Can You Decline An Exit Interview?

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An informal job interview in a cafe

Whilst exit interviews provide a benefit to a business looking to gather feedback, they may not always be a desirable proposition for the departing worker – especially if the separation was not by mutual agreement.

When you have secured a new job or have your sights set on a future away from your current employer, the last thing you might wish to do is spend more time and energy on the role which you will soon be vacating.

As exit interviews are normally a voluntary arrangement between an employee and employer you can safely decline to attend without fear of repercussions. If interviews are conducted as company policy you should check whether you have a clause pre-baked in your contract which requires your participation. If there is no specific condition to attend an exit interview then you are quite within your rights to refuse the invitation. 

In a survey by the Harvard Business Review it was found that 75% of businesses collect data in some form from employees who are exiting their organization. Yet, despite this level of commonality the exit interview is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. Like a secret club the only people who truly know details of the process (who/what/why and how) for each company are those who have departed.

Drawing upon the experience of HR managers and employees alike we will aim to demystify the E.I. by answering a few of the most commonly asked questions.  

  • When should you decline an exit interview?
  • How can you politely decline an exit interview?
  • Is declining an exit interview bad for your future job prospects?

When should you definitely decline an exit interview? 

It’s completely understandable that you may not feel comfortable taking part in an interview where you’ll be questioned on your thoughts and opinions of a job that was lacking so much that the best option was to look for a job elsewhere.

If the company has terminated your employment, or you are departing because you have little confidence in the working environment or direction the business is heading, there is little that your exit interview will be able to do to remedy these grievances in time to make a difference.

Take solace – seeking and acting upon employee feedback should come well before this stage.

Questions such as “what caused you to look for a job elsewhere”, are a clear indication that the company is out of touch with what its employees value. 

However despite the seeming lack of personal benefit the chance to air your brutally honest thoughts and be heard can be extremely tempting.

If you need a reference to support future job applications, and run the risk of letting your emotions get the better of you during an exit interview, I’d suggest that it’s best you decline the offer to attend.

Don’t feel awkward or guilty about doing so either!

HR managers (or whomever will be conducting the interview) know that employees on their way out the door have very little incentive to provide truthful answers to the questions being posed. And so it doesn’t really benefit either party should the employee not wish to wholly participate.

If you do decide to take part in the interview you also have to accept that sensitive or private information might be shared beyond the four walls of the interview room. If you plan on putting a troublesome colleague or manager to rights just be aware that it may come back to haunt you. 

This is especially true in specialist industries where the pool of prospective employers are small and well connected. 

On many occasions the stress and worry that will be experienced in the lead up to an exit interview just isn’t worth it to have a few minutes to vent.

Packing an office cubicle after resigning
Image by ijeab on Canva Pro

How can you politely decline an exit interview?

Providing you have no condition in your contract that requires attendance at an offboarding interview, the best way to decline is to be as straightforward yet professional as possible with your communications.

Keep your response free from personal remarks or language which may insinuate a negative opinion of the company, your colleagues or your working environment. 

Also try not to leave any ambiguous statements that could encourage HR to return and challenge your decision to no show. 

Something along the lines of the following should suffice.

“Thank you for inviting me to attend an exit interview on [date] in advance of my departure from the company on [date].

Whilst I appreciate that [company name] gains insight from feedback collected during off-boarding interviews, I wish to politely decline to participate in the exit interview process on this occasion. 

My observations whilst employed has been acknowledged and acted upon, and therefore I trust there is no need for further communications prior to my leaving.

For clarity please accept this response as confirmation that I shall not be attending the proposed interview. 

All the best for the future”

Is declining an exit interview bad for your future job prospects?

Fingers crossed you will be in the position where you have already secured a new job before leaving your existing one, however if not, declining an exit interview should have no influence whatsoever upon your future employment prospects.

From any prospective employer’s standpoint a no-show at an exit interview is barely a point worth considering, and has no bearing on how well you might perform as a worker in their company.

In some respects, attending an E.I. might prompt you to respond emotionally, which is far more risky to your reputation than declining participating in the first place.

Take home message

Whilst it might feel slightly anti-conformist to reject the request of an employer, when it comes to an exit interview unless there is a specific clause in your contract which states your attendance is mandatory then you’re quite within your rights to decline to attend.

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