How To Crush Your Exit Interview And Get The Closure You Deserve

Leaving a job may sound as simple as giving your notice, but at some companies, the process has an extra step: The exit interview. This is essentially a final meeting with human resources before you depart that gauges your reasons for leaving. For the company, it helps them see areas where they can improve. But as a former employee, having an opportunity to make your voice heard can be a great way to get closure when leaving a job, particularly if it wasn't the best experience. While many people leave their jobs amicably, there are undoubtedly instances when poor management or business practices can prompt people to quit.

An exit interview may seem like a good time to vent and make those suggestions for the company, but will your words actually drive real change?  It depends. Per HR Magazine, one worker by the name of Kate McFarlane claimed she was brutally honest in her exit interview and found out a month later that several managers had been let go. Speaking about the situation, she told the publication, "I like to think that it had something to do with me." According to The Cut, however, being honest is not likely to make much of a difference, and if companies really wanted your help making policy changes, they would do so while you were still an employee.

Since genuine change rarely comes from exit interviews, you shouldn't necessarily use it as an opportunity to make a large cultural change at the company. However, employers often rely on references as a way to ensure you are a good fit for their company, therefore, it's best to maintain good standing with your professional contacts in case you need a positive recommendation for future employment.

Address a specific area for improvement

Imagine leaving a job and being able to air all your grievances and pent-up frustrations with that company without any immediate repercussions. Sounds great, right? It turns out it's more complicated than that. HR consultant ArLyne Diamond tells HR Magazine the exit interview has multiple purposes, including ensuring that employees feel satisfied with their service to the company, along with figuring out areas where the company can improve. As such, some HR professionals view the exit interview as a good time to collect information since former employees are more likely to be more honest.

However, you don't necessarily want to angrily rattle off several complaints at once. Broad grievances, like saying you hate all the managers, are not likely to produce actual changes at the company, nor are they likely to play out well for when you need a recommendation down the line. Instead, pick one issue to focus on and offer specific suggestions. This will show that you have been paying attention and actually care about the greater good of the company.For example, you could recommend a work-from-home option or better access to breast-pumping facilities. Offering helpful suggestions in a respectful way will help you leave on good terms, which is important for securing a reference who will speak positively of your work performance. 

Stay levelheaded to convey professionalism and feel better walking away

If you're in a situation where you're leaving because of poor management or ineffective policies, it can challenging to not let all of your emotions show during the exit interview. However, no matter how upset you are, remember you don't necessarily want to burn bridges or a chance to return to that company. Yvonne Smyth, director of Hays Human Resources, tells Business Insider, "The common mistake that professionals can make in an exit interview is to make the feedback too personal and perhaps specific to a moment in time, as opposed to a more established pattern or trend." When interviewing you for a potential new job, human resources will often contact your former employer, and hearing that you were a disgruntled employee or made several complaints may not sit well with them.

An exit interview may allow you the chance to get the closure you're looking for, but it's important to have realistic expectations about the power of your words and stay as coolheaded as possible so you can move on without regrets. Although it can be easy to get heated thinking about a moment you felt you were wronged at work, but Smyth advises maintaining decorum by being critical without venting. Keep your language neutral and tone calm. Also, avoid personal attacks on managers or coworkers, as this will make you appear unreliable as an information source and less likely to be taken seriously. If the situation is tense, however, Fotini Iconomopoulos, a negotiation expert, tells Business Insider that venting in a journal before the interview can help get all the emotions out.