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I already know that there is no benefit in being honest or in giving good suggestions to improve things at the company as no change will be applied from the exit interview suggestions.

I also do not want to burn any bridges by attending the exit interview and being honest.

So what is best way to say no to attending the exit interview? I just don't want to face it.

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Just say it was a great experience. – Paparazzi Jan 6 at 7:37
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You don't feel like declining the interview is in a way saying something negative? – JeffO Jan 6 at 10:35
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For what it's worth, the exit interviews I have gone to were really just a question or two about why I was leaving, and then a discussion about my final check, ending of benefits, what happens to 401k, etc. There was no pressure, and most of it was stuff I needed to know rather than me telling them what was wrong. – JPhi1618 Jan 6 at 14:43
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Exit interviews are almost always conducted during your work time, and choosing not to show up for one could be considered very bad for you - you are essentially refusing to do requested work that you are being paid to do. – Adam Davis Jan 6 at 15:13
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Trying to avoid the exit interview will probably make trouble for the responsible person who has an objective of holding it. In one job transition, the HR person who did my exit interview on the job I was leaving appeared a few weeks later as the HR manager at my new employer. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 6 at 18:05
up vote 159 down vote accepted

If your company wants to have an exit interview, it is unlikely that you can avoid it (at least not without damaging your relationship with the company).

Go to the interview. Feel free to politely answer questions without being brutally honest. "I don't have any suggestions to give you", for example, can just as easily mean that you're politely declining to share suggestions that you don't expect to be implemented.

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Yes, this. Just wear your game face for the half an hour and it's over. – Jane S Jan 6 at 8:11
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Thank you justin, I would love to complete exit interview in a way like you suggest. – Helping Hands Jan 6 at 8:29
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"I decline to answer that question as I do not wish to prejudice my future relationship with the company" – Mark Booth Jan 6 at 11:34
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@MarkBooth: Not sure if that was serious but if somebody said that to me it would make me think they had something horrendous to say that they were not saying and thus damage the future relationship with the company. – Chris Jan 6 at 11:57
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Yeah I disagree with @MarkBooth's suggestion: it strongly implies that you have something bad to say and are just refusing to say it. Just be polite, say as little as possible, and describe everything about you leaving as being for personal/family etc reasons. – Jon Story Jan 6 at 14:46

How can I politely turn down the exit interview?

Don't. Just attend the interview but remain noncommittal, control your temper and avoid saying anything negative. Resign yourself to wasting an hour or so regurgitating vague statements, trite phrases and meaningless pleasantries. Memorise phrases like:

  • The opportunity was too good to pass up
  • I learned so much here but felt it was time to move on
  • It made sense for me at this point in my career
  • I'm excited about moving to Field X / Industry Y

This is vastly preferable to refusing to attend. You may be perfectly right on principle but you'll lose on politics.1

Refer to this question for further suggestions on what to say, how to say it and what to avoid saying: How much should I say in an exit interview?


1 Paraphrased from Alison Green

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so you mean attend exit interview with positive answers and cool mind :). I think that is best way to avoid all other things. – Helping Hands Jan 6 at 12:17
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I disagree, a bit. Find several specific positive things to say about your experience at the company. If you are asked what they can do to improve things, use those and talk about how great they are and how they should continue to do them. You'll avoid coming off as vague or evasive. You're not trying to fix things, you're trying to leave a good impression of yourself. And if it's that hard to come up with anything positive, yes, they will know you are being evasive but there's a good chance you'll run into that person in future job searches. – Colin Young Jan 8 at 20:31

You will likely mess up relations even more by wiggling out of a social convention like an exit interview (if this is commonplace at your employer). You don't want your ex-boss, when asked for a reference of you, to think of you straight away as "the guy that wiggled out of the exit interview".

This may be the last possibility of leaving a positive impression. It's certainly worth it to bend over a little and do this right. After all, if you are willing to invest effort into getting out of the interview, you could just as well invest effort into doing a professional and polite interview and leave on good terms.

Prepare beforehand. Think of a couple of good things about your current employer, as well as a few minor things that could be improved. Have a professional reason for leaving, like wanting to see new ways of doing things, or working in a different environment.

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I don't like exit interviews for the same reasons, but thinking back, most of the exit interviews I've done weren't interviews at all. I don't remember anyone ever asking me why I was leaving, or asking for suggestions on improving things. They already knew why I was leaving.

Generally, you don't have to go to an exit interview if you don't want to. But, your company is likely required to do certain compliance notifications and other paperwork, and you may have to return keys and/or a badge. The best time to do that is an exit interview, so just go and get it over with.

Don't worry too much about it. If they ask you any uncomfortable questions, don't be rude or angry. Just give a short, generic response. For example, if they ask for suggestions on how to improve conditions, just say you don't have any. If they ask why you are leaving, say you got a better opportunity. Do nothing to prolong the meeting, and it should go quickly.

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From the employer's perspective, the exit interview is primarily about spelling out specific ongoing obligations. For instance, this is when you'll hear fairly obvious things like "If you do need to come to the office for any reason, you need to be signed in", or polite reminders like "You are not allowed to divulge any trade secrets, even to your new employer". Normally you'll be asked to sign something specific HR needs. You may have agreed to things, such as supporting the company even after you leave in litigation, and you'll be asked to sign a reminder.

Some facts may be established, such as you leaving on your own accord, which affects unemployment benefits you may try to claim later.

Sometimes HR wants to cull information about your experiences for their benefit, but it is not in your best interest to tell the truth. I suspect HR rarely gets useful information from these in that respect.

If there is a dispute later, you're likely to be portrayed as leaving without fulfilling your obligations, which can undermine claims for compensation, etc.

You should be paid for the day, or at least the time.

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Exit interviews are ridiculous and a complete waste of time. However, there really is no way to politely decline them. Even if you are completely courteous, the very act of declining will be seen as disrespectful.

So you get to choose ...

  • Go to the exit interview, smile and say the platitudes.
  • Go to the exit interview, smile and speak your mind.
  • Decline the interview. Say something like "I don't have anything to add to what was discussed when I resigned" or "I am very busy preparing my desk for the next guy and don't think I can add anything else of value beyond what we have already discussed."

The consensus is that the first choice is the best one, and I concur.

If you are not willing or able to do so, I recommend not attending over attending and speaking your mind. To bastardize an old proverb, it is better to be silent and thought a jerk than to speak up and demonstrate that you are jerk.

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I'm not a fan of exit interviews and have made some efforts in the past to avoid them. My strategy has been relatively simple;

  • Do your best to book the exit interview for as late as possible, ideally within one or two days of your leaving date. This can usually be accomplished by claiming to be very busy "finishing things off" or simply begging your boss to find you activities on the days proposed by HR.

  • On the day of the interview, claim to be suffering from toothache or an unspecified stomach condition and simply remove yourself from the office for a couple of hours to "go buy medicine", thus rendering the exit interview a missed event.

I appreciate that this may seem inelegant but please trust me when I say that it works and works well.

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If it works well, I have to ask why you've had enough to develop the strategy? :-) – jimm101 Jan 7 at 14:34
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@jimm101 - I'm reasonably sure that my career history is none of your business. – Richard Jan 7 at 14:38
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This seems to be the only answer that's actually answered the question. – David Wallace Jan 9 at 4:48
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@Richard The question was "How can I politely turn down the exit interview" not "How can I get out of the exit interview". Your answer does not involve turning it down at all, and so doesn't answer the question. – Mike Scott Jan 10 at 12:39
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@mikescott - mine is the only answer that doesn't seem to involve doing exactly what he doesn't want to do. All of the others are predicated on the (wrong) assumption that exit interviews are like death and taxes and that he should just grin and bear it. – Richard Jan 10 at 13:32

Sharing my own experience in this particular case I can say: just focus on your final report you've made before. You're absolutely right if you don't want to shake the air with words where nobody listens to it.

Make a more detailed explanation of all the final report's' fields, and that should be fine! You may face direct questions about management, etc. - just say that "I'm not a proficient manager, I'm a specialist in <your field of expertise>, so I'm not even trying to think as a manager. That's why I can't fully answer your question". Of course if you was not a manager =) I'm an IT expert, and it worked like a charm.

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I say you should attend the exit interview. Your employer is asking you for something for the last time, and by saying no, you will not give a very good last impression.

Plus, exit interviews can be very helpful for you too. Invite your coworkers to the exit interview and ask them for feedback on you. How you can improve? What do they like about you and what do they not? I recently had my first exit interview. I got very valuable feedback from my co-workers and employer.

Finally, prepare some general feedback for the company. I suggest that you neither be too blunt/straight, nor just keep praising the company. Give them some honest feedback that can help them and at the same time, don't offend them. Remember not to target anyone. Some of the points I can think are:

  • I feel like we spent a lot of time in meetings. This should be reduced.

  • I feel there are a few too many disturbances in the workplace; this happens all the time. This affects productivity somewhat.

This will give them a feeling that it is genuine and not lying/praising bluntly.

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