If you’re a manager, then there’s no shortage of information for you on how to conduct exit interviews. But there aren’t many resources that focus on how to handle them from an employee’s perspective. I’ve been meaning to write a quick piece that isn’t biased by anyone else’s experience and is short enough so that I can quickly jog my memory in the future should the need arise. While I’ve participated in a few of them over the past five years, this text doesn’t attempt to combat the inexorable recency bias that may have seeped into the writing.

Exit interviews are trickier than your typical run-of-the-mill one-on-ones, mostly because:

  • It typically means that you’re resigning voluntarily, and not getting fired
  • By the time it happens, there’s usually no going back
  • There are rarely any objectives that benefit you
  • The gains are low but the stakes can be high

Instead of throwing a wall of text sectioned by a bunch of headers, I’m intentionally laying out the actionable items as aphoristic assertions.

  • Avoid it if you can
  • Ask for a shorter one if you can’t
  • Try to exit early if you can’t do either
  • The less work your interviewer has put into the meeting, the better
  • No point in rambling on why you’re leaving, be vague
  • It’s a mistake to discuss next steps and future opportunities
  • You can’t change the culture through one last meeting, so don’t try to
  • Your objective opinions can cause more harm than good
  • Last-minute feedback matters less than you think, they’ve heard these before
  • A counteroffer is usually a bad idea for both parties
  • If you sense a trap, silence is your friend
  • Let it be awkward
  • Don’t be a child or throw tantrums
  • Be neutral and don’t react to tantrums
  • Maintain mutual respect for both yourself and your employer
  • Remember, it’s all business at the end of the day
  • And finally, don’t burn any bridges if you don’t have to

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