Conducting Exit Interviews

Most business give plenty of attention to their onboarding process, warmly welcoming new hires and quickly getting them up to speed, but what about when an employee resigns? It’s all too easy to dismiss the input of departing employees. After all, they’re leaving so what can they offer? The following article will explain the process of conducting an exit interview and how they can be used to gain a rich source of information from departing employees.

What is a Exit Interview?

In its most basic form, an exit interview is a meeting conducted with an individual who is leaving an organisation.

From the employer’s perspective, the primary aim of the exit interview is to learn reasons for the person’s departure, on the basis that criticism is a helpful driver for organisational improvement. They also enable transfer of knowledge and experience from the departing employee to a successor or replacement.

From the departing employee’s perspective, an exit interview is a chance to give some constructive feedback, and to leave with good relations and mutual respect.

How will Exit Interviews Benefit me as a Employer?

There are four main benefits to conducting employee exit interviews:

  1. Reduction in Turnover Costs – They are your chance to find out why your employees are leaving. Once these factors are identified, they can be used to aid your retention planning.
  2. Enhance Recruitment – They allow you to gain insight into why your employee has chosen to join another company. This can allow you to adjust and improve your own employee proposition, before using it to attract new talent.
  3. Provide Closure – When conducted properly, a final interview should allow for a positive close to the employer/employee relationship. This can leave options open for the future.
  4. Prevent Legal Issues – By reminding employees about their obligations with the company eg maintaining trade secrets, you can minimize the likelihood of potential legal problems and lawsuits. 

When should the Exit Interview be Conducted?

Every company should conduct an exit interview with every leaving  employee – regardless of the position, department, job tenure or the reason for leaving. They should be conducted within the final week of the employee’s employment.

Who Should Conduct the Exit Interview?

The best practice is to have your Human Resources specialist conducting the exit interviews. Human Resources professionals are usually trained in conducting interviews and have the right skills and appropriate experience. However, in smaller companies this may not be possible. In this case, you should ideally appoint someone who is one level higher than and not directly responsible for, the departing employee. This is important because:

  • The supervisor’s relationship with the employee often influences the leaving employee’s willingness to give honest feedback. 
  • A bad relationship with a supervisor might be the reason why an employee decided to leave the company.
  • Where a supervisor and employee have a great relationship, a leaving employee may not provide honest feedback as they want their relationship with their supervisor will end on a positive note. 

Conducting Exit Interviews – Tips

Conduct Interviews in Person

Exit interviews can be conducted via written or online surveys, over the phone, or through chat or email. However, the best practice is to conduct them in person. This is more effective as it allows for a direct, two way conversation and enables you to see the employees body language.

Conduct Interviews One-to-one

Conduct the interview in a private setting, one-on-one (just an interviewer and a departing employee). A public setting or in a panel style interview with multiple interviewers can be intimidating for your departing employees. This could lead to them not answering your questions in a direct and honest manner.

Explain the Purpose of the Interview

Explain the purpose of the exit interview to the leaving employee at the beginning of the interview. State clearly that you conduct these interviews in order to make positive changes and improve your company culture. Ask for their help and highlight how much you’d value their honesty and constructive feedback.

Always be Consistent

Ask all your leaving employees the same set of predetermined exit interview questions. That way, you will be able to compare the answers you get more easily and spot recurring topics and trends. 

What Happens Next?

After you’ve successfully conducted an exit interview, you need to summarise the results and scrutinise the collected data. A careful examination of the answers will give you insights into what your company is doing well and what needs to change if you want to keep your best employees. When you identify recurring problematic issues, you should devise an action plan to address and improve your retention strategies. 

Final Thoughts

Exit interviews are a useful tool for gaining valuable insights into your ability to attract and retain the best employees. However, you shouldn’t rely on exit interviews as the only source of information about employee experience in your company. You need to conduct recurring employee interviews, check-ins and surveys in order to get feedback and obtain data on employee experience, job satisfaction, employee engagement and employee retention in your company.

Download the Exit Interview Template

Exit Interview Template

Further Reading

How to Build an Employer Brand

How to make a job offer that will be accepted

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