Should I Be Honest at My Exit Interview?

Man telling the truth Shutterstock

Your mother probably taught you that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. In this case, however, you can’t exactly stay quiet and pretend not to be able to hear certain questions like “Why are you leaving us?” A better piece of advice would, therefore, be: if you don’t have anything nice to say, lie.

While they say that honesty is the best policy, some situations in life call for you to withhold the truth – and an exit interview is one of those situations. In fact, being honest in an exit interview could very well ruin your career – and here’s how.

1. You Could End Up Burning Bridges

Business woman arguingiStock

The whole point of leaving your company – especially if you quit because you were treated unfairly or were never recognized for all the hard work you put in – is to set all those bridges between you and your former employer on fire. After all, when you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you don’t typically stay in each other’s lives. You move on and you do your best to put them in your past – and keep them there. The same applies to breaking up with your boss: you had a good time, it didn’t work out, and now you’re moving on without him.

But, watching those bridges burn could be one of the worst things you could do to your career. If you’re completely honest with the HR manager about why you’re leaving (you hate your micromanaging boss’ guts, for example), then you might have trouble attaining a gleaming reference. Simply put, don’t make asking for a reference letter after quitting your job any harder than it already is.

Meanwhile, you might want to return to your old company someday. The idea sounds ridiculous, and perhaps it is, but you just never know what may happen down the road. Things may change – attitudes may change, and toxic bosses may move on – and a great opportunity might become available with your former employers that you just can’t afford to miss. But, there’s no point applying for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you burned your bridges with them.

2. You May Sound Like a Liar

Lying businessman with growing noseShutterstock

This doesn’t make sense. You’re telling me that if I’m honest in an exit interview, I’ll sound like a liar, and yet you’re advising me to lie to not sound like a liar?

Yes – kind of.

Let’s say you quit your job on the premise that you’re unhappy about your low salary, which is an excellent reason to want to quit. You’ve complained about it to coworkers, your manager, and even the CEO. And now you’ve suddenly changed your tune in the exit interview, and you’re saying that you’re departing because you found another job elsewhere. Not only does this make you look deceitful, but it also makes employers wonder what else you’ve been lying about.

3. You Could Ruin Your Reputation

Girl gesturing thumbs downShutterstock

Who cares? You’re leaving, right?

While you are indeed leaving the company and finally parting ways with your lousy boss and annoying coworkers, remember that what they say about your reputation preceding you is entirely true. In other words, anything you may say or do may come back to bite you in the future.

If you begin listing every complaint you’ve ever had about the company, its management, your coworkers, and everything else that’s ever bothered you, then you quite simply run the risk of becoming known as the whiny complainer that once was. And, as explained previously, your reputation as a whiny complainer might just follow you around throughout your career – especially if you remain in the same industry. Essentially, this not only damages your professional reputation but it also greatly minimizes the chances of a successful job search.

4. You May Come Off Sounding Bitter

Man eating lemonLifehack

BambooHR, a US-based human resources company, found that 78% of respondents to a 2014 survey were annoyed that their coworkers were being promoted faster than they were. And if you’ve been working in the company, working your ass off and putting in extra hours over the weekend, and Sandra (who has only been in the company two minutes) gets promoted to the job you’ve had your eye on for quite some time now, it’s safe to assume that you’ll be less than happy about the whole thing. And it might just be what pushes you over the edge and forces you to hand in your resignation.

You don’t want to work for a company where you’re constantly denied the opportunity to grow and advance in your career – that’s understandable, and we totally get it. But, don’t let bitterness take over to get revenge on Sandra and the company – it will simply get you nowhere, fast.

Have you ever had to give an exit interview? How honest were you? Tell us in the comments section below, along with any tips and tricks, and don’t forget to share this article after reading!