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There's a lot of questions about hiring interviews, but the same cannot be said about exit interviews. As I'm going to embark on a new challenge in the near future, I'm going to go through an exit interview.

My question is - what should you say in an exit interview and what should you avoid?

For privacy reasons, and because this question doesn't only apply to me, I'm not going to give specifics.

I'll get started -

I think it's OK to complain about:

  • infrastructure (i.e. hardware used)
  • overtime (if it's regular)
  • unreasonable deadlines

But not about:

  • management :)
  • remuneration

These are just off-the-top-of-my-head examples.

My opinion is that you shouldn't burn any bridges when you leave, especially if the company you're leaving is really OK, but also remaining silent over existing issues defeats the purpose of the feedback - maybe some of the suggestions or complaints will be considered and fixed.

I hope this is the right place to ask this :)

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closed as off topic by maple_shaft Jun 14 '12 at 10:53

Questions on Programmers Stack Exchange are expected to relate to software development within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
might be a valid question for workplace.stackexchange –  GlenH7 Jun 14 '12 at 13:50
    
@GlenH7 got closed there... –  Luchian Grigore Jun 14 '12 at 14:03
    
Huh, I can't find this question on workplace.stackexchange, and it seems like it'd be a good fit... /confused –  weronika Jun 14 '12 at 15:53
    
@weronika it was deleted. –  Luchian Grigore Jun 14 '12 at 15:55

5 Answers 5

The important thing is to be forward-looking. An exit interview is not so much about what went wrong, but about how things can be done better in the future.

If you're an introvert like me, bring a bottle of water. After each question I drink a bit, so I have some time to prepare the answer. I use that time to translate negative associations to possible improvements.

You might as well use the opportunity to suggest improvements that benefit your former colleagues.

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Thanks for the answer, but this isn't what I asked. I'm looking for specific topics. –  Luchian Grigore Jun 14 '12 at 9:50
3  
I think every topic is OK if it's forward looking. For example, you list management as off-topic. But it's perfectly OK to say how you think a manager could have done better. –  Andomar Jun 14 '12 at 9:53
    
So you're saying it's perfectly ok to talk about anything? –  Luchian Grigore Jun 14 '12 at 9:56
1  
In my experience yes. Be sure to listen; they are likely to have a specific topic in mind. –  Andomar Jun 14 '12 at 10:00
2  
+1 I don't think any topic should be taboo. Be honest but be constructive. –  Gary Buyn Jun 14 '12 at 10:01

I think we should also complaint about management if you feel that is the reason for exit company. But whatever should be said, should be said on proper manner. So it does not burn the bridges and also serves the feedback purpose.

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In my opinion you should point out anything that made you leave the company but being productive at the same time.

For example you shouldn't say: Management was crap. You could say "It would be better if management gets more insight into the technical perspective of the project"

Just say what was some kind of an obstacle for you so that the person who takes your spot will have it a bit easier.

It's just like writing code. Don't write it for yourself. Think of all the people who might maintain this code after you.

Edit: I see you look for specific topis. There are no specific topics. Someone might leave a company because he had an office on the south side with no curtains so it was always bright and he couldn't focus which led to not meeting deadlines etc.

Grab a piece of paper and think of all thinks that you would do better if this was your company and write them down. Learn them by heart and recite them when you have the interview

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infrastructure (i.e. hardware used)
overtime (if it's regular)
unreasonable deadlines
But not about:
management :)
remuneration

All of the above and more are fine. Basically anything that affected your decision to leave. The purpose of an exit interview is not for you but for the company to identify areas for improvement. What they want is frank honest feedback about the reasons they lost you so they can stop others following.

That being said, if your worried that your company will react badly to criticism in any area then don't risk giving it. The exit interview if for their benefit after all, don't jeopardize your chance of a good reference. If in doubt just go for something non confrontational. "I just wanted a change"

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Some of the exit interview will be by based on what they want to ask. They want to be able to prove later that they were not discriminating against you. They also want to be able to judge if you will be suing them.

If you work for a big enough company there may even be a process in place regarding the form and length of the interview.

What you want to know is for these questions how open can/should you be? And when they ask you if there is anything else you want to discuss, what should you.

You must be aware of the people involved in the interview. For the "required parts" HR may be involved, or they have provided the questions. Most managers will record your answers with little comment, if you stick to the facts. Management may be glad you are going, or they may be sad you are leaving. One was embarrassed because it was viewed as a failure of his part of the organization.

Other managers will not want to hear anything you have to say after the required parts, or if you try to expand on your answers. Perks were outstanding, their management style was exemplary, working conditions were model. In other words you were like a family. Anything you say will not help. They might silently listen to you while thinking what a jerk. Others will be vocal and you will end up in a shouting match.

There is nothing to be gained about discussing these topics if management is like this. Nothing you suggest will change who they are, nothing will trickle into their culture to help you co-workers or future workers for that group.

In some cases management will accept what you have to say. They may not understand the view of the average worker. They may be concerned that the company needs to improve. They may grow because of what you say.

It doesn't come down to topics that are safe. Any topic can be discussed, or minimized based on how vocal you want to be, and how receptive management is. In your list you used the word complain. If you are there to complain, then keep that to a minimum. Just state that the conditions, deadlines, work hours were the reasons you are leaving. Management and pay are valid topics. For your situation they might not be, but for others they will be.

If you do have specific, constructive comments, and the audience is right, then discuss those topics in detail. Otherwise keep it to a minimum.

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