Recently I left a job where I had worked for a number of years. Throughout my time there, I had more or less the same manager.

I left because I wasn't being challenged enough and I felt a little overworked more often than I'd have liked. A suitable job appeared elsewhere and I went through the interview process and was offered the job.

Before I left, I had an exit interview with HR. This was an acutely private conversation, though there would have been no point in having it if the information was not to leave the room in any form.

At this interview I discussed the reasons for my choosing to leave and also some concerns I had. These concerns weren't solely about any one thing or person and, I feel, I put my concerns in the more professional and objective way I could, for example:

  • I consistently stressed that my opinions were just that, and that what I perceived was not necessarily accurate nor a complete picture
  • I avoided citing hearsay but where it was of an issue significant enough to merit it and where I had experience of the same issue firsthand, I stressed that it was hearsay
  • I did my best at the start and finish to make clear that I did not have an axe to grind; rather, I love the people I worked with and felt it important to air my concerns in the appropriate way, in hope that it would be a better workplace for them

HR suggested that some of the concerns I made had been made before and that they would have to start taking them more seriously. They also asked if they could use the information I had given them immediately or after I had left, and I told them they could use it immediately.

Within a week of this interview, perhaps the same day, I left.

Fast forward a few months. The new job I am working is nothing like I expected. It's very slow and boring and I am at the stage where I am happy to apply for another; I am more than aware that changing jobs so rapidly looks bad but this warrants another move.

I applied for a different job at the same place I left, a job which I would have applied for before if it was available at the time. I heard that initially, said manager completely dismissed the idea of me returning. Apparently, my feedback, and presumably the feedback which has come before it, has acted as a catalyst for some serious change, change which my ex-manager does not necessarily like. I have good reason to believe that the ex-manager feels like I have sought to do them and their job harm, though I don't know exactly what they know.

The staff to whom I had applied were different however and managed to go over the ex-manager's head, securing me an interview.

I now have an interview within the next few weeks, which begins with a session alone with my ex-manager.

My overarching question is this:

  • How should I handle the situation when my ex-manager inevitably brings this up?


  • Does anyone else have any similar experiences?

  • The conversation I had with HR was two-way; should I limit myself only to what I said to HR?

  • Should I be as open and honest as possible about everything I said right from the outset or should I simply respond to what they ask me?

  • Does anyone feel they are entitled to know exactly what I said in this exit interview, as it relates to them or to anything else?

  • Does anyone feel it is appropriate or inappropriate for the ex-manager to expect me to recite what I said, as it relates to them or to anything else?

  • Is there anything you think I should do beforehand?

A few words on my own thoughts:

  • I don't regret what I said to HR, though I may if I am denied a chance to return based solely on this
  • I don't feel bad about being honest with HR, but I will feel very uncomfortable reciting my concerns about my ex-manager to their face
  • I don't feel it's fair to expect me to recite what I said, or to give much by way of details
  • 1
    Have you tried fixing your current job before seeking for the next move? I'd try that one first. Probably you didn't leave a bad manager but a bad working culture and now you have to deal with a resentful person, not a nice to have when starting.
    – user49901
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 16:28
  • 1
    Overworked and unchallenged is an interesting combination. Maybe the challenge was to figure-out how to get more work done faster?
    – user8365
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 16:37
  • 1
    @JeffO Overworked in so far as we were generally very busy all the time, unchallenged in so far as the work was repetitive and no longer intellectually stimulating. If that was the challenge as you suggest, I probably did the right thing by leaving :) Commented May 2, 2016 at 16:42
  • 1
    @monchitos82 I support you're right. I have used the spare time as you suggested already and have gained a certification in the time I have been here, using my own time and the downtime I get working there. Commented May 2, 2016 at 18:24
  • 1
    look elsewhere for a job
    – Kilisi
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 3:03

4 Answers 4


Based on your question and title, you are acting on some large assumptions. In reality, you don't know what ex-manager knows, if he is truly "potentially vengeful", nor do you know what he will ask you to do, or that he will require you to repeat your exit interview.

In general, I don't like airing grievances in exit interview because it burns a bridge and can often complicate things for you in the future (ex: this whole situation). However, it's done. Close that chapter and move on.

You do not have any duty to repeat your HR exit interview performance to ex-manager (and if he requires it, I would report that to HR as well). You can do so if a) you want the satisfaction of (finally) looking him in the eye and reciting his flaws, and b) you don't care if you get the job. A job interview is not the time to rehash this topic.

My approach would be to avoid the exit interview topic altogether. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Don't lie, but don't confirm (or deny) anything relating to the exit interview. If he asks what you said in exit interview, simply say, "In my exit interview, I shared some candid reflections on my experience here in an overall positive conversation. I was not accusatory, nor did I directly seek to undermine you nor any other individual. I cannot begin to speculate on whether any of the things I said influenced HR in any way. I liked working here in the past, love my former colleagues, and enjoyed our working relationship. I would enjoy working together again."

If he presses for details, I would simply say, "I am uncomfortable repeating anything I said in a confidential exit interview. I'd rather not talk about it."

Maybe he will be satisfied, maybe he won't. But, personally, there is simply no-way I would rehash a confidential exit interview during a hiring interview with the same company. Especially not if you care (at all) about getting this job and / or avoiding burning bridges.

  • 2
    All the answers are good, but this one feels the most appropriate. Commented May 5, 2016 at 19:24
  • Great answer. As a personal opinion, since I believe exit interviews are made in confidence (not by law), If I were in OP's position I would instead say something more in the line of "I am not comfortable discussing my exit interview. If you wish to talk about how we can improve this company, I've learned a couple of things in these past few months in Other Company, which I'd be happy to work with you towards implementing". i.e. keep the friendly tone, but the exit interview and what OP said or didn't say are in the past and I won't talk about them. Let's instead work towards the future. Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 15:44

Do the right thing. Be confident. You have already done what you need to do. If he has any questions, answer them truthfully and sincerely in a straight forward fashion.

Think of the worst thing. You will not get the job, but you stuck to your principles and values, and did not succumb to any pressure.

If you get the job, it is better if you have spoken your mind and cleared things upfront. If that lingers, you might have issues going forward.

Just my 2 cents.

  • Thanks @Learner_101. I'm surprised I haven't thought about it like that sooner, I've been too focussed on getting the job as I really want it. It was principles and values that drove me to have the conversation as it happened in the first place. Commented May 2, 2016 at 16:19

First and foremost**, you can't be retaliated against for anything that you told HR then or now, or any time for that matter. If this ex-manager (I'll refer to them as XMAN) has some kind of vendetta against you or anyone else due to numerous like-minded claims against them, chances are they're already on thin ice. Furthermore, on the merit of "they threw me under the bus in an exit interview," to disapprove of rehiring that person is also unprofessional, since they shouldn't really know what you said to begin.

Being said, you don't know what XMAN knows, only that some people left, and some changes got made that perhaps made them a little bitter. Unless they query you directly, you have no reason to believe there's a specific problem, and that it could just be that XMAN didn't like you as an employee to begin with. XMAN certainly doesn't have any obligation to know the events of the exit interview explicitly, so you have no obligation to tell them anything.

In fact, as your ex-manager, they really have no reason to speak to you unless they're part of the interview and/or hiring process or somehow supervise you again. If you're being harassed by someone not on your team, go to your new manager and they should go and say "hey, you can't harass my team members." That would represent the most professional environment.

**Referring mainly from the US.

  • Thanks @CMosychuk, I'm not in the US but what you have said is very useful nonetheless. Commented May 2, 2016 at 16:29

You handled your exit interview well. At the time, you had beliefs rooted in rationality and you put them forward which is the entire point of the question in the exit interview. It's supposed to be productive, and all parties should be aware of that.

Second, if a HR report pertains to federal rights, no one can retaliate against you in any form. They couldn't fire you before, and they can't use that as an excuse to bar you from the job now. For example, if your concern was something related to safety, discrimination, et cetera. I don't know if your concerns fall under those categories, though. And even if it wasn't, it would be extremely bad form for them to try to get in the way of rehiring you without good reason.

While HR is not under any obligation to keep things confidential, you're not under any obligation to share your exit interview details with your ex-manager.

Your new interview process should be like any other - what skills you have, how you're able to perform your job duties well, and so forth. Using it as an opportunity to glean information from you would be unprofessional of them, and it would detract from a proper interview that they would have otherwise had with someone who wasn't involved in the new changes.

Usually, it's best to only answer things when asked for. If you are okay with sharing information that you shared with HR, I'd recommend against just volunteering it. And if you do, stick to "just the facts" and employ the same level of maturity and rationality that you did in the exit interview.

You may be pleasantly surprised and find that they are rather professional about it, in which case I'd keep it to myself if I were you, and stick to the topics at hand.

  • Thank you for your detailed and insightful answer. I'm not sure if my rights here are equivocal to those in America but I would think they are similar at least. Commented May 2, 2016 at 16:47
  • Two downvotes without any reason as to why? Commented May 4, 2016 at 13:54
  • I've been upvoting everyone but unfortunately I don't have enough reputation for it to persist :/ Commented May 4, 2016 at 17:01

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