benefit in the long-run, it is important that feedback is honest. That being said, though, it needs to be professional too – no matter how disgruntled you might be with your employer.

“Don’t be afraid to lay bare your concerns; your direct approach should be appreciated and your seniors will think better of you for being honest when any underlying issues are brought to light and eventually resolved,” Huffen says.

“It’s true that problems can fester and build into larger issues, leaving the business as a whole tainted with a toxic culture – this is often one of the number of reasons many talented and hopeful employees leave to pursue a better working atmosphere where employees are happier.”

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However, there are some risks that come with being honest with your bosses before you head out of the door. Huffen advises being mindful of colleagues you may have criticised. Remember, your company could be providing you with references in the future.

“You never know when they could be in a position to comment on your reputation in five years’ time and more than likely at a point when you may be looking to progress up the career ladder – after all, it’s a small world,” he adds.

It’s worth considering what you would say in an exit interview. If there’s a chance people could get offended or if bad feedback wouldn’t make a difference, it might be better to decline the offer.