What a Scathing Exit Review Can Do

A reader asks: Can an honest but ugly exit review hurt my references? Answer: Yes.


I'm in HR, and when I quit my last job voluntarily, I put on the exit questionnaire for reason, 'Dishonest and deceitful practices by executive management,' and for suggestions for management, 'Practice what you preach about equal opportunity and nondiscrimination.' The company's disregard for the job posting policy led to my eventual decision to leave. (This time, it had affected me directly). In short, they were The Bad, Evil HR Organization.

My questions are: Could my blunt and honest responses haunt me in my search for a new job? Does employment blackballing exist? The company doesn't give references other than date of hire and last title, as a matter of policy, but I know good recruiters can get more info if they try, and following policy isn't this HR organization's strong suit.

 Of course employment blackballing exists!

I realize that wasn't the answer you wanted, so I added an exclamation point to make it seem cheery. Did it work?

On the positive side, there is no secret HR blackballing network—at least not one that I'm aware of. (Somehow, this makes me a little nervous. Maybe there is such a network and I've never been asked to join. And no, SHRM—the Society for Human Resource Management—isn't set up for that.)

What you did was either brave or stupid. Probably a little closer to the latter. Now, truth be told, if you were that disgusted with your organization, it's doubtful the leadership saw you as a team player with lots of potential anyway. Your chances of a glowing recommendation from them were slim to begin with, but now you've just switched that all the way to zero.

Will it ruin your career? Not likely. Since you don't have a new job, you're going to have to explain in interviews why you left without one. Voluntary terminations done without another job lined up are always a little suspect, so be prepared to answer questions about why you left. Give references from previous jobs and hope that this company sticks to their policy. It may be a little more difficult to find a new job, but you will find one. Just be prepared for a long slog.

And while it's always best to be honest, it's important to be positive. Speaking negatively about your previous employer (no matter how corrupt they were) will hurt your chances of getting a new job. In the future, remember that it's best not to burn bridges. You may think you will never need them again, but you never really know. The admin you hardly knew will read your exit interview and remember you forever. Ten years from now, you'll walk into a job interview and she'll be behind the desk and you won't get the job because she'll think you are too volatile.

When you are negative about a previous boss, the interviewer assumes you'll end up being negative about her. Plus, your previous boss could be her college roommate. You never know.

If it makes you feel any better, I once quit a job with a very similar indictment (along with a threat to call the state attorney general). But it was a cashier job at a local store. And I left for a fast food job, so I doubt there was any reference check.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of Human Resources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.


You Might Also Like