You finally did it. You gathered up all your powers and handed out your two weeks notice. You can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and feel the winds of freedom gushing against you. You know the hardest part is over—that you can walk out the door and bid farewell—but then HR calls and gives you the schedule for your exit interview.
“Do I really need to rehash my entire work experience in this silly interview?” you ask yourself. And our answer: Unfortunately, yes. As if quitting your job wasn’t stressful enough.
But don’t let this interview pass by that easily. Do remember that an exit interview is just as important (and nerve-wracking) as a job interview—say the wrong things and you can seriously hurt your career. Be cordial and professional, and leave in good terms (even if the work environment was difficult).
“This could be the last impression you’ll leave your employer with,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work.” “Don’t think this conversation doesn’t matter since you’re leaving anyway. People talk. It’s your reputation and your personal brand on the line. And those will travel with you wherever you go.”
So, to help you ace that exit interview, and walk out that door oh, so gracefully, here are 7 things you should NEVER ever say:
“I didn’t like my manager because…”
“By being too honest about your manager you can shoot yourself in the foot if you ever want to return to the company, or expect a good reference from that boss,” says Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.” Always keep your comments general, and positive, even if you don’t feel like it.
“This place doesn’t have a future.”
Just because you’re leaving a company doesn’t mean you can talk bad about them. Do that when you’re with your closest friends, not within the confines of your employer. If you’re leaving in good terms, good! Give them praises. If not, don’t proceed to vent out all your negative thoughts, no matter how badly you just want to expose everything.
“Good luck in finding a good replacement.”
Don’t rejoice about how awesome you are (even if you know you are), and that it’s going to be a big loss on them when you leave. You had plenty of time to talk praises of yourself when you were trying to get in, but it’s not the place to do it when you’re on your way out. So instead of boasting, why don’t you suggest for them to look for someone who has these and that kinds of qualities to help them create a bigger impact in the company.
“When that happened, but it was actually [colleague 1] who made that mistake, not me.”
Don’t even think about gossiping, or throwing you’re soon-to-be former officemates under the bus just because you don’t have any hold on that anymore. It’s wrong and very unprofessional. If blame was misappropriated to you because of communication issues, exit interviews are the best times to clear everything. However, make sure it doesn’t sound like you are pointing fingers.
“I never really liked the look of this office.”
Focusing on minor items will make you appear high maintenance. It’s also a really shallow thing to comment on. Remember, we’re talking about your career here, not how the walls should be painted yellow to compliment the light coming in through the window. The best thing to do is to offer constructive feedback on larger issues that you feel might help the company grow.
“The new company I’m working for is better than this.”
“Don’t minimize your former employer by bragging about how you’re moving onto much bigger and better things,” Kerr advises. While it’s great to show enthusiasm and positivity about your next steps, do it in such a way that it doesn’t come across as an ambiguous compliment. Why don’t you say how much you’ve learned from the time you joined the company up to the end, and that those acquired knowledge would greatly help you in the next company you’ll be working in.
“I will never work here again.”
You might not work there again, but you will never know when your paths might cross again. It could be through an inter-company conference, or perhaps a partnership between your new employer and old one. Remember, your last day at work may not always be the last time you get to be affiliated with them. So, be careful of what you’ll say.
It may be challenging to find balance between being honest and polite, especially if you’ve got some issues up your sleeves, but taking the high road instead of bad-mouthing your almost former employer is never an option. Always frame your opinions in such a way that all you want is the best for them, that way, you will have a great chance of getting a good reference later on.