An interview conducted by human resources personnel when you leave the employ of a company.

Maybe interview isn't the right word. I think interrogation more accurately describes what happens, especially if you are leaving of your own free will.

Why are you leaving the company?
What did you like/dislike most about your job?
Were there any problems that influenced your decision to leave?
How often do you have sex?
Do you or have you ever had a same sex relationship?
What sensitive information about the company do you possess, and what do you intend to do with it?

You sit strapped to the chair with a bright light shining in your eyes....
"You vill tell uz vat ve vant to know, vun vay or anozer! It vill be eazier on you if you co-operate!..."

With my pending self imposed retirement drawing ever closer, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what lies both above and beneath the surface when it comes to the exit interview.

Just who are these people?

If, like myself, you work(ed) for a rather large corporation, chances are that the folks that you’re going to be talking to are representatives from the Human Resources Department. They’ll probably come with a questionnaire that they’ll ask you to fill out or maybe take some surreptitious notes while you pour out your reasons for leaving the company. This usually only occurs if you’ve voluntarily tendered your resignation. If you’re fired, they show up with an in house security guard and a couple of boxes.

Why do they do it?

On the face of it, they’re supposedly gathering data about reasons why people are heading out the door. Supposedly they’d then analyze it and make whatever changes they could to improve working conditions to keep talented people from heading to the exits and over to the competition.

Another reason that lies just below the surface is that they want to make sure that the employee who has just packed their bags doesn’t have any intentions of coming back to them dressed up in the form of a law suit rather than that of business casual.

A little advice is on order. Be careful what you say during the interview, especially if you’re going to go the legal route and sue your former employer. Your words just might be held against you.

Do I have to do it?

Of course not. It’s your right to refuse to talk to anybody before you take to the streets but should you choose to decline some bad things might happen beneath the covers that you might not be aware of.

First of all, since this is their game and they play by their rules, an exit interview is one of the many things that go on a checklist when an employee decides to terminate their job with the company. Should you decline, a little note might makes its way into your dreaded permanent record indicating your refusal and they might tattoo you with the “do not rehire” stamp. Although I believe it’s illegal, they could also take it out you when your prospective employer comes looking to them as a reference for any future employment.

But should I do it?

That all depends on the individual circumstances. Experts in the field vary on the subject. On one side of the coin, they question the honesty and the accuracy of the answers given by the departing employee and what real value they have. On the opposing side, some experts contend that since the employee has no fear of retribution, their answers are heartfelt and open.

Here’s some things you should toss around inside your head should you find yourself headed for an exit interview.

  • Is the process anonymous or must I put my John Hancock to whatever is taken down or recorded?
  • What business is it of theirs anyway if I choose to leave?
  • Why did they wait to ask me my opinions until I was almost out the door?
  • Am I gonna burn some bridges down the road by either participating or not participating?

Okay, now in order to prepare yourself for the exit interview, a little homework might in order. Here’s a random sampling of some questions that might come your way should you choose to attend it at all.

And so on and so on…

On a personal note, I don’t see anything wrong with undergoing an exit interview. Answer what you want to or don’t answer the things that make you uncomfortable. I normally don’t like to burn bridges and you never know who you might meet again further down the line. That’s especially true if you’re in a highly specialized field where the competition is fierce or are a resident of a very small town.

Either way, hopefully you’re heading somewhere for greener pastures and good luck!

One last thing, since I'm an American the types of things that I've tried to address are from a U.S perspective and even then might vary from company to company and circumstance to circumstance. I'm sure other noders from around the globe have their own concerns and legal issues when it comes to conducting exit interviews.

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