Should You Conduct Exit Interviews?

An exit interview is an invaluable tool for companies to gather insight from departing employees.

However, many companies fail to take advantage of the opportunity—they either don’t conduct interviews, fail to gather useful information, or fail to analyze and act upon the information they do gather.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Purpose

The purpose of an exit interview is to learn…

  • Why the employee is leaving the company
  • What the employee considers to be the company’s problem areas
  • How the company can improve

Ultimately, you want to know why employees are leaving and what can be done to minimize turnover in the future.

You want to know why employees are leaving and what can be done to minimize turnover. Click To Tweet

Exit Interviews Pros and Cons

Let’s start with the Cons:

  • Outgoing employees are not always candid about their reasons for leaving, whether that’s because they don’t want to burn any bridges or because they’re not emotionally invested in the company any longer.
  • If the employee does have strong negative feelings, exit interviews can get tense or heated—especially if the interviewer takes offense.
  • If the company doesn’t have a formal exit interview structure, it can be difficult to identify trends among departing employees.
  • Likewise, if the company fails to organize and analyze the information they’ve gathered, then there’s essentially no purpose in conducting the interviews.

Now let’s get to the Pros:

  • Outgoing employees can offer a unique perspective on company culture and employee satisfaction. They can be more honest in identifying issues within the company than a current employee who fears repercussions.
  • Departing employees have been researching and interviewing with other companies—often competitors. So, they can provide insights into the perks and advantages that drew them to those competitors. This information is extremely useful for recruiters.
  • Provides information that can help companies identify good and bad managers—what managers keep coming up among employees’ reasons for leaving? What managers are seeing the most (and least) turnover?

Who Should Conduct Exit Interviews?

The interviewer should be unbiased and at least one level removed from the employee—think department head rather than direct supervisor. HR reps or outside consultants are the best people to conduct exit interviews, as they’re the most impartial and experienced in interview settings.

HR reps or outside consultants are the best people to conduct exit interviews. Click To Tweet

Tips for More Productive Exit Interviews

  • Exit interviews should only be conducted with employees voluntarily leaving the company, not layoffs or terminations.
  • Conduct interviews with all departing employees, regardless of title or level, but allow employees to decline the interview if they wish.
  • Don’t assume you know why the employee is leaving. Offer the interview as a platform for them to speak openly.
  • Interviews need to be strictly confidential and employees need to be assured of this confidentiality.
  • Send out a standardized survey or questionnaire ahead of time. Questions can cover compensation, perks and benefits, office environment and culture, management, and growth opportunities. Use that survey to guide the conversation during the interview.
  • Ask for ideas on how the company can improve. You can use open-ended questions like, “I wish the company would have ____________”
  • The survey results and interview notes should be organized with key takeaways and trends. This information should be shared with senior management. It’s a vital tool for self-evaluation, and should guide strategic planning, recruiting, and retention efforts.

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