Exit Interview

An exit interview is defined as an interview held with an employee before they depart from a company. The main reason for the exit interview is to give the company a better idea of why the employee is leaving. These interviews are the time to garner constructive criticism to help the company do better. During this interview (and even before) the company can get a better sense of what the employee’s experience with the company was like and apply this new information to incoming employees.

The exit interview is an opportunity that employers should never ignore or underestimate, yet to their own detriment, typically do. Exit interviews still haven’t become common practice simply because they have not been done before and implementing them can be difficult in the beginning. Another obvious reason for ignoring the exit interview opportunity is the unpleasant criticism that the company could get from the employee.  No matter how difficult or unpleasant the exit interview might seem, it is an incredibly productive way to survey departing employees, take the information you get from them, and make improvements throughout the company. These employees leaving the company should be seen as incredible sources of vital feedback. Once a company is able to overcome the hurdle that is insecurity, they can gain access to a new perspective that could help the entire company thrive.

Get the Most out of the Exit Interview

Of course, any company would rather be able to keep valued employees than see them leave. If you notice your company is seeing a higher turnover rate than normal, you want to get to the bottom of why this is happening. The single greatest way to do this is to take advantage of the exit interview. Few companies analyze the data they receive from an exit interview and even fewer companies utilize the exit interview altogether.

Pinpoint HR Issues

Many companies who are new to the art of exit interviews make the mistake of focusing too much on salary and benefits as the problem. Of course employees need a financial incentive to stay with a company, but the salary generally isn’t the problem for employees who leave; most of it has to do with human recourses.

In addition to getting to the bottom of any problems that could have been caused by human resources, use the exit interview as the time to get the departing employee’s perspective on the company culture, the working conditions, colleagues, and the job itself. When you have the perspective of unsatisfied employees, you can work toward a more efficient, healthier system for the workplace.

Questions to Ask

  1. Why Are You Leaving The Company?  This is the clearest most obvious question that every employer wants to know and it makes sense that it should be the first question to ask. It is important to know if the reason for an employee leaving was one specific event or a buildup to their decision. Any shortcomings that could have led to the employee’s decision could be uncovered and addressed simply by asking this question.
  2. Did you have all the right resources to do your job well? It isn’t uncommon for people to leave their place of employment because they didn’t feel qualified to do their job. And often they don’t feel qualified because they didn’t have the right tools and resources to do their job. In an exit interview, you can discover if the departing employee is leaving because of insufficient training, lack of technology, or poor communication.
  3. How Was Your Relationship with Your Manager Like? This is another one of the most common reasons for an employee leaving a company. If the relationship was bad, it becomes very easy for an employee to confidently leave their job.
  4. What was it that influenced Your Decision to Take This New Job? If your employee is leaving you because they have a new job, try to find out why. Do they offer better pay? Is it the job they have always wanted? Find out what it is that attracted your employee to this new company they will be working for.
  5. What was your favorite thing about your job? Prior to things going sour, what was it that your employee enjoyed the most out of working for the company? Although the primary objective of the exit interview is to get constructive criticism, you can still learn about some of the positives.

Doing The Exit Interview Right

The exit interview is probably the last time the company will have a lengthy conversation with the departing employ. During this interview, you want to get a healthy sense of the employee’s overall experience during their time with you. In the majority of cases, you can expect to have employees highlight their good experiences with your company and anything that is negative will only serve to better your business operations.

Tips for Asking Questions

  • The conversation should not come off as scripted, however there are a series of critical questions that should be asked.

  • In every exit interview, you should ask the same basic questions. This makes it simpler for you to compare the responses and find a trend. Some of these questions should be, “what do you think the business is doing correctly or what is the business doing incorrectly?” and “how should we improve poor conditions?”

  • Remind your departing employee at the beginning of the interview that they are not obligated to answer a question they don’t want to.

  • Ask the employee if you have their permission to show their answers to the management department. 

Creative Exit Interview Questions

  1. How do your colleagues feel about you leaving and the situation for why you are leaving?
  2. How would you improve the company’s situation that made you leave?
  3. Can you list three things you like the most about being employed by our company?
  4. Can you list three things that you would change about the company?
  5. Can you list three of your favorite traits that you manager has?
  6. Is there anything that should be changed about the employee orientation program?
  7. Is there anything you didn’t know that you would have wanted to know before joining the company?
  8. Who in the company has impacted your life in the most positive way?

Examples of Things You Shouldn’t Ask, Do, or Say

1. Strive to get some general feedback; never try to pry for information or thoughts the employee might have about particular situations, issues, or other employees.

2. Don’t ask any questions that might seem like they were spurring gossip.

3. Don’t say something that could be portrayed as slanderous. Focus solely on the employee and their personal experience working at the company.

4. Don’t divulge details on the departing employee’s job status or performance to other employees in the company.

5. Don’t push your employee to reconsider their decision to leave their job.

Go Over the Feedback You Received from the Employee

As already mention, the whole purpose of the exit interview is to learn about the departing employee’s experience to discover what you can do to improve the management and morale of the company. After conducting the meeting and getting the departing employee’s permission to share their feedback, show the feedback to other members of management. Spend time evaluating the feedback and determining how it could be used to fix something within the company. You might even want to put all of the notes that you compiled in a spreadsheet to organize the talking points and make it easier to scan through everything. If and when you find a trend, come up with a strategy to address the issue and make any necessary improvements in the company.

Exit Interview and Knowledge Transfer

If possible, it is incredibly important to get as much information as you can about the days, weeks, or even months leading up to your employee’s decision to leave the company. You can’t really put a limit on the amount of value the departing employee’s reasons for living. When you know why they decided to leave, you will know what to do to prevent that from happening again, especially if multiple employees leave for the same reason.

There are plenty of times when an employee will make the decision to leave a company and it will have nothing to do with the company itself and everything to do with the employee’s personal life. Since many times the employee is leaving on good terms, they will be happy to accommodate you with an exit interview in which they will generously provide you with all of the information you are looking for.

The Ideal Goals and Outcomes of the Exit Interview

1. One of the biggest goals you should strive toward specifically if the departing employee is disgruntled is to make peace with the employee in question so there is no room for spiteful tactics once they leave.

2. An exit interview is intended not only to glean valuable information from the departing employee’s experience with the company, but also to build company culture. Many employees who are still with their employer view exit interviews as helpful, caring activities that help make the company better. See the exit interview as an integral component of your branding efforts and not just a standard procedure of the company.

3. And exit interview is supposed to give people in leadership positions in the company a better understanding of the experiences that the people they manage have. The sooner management has this knowledge, the better it is for the overall wellbeing of the company.

4. When you come out of an exit interview, it should provide you with a wealth of information that you can apply toward human resources to make that department function more efficiently and successfully.

5. In an exit interview, you can learn more about how the recruitment, talent acquisition, and training programs can be refined.

6. Exit interviews can also show you new ways to maintain stronger employee loyalty and happiness.

7. One of the primary reasons for impeccable employees leaving a company is due to situations that prevented them from growing in the company. Once you know if one of your most valuable employees is leaving you because they felt like they didn’t have room to flourish, you can come up with a strategy to correct this issue.

8.        During an exit interview, you want to carefully listen to everything the employee is saying and perhaps even not saying to catch the mistakes the company made along the way. Once you are made aware of the mistakes you didn’t know about, you can address them and prevent them from happening again.

Different Ways to Conduct the Exit Interview

The best way a company could conduct exit interviews is by setting up an in-person meeting. This will allow the interviewer to understand the employee’s feelings about why they are leaving, thanks to tells such as tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions. If your company is not able to conduct exit interviews in-person, the second best thing to do is to design a questionnaire that departing employees can fill out and send back to you. This can be created either in the mail or through an online survey. Although creating a questionnaire isn’t as effective as in-person meetings, questionnaires might actually be preferred by extroverted employees. When the exit interview is in progress, spend the majority of the time listening to the departing employee instead of talking. The only time you should really be talking is when you are asking relevant questions. Never pressure the employee; just reassure them and give them plenty of room to speak.

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