Article
04 Oct 2021

A Guide to an Effective Exit Interview

A woman looking at the CV of the candidate sitting beside her.

If you’re currently dealing with a case of departing employees, it’s time to find out why they feel the need to leave. After all, becoming aware of any issues regarding your workplace is key to preventing further employees from handing in their resignation. You wouldn’t want a high staff turnover to affect your business, and that’s where an exit interview comes in handy.  

It’s only natural that a few employees will walk away from your company. It’s only natural to feel wronged by this decision. The job market is ever evolving, and more interesting positions are coming up every day. And you need to be able to keep up with this. 

But how can you fairly and competently conduct an exit interview? And how can you ensure you’ll get to the real grit of the issue? By knowing how to put together an effective exit interview. And that’s why this article is here; with the points below, we’ll help you put together a proper template for any exit interviews you need to hold in the future. 

What Is An Employee Exit Interview?

An exit interview is a type of job interview that is undertaken when an employee wants to separate from a company. Whether they’re leaving for a new job or have not made their purposes clear, the exit interview exists to help this transition occur more smoothly. 

After all, no company wants to lose a valued contributor, and even when the employer receives a resignation letter from an employee, their work is not yet done. Exit interviews allow for a face to face meeting that is both constructive and productive, in which all necessary points about why this decision was made can get across. 

All in all, it’s beneficial to focus on both the beginning and the end of an employee’s tenure. Knowing why they want to leave is a huge part in improving standards across a company, and could provide an employer with competitive insight into the job market at large. 

Why Are Employee Exit Interviews Important?

In an exit interview, both an employer and employee have the chance to make their views known. In using both informal and formal questions, exit interview data provides the kind of detailed honesty any company needs to secure skill and talent in the modern world. 

No matter what valued team members or top performers a company might be losing, the exit interview is there to give an employer a look into their world. It tells them what kind of job description or job offer is most enticing to the people who have the most to offer. And most of all, it enables an employer to work out what elements of job satisfaction are missing from their own workplace. 

An employee exit interview ensures both parties can give back. The employer themselves proves they’re in a position to care, and want to hear an employee’s voice. Similarly, the departing employee has the chance to air both the pros and cons of holding a position within the company. As such, both sides are left feeling far more satisfied about this chain of events. 

What Should Be Covered During An Exit Interview?

In order to conduct exit interviews effectively, the employer needs to know what questions provide the most actionable insight. At the same time, they need to know how to act within the interview itself. In a traditional entry interview, the employer would lead the conversation, usually accompanied by a panel of other high level executives. 

However, this should be turned on its head for the exit interview. The employee should get to choose who they speak to during the interview, and they should be the one to open up the line of dialogue. Indeed, employers should be sure to bring along prepared questions, but they should never want to push these questions too hard. 

Common exit interview questions include: 

  • Why did you look for a new job? Employees may delve into their feelings over the work environment, and their job satisfaction as a result. 
  • Why did you agree to the new job offer? This can help employers work out what employee experience the company offers, including what they lack, or where they fall down. 
  • How do you feel about company culture? This can help uncover issues in the workplace, and help employers to reline their operations with their organisation's core values. 
  • What would make you want to stay? This isn’t the company trying to hold onto the employee; rather, it’s a question used to prevent turnover in the future, and guarantee employee retention at greater levels. 

When Should You Schedule An Exit Interview?

To conduct the exit interview process the right way, exit interviews are best held on the departing employee’s last day of work. And not only that, but every time someone leaves a company, they should have an exit interview scheduled for them. 

After all, no employee should have to leave without having their final say, and the employer themselves should never want to just sling an ex-employee out of the door. This is a wasted opportunity to dig into the employee’s knowledge, which is rich and deep when concerning the way a company operates, especially in comparison to the market at large. 

Employers should take some time to talk to the departing employee about their choice to take part in the exit interview when they hand in their notice. This helps to ensure they’re ready for this kind of interview; they may need to prepare their statements, especially if their cause for leaving is an emotional one. 

Where Should An Employee Exit Interview Occur?

Many companies leave the exit interviews up to human resources; the HR department is usually in charge of ‘hiring and firing’, and finding solutions to employee related matters, so it makes sense to allow them control over this initiative. Many exit interviews traditionally occur within an HR office. 

However, the departing employee may not want the HR professionals anymore involved than they have to be. Whilst many HR managers have strong working relationships with any and all employees, many leavers may simply feel that talking to them won’t quite get the point across. 

They may want to speak to a line manager or supervisor instead - someone they know has a lot of authority within the department level they’re leaving. In doing so, they have the chance to go ‘right to the top’ with their points of consideration, and may feel the exit interview is more worth their time. 

Should An Employee Fill Out An Exit Interview Questionnaire Themselves?

If the company wants absolutely no actionable data to work off of, yes! Handing an interviewee an exit survey to fill out may leave them with a bad impression of your company. Instead, it’s best to follow along with the questionnaire together, to open up a proper conversation around it. 

Mistakes to Avoid During An Employee Exit Interview

An exit interview doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are some mistakes you can make. Indeed, the main mistake to avoid is letting your employee feel like they’re under scrutiny, and that they have no place left with their former employers. 

To avoid this, prevent the interview from being strict. If you want to obtain some valuable information in the form of constructive feedback, you’ll need to allow the interviewee to be as honest as possible. With plenty of honest feedback to work with, you’ll be able to improve employee satisfaction! Most of all, don’t let the interview feel like a performance review

Then, once they’ve given you things to consider, don’t forget to follow up on them. Provide the company and beyond with clear examples of how things have changed in the organisation, especially if an old employee informed you of potential issues. 

Not only does this help impress new employees, but it also improves current employee engagement. You’ve proven that you take employee voices into account, and that always works to improve workplace morale and the overall company culture. 

Should You Use The Same Questionnaire Every Time?

It’s best to work with the same exit interview questions; this will ensure all leavers are given a fair chance to put their views across. You can make up a template of open ended questions well before you have a leaver to interview - include questions that you feel are relevant, and that you really want to know the answers to. 

Conclusion

An effective exit interview is there to help all parties. It’s an important part of streamlining company operations, and it’s the best way to capitalise on the working knowledge of the people you put so much effort into hiring in the first place. 

So, make sure you know what questions you want to ask, but make sure you’re ready for them not to be addressed. The exit interview is there to treat departing employees with a fair judgement; this will allow the company itself to promote its image in a way very few companies ever get to broadcast. 

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