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How to Conduct an Exit Interview

Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew the reasons behind everyone else’s choices? When your company employs a well-thought-out exit interview strategy, this act can bring you one step closer to that reality. Exit interviews can reveal important information about the reasons behind an employee’s decision to leave. Learn more below about how a following exit interview best practices can help your company grow and become better.

What Is an Exit Interview?

The purpose of exit interview strategy is to create a purposeful conversation with the employee to better understand their reasons for leaving your company. Was it the low salary? Were they offered a more flexible job somewhere else? Or, in a worst-case scenario, did a manager’s poor leadership style make the employee feel as though there was no other choice? Though conducting an exit interview may reveal flaws in your managers, organizations should choose to think of this discourse as constructive. It’s best to learn the key issues and correct the course rather than waking up to five to ten employees’ resignation letters in your managers’ inboxes.

Why Are Exit Interviews Important?

Exit interviews can help organizations understand why someone decided to leave your company. Organizations should not fear learning the real reasons – often it is discovered that your employee is simply taking time off to raise children or moving across the country to take care of an aging relative.

On the other hand, organizations may be ignorant of the many ways in which the leadership of employees is failing. Did their supervisor have a toxic relationship? Do they feel overworked with little to show for it? Or were they offered a similar job elsewhere with better health insurance and benefits? People don’t typically leave full-time jobs on a whim, so it’s important to understand what drives employees to make this extreme choice so that you can avoid high turnover.

How To Conduct an Exit Interview

Organizations may be tempted to skip a few exit interviews here and there, especially if they’re busy — but don’t. This is one of the few opportunities to gauge your company’s health at the most basic level. Make it a point to conduct an exit interview with every person who leaves your company, regardless of whether they have worked for you for ten years, one year, or two weeks. 

More importantly, exit interviews must be conducted by an independent third party to remove biases. Studies have shown that responses to exit interview questions change dramatically when presented by the employer versus a third party. This potential for receiving biased answers from former employees when interviewed internally can limit your company’s efforts to learn from exit interview data.

Choose Your Interview Format

A third-party with deep expertise in conducting exit interviews will assist organizations in understanding the best format to conduct exit interviews. The most critical decision is to allow former employees to decide how they want to provide feedback. Telephonic interviews provide more robust feedback, but some former employees simply don’t want to conduct the interview over the phone. Those employees should be given the opportunity to conduct the interview online. However, regardless of the approach, it is important that they are consistent and that all feedback is aggregated together to provide insights.

Choose Your Interviewer

If your company works with a third-party human resources service, they will have staffed interviewers who are experienced in conducting an exit interview for the most productive and unbiased results.

If your company is limited to conducting exit interviews internally, try not to schedule them with the employees’ direct supervisors or managers, as employees may not want to disclose reasons for leaving or unhappiness with their job in front of their supervisor. After all, their manager could be a large part of the employee’s unhappiness. Choosing someone from your Human Resources department or an impartial third party to conduct a pleasant, objective interview is your best bet for everyone involved. If possible, contact the employee after they have left so they feel more comfortable providing unbiased feedback.

What To Ask

It’s important to ask the right kinds of questions to elicit the type of answers that will most benefit your company in the future. Your third-party interviewer will have a long list of prepared questions that are proven to give your company constructive data. Try to stick to the following types of questions:

  • What did you decide to leave?
  • How did you feel about your job?
  • What were your perceptions about the organizations as an employer?
  • Did the type of work you performed align with the organization’s mission and vision?
  • What was your perception of your coworkers and supervisor?
  • What attracted you to your new job?
  • Would you be willing to return if the right opportunity existed?

How To Avoid Dishonesty During Exit Interviews

Exit interviews aren’t about rehashing any drama that happened during the employee’s stay at your company. They also aren’t about proving to the employee that they are making a mistake by leaving. An independent third-party interviewer will have the unbiased advantage with the former employee to learn what they liked about working with you, what they wish could have been different, and other potentially useful information. This impartiality, combined with your genuine interest in the other person’s experience, should allow your employee to speak freely.

Get In Touch With Work Institute Today

Understanding the best approach to an exit interview can be difficult. If you are struggling to put together a good exit interview strategy, get in touch with us for more tips and ideas for remaining calm, asking the right questions, and gleaning enough information to make a difference in your company’s future. We at the Work Institute look forward to serving you and helping your business grow!

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