I’ve worked at universities, research labs, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Oracle. In most cases, when I left my job I was given an exit interview. In some cases I left because of frustration with the job, organization, or leadership. In others I was bored and couldn’t find a good challenge where I was. In still others I was moving for personal reasons, such as getting married and needing to relocate.
When you’re frustrated, it’s natural to try and ‘settle scores’ or give heart-felt advice on how the company should change at the exit interview. You should absolutely not give in to this desire.
Negative feedback generally changes nothing.
The exception is if there’s a trend they’ve already noticed, it can confirm that trend, such as leaving from under-pay. Even in these cases you are painted in a negative light for abandoning ship rather than helping fix the problem.
The world is small.
If you’re working in tech and move around, you’ll likely bump into the same people over and over again. On several occasions I’ve left in frustration at a particular leader, only to wind up working for or with them again years later. Sometimes at the same company, sometimes at other companies, or even across the world. There’s no upside to giving negative feedback that might find its way back to them: it changes nothing except their opinion of you, and the opinions of those who listen to them.
Nobody likes a complainer.
Full stop. Who do you respect more when you’re stuck in a job, someone who complains all the time and drags everyone down, or someone who rolls up their shirt sleeves and tries to do the best they can?
The bottom line
Exit interviews are mostly a formality, a reminder of policies, and (in some cases) a threat of legal action if you don’t take policies and agreements seriously, especially for recruiting.
Don’t mistake the exit interview for anything more personally meaningful than that, because 99 times out of 100 it’s not. You accomplish nothing by giving ‘honest’ reasons for leaving or negative feedback, and it can hurt your future.