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What shouldn’t you say in an exit interview?

When leaving a job, the exit interview is a chance to share your feedback about your experience at the company. While it can be tempting to vent your frustrations, there are some things you should avoid saying. Being professional and constructive will leave a better last impression.

Why do companies conduct exit interviews?

Exit interviews give companies insights into why employees are leaving. The goal is to identify issues that may be causing high turnover as well as gain feedback to improve the workplace. For the departing employee, it’s an opportunity to share honest feedback that could help the company in the future.

Some key reasons companies conduct exit interviews are:

  • Understand reasons for turnover
  • Receive feedback on management, culture, policies, etc.
  • Identify problems or trends requiring action
  • Collect insights from departing staff on improvements
  • Maintain positive relations with departing staff

While exit interviews aim to be constructive, employees sometimes want to voice grievances or frustrations on the way out. However, avoiding unprofessional comments is advised.

What should you avoid saying in an exit interview?

When considering what not to say in an exit interview, it helps to keep the purpose of the meeting in mind. The goal is providing constructive feedback that could help the company in the future.

Here are some topics and statements to avoid:

  • Personal attacks or insults towards co-workers or managers
  • Threats or blackmail attempting to gain something from the company
  • Exaggerations or speculation presented as facts
  • Private internal information that should remain confidential
  • Derogatory comments about the company as a whole
  • “I’m leaving because of my boss” without explanation
  • Complaints without any suggestion for improvement
  • A list of grievances going back years
  • Negative comments about insignificant matters
  • False accusations or lies about the company

Venting anger or frustration is not productive. Instead, focus the discussion on providing insights and suggestions the company could learn from.

How to handle difficult topics professionally

Sometimes there are legitimate concerns worth discussing involving company shortcomings, conflicts, or even discrimination. These issues can be brought up professionally by:

  • Sticking to the facts – avoid exaggerations or accusations without proof. Provide real examples.
  • Maintaining composure – have a thoughtful discussion instead of venting anger.
  • Providing actionable feedback – explain how the situation could be improved.
  • Focusing on the company rather than individuals – avoid making it personal.
  • Consider timing – if needed, some sensitive topics may be better saved for an anonymous exit survey later.

The goal should be a constructive discussion focused on improvements rather than just complaints.

Example of discussing management issues professionally

Instead of saying:

“My manager was completely incompetent and our team was a disaster because of him.”

Try providing specific examples and suggestions for improvement:

“I felt my manager struggled with organization and planning. For example, we often had last-minute changes to priorities and lack of clarity around goals. In the future, it may help for management to provide structured project plans and clearer direction for each sprint. More check-ins between manager and team could also help align understanding of timelines and objectives.”

Example of discussing discrimination professionally

Instead of saying:

“This company is discriminatory and I’m leaving because it’s a toxic environment.”

Provide observations, real examples, and suggestions:

“I want to raise the concern that there may be some unconscious biases or lack of equal opportunities for female employees compared to male peers. For example, in my team I noticed leadership opportunities or high-visibility projects tended to go to male employees, despite similar qualifications among the women. I want to share this feedback so the company can ensure equal access to career growth opportunities. Some things that may help are diversity training for managers, a formal mentoring program, and an anonymous channel for reporting concerns.”

When is it best to decline an exit interview?

In some cases, it may be better to forgo the exit interview entirely. Examples could include when:

  • You have an overly emotional or negative attitude that prevents constructive discussion.
  • The company is undergoing major investigations or lawsuits that limit what can be discussed.
  • You fear retaliation or lack of confidentiality that stops honest feedback.
  • The company has demonstrated no interest in your insights or making improvements.
  • Your new job offer is time urgent and an interview would delay your departure.

If you think the exit interview is unlikely to be productive, it may be best to politely decline. You can still provide anonymous feedback through an exit survey later.

Key takeaways

Here are some key tips for what not to say and how to handle exit interviews professionally:

  • Avoid personal attacks, threats, exaggerations, breaches of confidentiality, or unprofessional statements.
  • Focus the discussion on constructive insights and suggestions for improvement.
  • Raise difficult topics like management issues or discrimination through facts, real examples, and proposed solutions.
  • Decline the interview if you do not think you can have a professional discussion or provide useful feedback.
  • Keep the purpose of helping the company improve in mind rather than just venting.

Exit interview questions to prepare for

Here are some common exit interview questions to expect and how to prepare professional and constructive responses:

Question How to Prepare Your Response
Why did you decide to leave your job? Focus on positive reasons like seeking new growth opportunities rather than complaining about your current role. Offer suggestions for improvements.
What did you like most/least about working here? Highlight positives first. Constructively explain challenges and how they could be addressed.
Did you receive sufficient training and resources to do your job well? Be honest about any shortcomings but avoid placing blame. Suggest improvements like more hands-on training programs.
Are you satisfied with opportunities for career development and raises here? Why? Calmly explain any dissatisfaction and what could help, like more frequent performance reviews. Avoid appearing entitled or making demands.
Would you recommend working here to others? Why or why not? If not, focus suggestions on elements that would improve the employee experience. Don’t attack the company’s reputation.
Do you feel respected by leadership and your co-workers? Explain factually if not, focusing on how communication or attitudes could improve rather than blaming individuals.
Are there any additional suggestions you have for improvements here? Share constructive recommendations for improvements relevant to your role and experience.

Preparing objective, solution-focused responses demonstrates professionalism and keeps the discussion productive.


Exit interviews aim to end the employment relationship constructively. While emotions may run high, remaining professional avoids burning bridges. Stick to factual examples and suggestions that may help the company in the future. If a productive discussion seems unlikely, politely declining the interview may be best. With an objective mindset, the exit interview can benefit both parties.