Exit Interviews: The Ultimate Guide
Human capital is every successful company’s most important resource. As a business owner, you want happy and productive employees doing great work. Thus, if your employees are leaving – on their own accord or because they’ve been fired – you should understand why these departures are happening. Human resource experts agree that one of the most effective methods for gleaning this critical information is the exit interview.
What is an exit Interview?
An exit interview is an interview or survey administered to employees leaving a company. It is a session where an employer essentially asks a departing employee about his or her tenure at the company, what did and didn’t work while doing the job, and why the employee is going to a new position. It can be conducted in-person, in writing, or even as a computer-based survey. Whatever form it takes, however, an exit interview must be voluntary.
Who should you interview?
Companies should conduct exit interviews with as many exiting staff members as possible. It’s important to interview the “good” employees (who are leaving your firm voluntarily) as well as employees who’ve been fired. A thorough exit interview will help determine why these productive people are departing the business.
Will it really help your company?
Absolutely. Knowing the reason behind an employee’s move can give management a valuable opportunity to correct policies, alter work culture, adjust personnel or pay grades – and eventually prevent other “good” workers from seeking employment elsewhere. The information revealed in the exit interview can also assist the person hired to replace the departing employee. (You might hear: “The vendors we use think we are very difficult to do business with, and I was tired of the stress.”)
What about employees who are fired?
Many HR departments fail to interview workers who are fired. The reason? It’s unpleasant. There is a fear of the person getting upset, saying nasty things about you, another boss – or the company as a whole. It’s much easier to let them walk out the door – without an exit interview. This is a huge mistake. While many fired employees will indeed “blow off steam” by saying negative things about a boss – your company may learn about its own work culture or job requirements. You may find your company was being unreasonable in its expectations – which will help you in the future.
Other benefits of interviewing fired employees
Giving fired employees a genuine opportunity to express themselves in a no-holds-barred fashion (before they leave the building) may defuse tension that could otherwise lead to issues later on. In addition, the information collected from exit interviews can give you a heads up on potential legal issues. Ultimately, a sincere exit interview – where a departing employee gets a chance to be heard – may help prevent the individual from trying to turn their still-employed friends against his or her former employer.
The exit interview is an opportunity to review any agreements an employee may have signed when coming aboard, such as non-disclosure and non-compete agreements. This step helps prevent legal difficulties, which could otherwise arise – not only by reminding outgoing staff members of their agreements, but also giving them time to ask questions.
Ways to Conduct an Exit Interview
There is some disagreement over the best person to conduct an employee’s exit interview. Some contend such interviews should always be conducted by a neutral third party, preferably an HR professional who rarely interacted with the departing employee. (The argument here: A neutral person can be trusted to take down the employee’s responses in an impartial manner – and he or she also has the greatest chance of getting candid responses. In other words, the departing employee won’t worry about hurting the feelings of bosses or co-workers.)
However, some companies may not be large enough to have an HR department – so a neutral party may not be realistic. What then? One option is to have the employee’s direct supervisor, or supervisor’s supervisor conduct the exit interview. Another option is to conduct the exit interview via a written or computer-based survey form.
What method is best?
It depends on a company’s culture, as well as the specific preferences of the employee in question. If you can’t conduct an in-person session, an electronic or paper exit survey should always be offered as an alternative. There are many individuals who won’t be comfortable saying things out loud to a person’s face (even if a neutral third party), so you’ll want to at least capture their thoughts in a questionnaire.
One-on-one is key
One thing everyone agrees on: In-person exit interviews should always be one-on-one affairs. A roundtable setting, even if it’s a common practice for performance reviews, is not appropriate for an exit interview.
Questions to Ask
Naturally, questions will need to be tailored somewhat to the person being interviewed. For example, you wouldn’t ask a poor-performing individual “What is your main reason for leaving?” Below is a short list of suggestions you can use as a springboard for building your own survey.
• What is your main reason for leaving?
• What are the other reasons for your leaving?
• What has been good/enjoyable/satisfying for you in your time with us?
• What has been frustrating/difficult/upsetting during your time with us?
• What made you start looking for another job in the first place?
• What message would you give to management upon your departure?
• If a friend asked you, would you recommend that they take a job here?
• If you could change anything about how the company operates, what would it be?
To find suggestions and sample exit interviews already created by other organizations, check out the links below: