HR Confidential: How honest is too honest in an exit interview? | Crain's Baltimore

HR Confidential: How honest is too honest in an exit interview?

Humans are complicated, but the resourcing of humans doesn't have to be. Looking for managerial or career advice? All sources will be kept confidential. Email your questions to Heather Krentler at or call our advice line at 313-327-2209. 

Q: How honest is too honest in an exit interview?

There’s honest and then there’s raw. Does your perspective have the potential to make the business better or will it get you punched in the face? Not literally (I hope!), but backlash is a real possibility.

With exit interviews, there’s no such thing as "too honest." Chances are HR already knows your dirt. We’ve already heard it from your boss and/or the last five people who quit. We play dumb, because it makes you feel better, but no one has ever truly surprised me.

Exit interviews are usually an HR box that needs to be checked. It’s our low-effort attempt at making sure no one’s being too naughty. 


When exiters are willing and able to separate feelings from knowledge, really good things happen. HR can use that information to help the remaining team improve processes, products or employee engagement and retention.

The real question is, “What do you want to accomplish with your feedback?” It’s all about intent. Do you really want to use this information to make things better? If so, go for it. Focus on the issues and behaviors, not the people. If you’re just looking to criticize and air grievances, however, don’t waste anyone's time.

As for backlash, remember the world is small. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t trash talk. Put on your big kid pants and be a pro about how you present your thoughts.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Well-intended, actionable feedback stands on its own validity, not the messenger.

Follow Heather on Twitter at @heatherkrentler, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

August 22, 2016 - 12:57pm