A Funny Exit Interview Experience

18 04 2010

Once upon a time I worked for a pretty large financial services company.* (Okay, fine. Two months ago.) Like many large companies, it had pretty formal entrance and exit procedures for employees. My exit interview was part of those procedures, and it was surprisingly fun.

When I gave my notice I wasn’t shy about why I was leaving, and people were very supportive. “To travel the world with my wife for a few years” drew a lot more questions than “to XYZ bank” or “to a hedge fund,” and word spread quickly around the firm. It’s usually the job of an HR analyst or middle-manager to do exit interviews, but the HR staff had heard our story and an HR vice president pulled rank, deciding that she would do her first exit interview in years because she wanted to hear more.

It’s no secret that most ‘professionals’ would give up their careers in an instant if they were given a comfortable sum of money and told to do as they pleased. I spent the bulk of my exit interview trying to convince a senior HR staff member that it wasn’t too late for her to do as she wanted! We talked extensively about my mini-retirement, but talked more about how she would love to do the same.

My favorite part of the interview came toward the end, when we had to plow through some paperwork. HR had to ascribe a ‘reason code’ to my leaving. Paraphrasing, options included “another job”, “health issues”, “retirement”, “bad experience with the company” “spouse changed jobs to a different city”, and “personal reasons”. I recall there being a number of other options, but I thought the obvious answer was “personal reasons” (“mini-retirement” wasn’t on the list).

Turns out “personal reasons” was a bad option. The secret: “personal reasons” is what they put down when they think the person left because they hated their job, but they just didn’t want to tell HR! Eeep. The solution? They made up a new reason code for me :-)!

No complaints with that.

*Actually, I did it twice. While I’ll keep my most recent employer confidential-ish for now, I’m a Bear Stearns survivor. Fun times!

posted by jayhorowitz

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