April 12, 2010
In an exit interview, be forthcoming
If the job market improves and more employees change jobs of their own volition, more will have to decide what to say‚ or not‚ in exit interviews.
One set of advice says to say nothing negative. Criticisms could be used against you when a prospective employer calls for a reference.
And what if you one day want to return? Think of burned bridges.
Beth Carvin doesn't much care for that advice. That's partly because her company, Nobscot Corp., sells computerized exit interview services to employers, and they need good input to make the exit survey data worthwhile.
If departing employees don't reveal the real reasons they're leaving, she said, organizations miss good feedback and fail to address problems.
"They ask because they want to know," she said.
But Carvin appreciates workers' reluctance to tell all. That's why she recommends that exit interviews be done on an arms-length relationship from the organization.
Carvin said the exit interview industry has found that about two-thirds of departing employees are willing to participate, anonymously or by name, in computerized exit surveys. That's more than double the standard response rate for in-house exit surveys.
It may be tough to convince you that the employer values your opinion. You may want to simply walk away.
But if you're asked to do an exit interview, consider delivering constructive criticism, if you have any interest at all in helping the workplace be a better place for others.
If you're leaving because your boss was a jerk, don't say so in that way. Rather, be specific, Carvin advises. Say: "I was uncomfortable hearing my manager's racist jokes. I think diversity training would improve the working atmosphere."
Carvin notes that some users, accustomed to spilling their thoughts online in social media, may be more open in exit interviews.
But the bottom line is that organizations won't change if they hear something from just one worker. It takes aggregated responses to pinpoint issues that need to be addressed.
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