Conducting an Exit Interview the Right Way - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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exit interview

Conducting an Exit Interview the Right Way

Whenever an organisation tries to work towards employee retention, one of the things that it wishes to keenly understand from departing employees is: What could we have done to retain them? Exit interviews are purely conducted to meet this requirement. Exit interviews can go a long way to help you repeat the good experiences shared by the departing employee and avert the bad ones.

Exit interviews are one of those last close and up front interactions which they can have with their organisation. Hence, it is the duty of the organisation to set it up in such a manner that it encourages the departing employee to give an honest review of their experience. When the organisation and the departing employee try to share their learning, experiences, and knowledge, exit interviews can be fruitful to end working relationships on a pleasant note. Feedback need not be always taken negatively. A lot of times, the departing employee genuinely has positive feedback to share. When a departing employee shares a not so positive feedback about something or someone, it gives you another chance as an organisation to set things right for your existing employees. Here are some tips to conduct the exit interviews of your organisation in the right manner.

Try to Organize a One-on-One Exit Interview

Try to keep your exit interviews face to face one. Employees greatly appreciate this gesture, and it can even help you to turn the discussion into one of the most productive conversations. However, it may be time-consuming if you have a lot of departing employees in case of larger organisations. So, alternatively, you can also roll out an exit survey questionnaire first and then follow up with a personal interview.

Some employees appreciate this format, as it gives them the time and chance to gather their thoughts in advance. Ideally, you should schedule the exit interview on the last two days of an employee’s time in the organisation. You should first explain the purpose of having this exit interview and prepare your questions accordingly.

Exit Interview Questions to Ask

Your exit interview questions should not be scripted; however, there are a couple of key questions which you would wish to touch upon while conducting the exit interview. These are some of the crucial questions which you would want to ask across the board in every exit interview to every departing employee. The objective behind doing this is to be able to compare the answers of employees and look for some common responses.

Start the interview by communicating to the employee that they are not bound to answer all or any of your questions. Always seek the approval of the departing employee if you can share their answers with the management. In case the employee does not want you to disclose their answers, you can make a note of any important feedback that they provide during the interview. Paraphrase the remark and ask if it is alright if you share the gist or a portion of the interview without sharing the details as is.

Here are some important exit interview questions to ask:

  1. Would you like to share the reason for leaving this job or organisation?
  2. Can you list a few things which you think the organisation is doing right?
  3. What can the organisation do to improve the conditions which you mentioned?
  4. Given a chance, what would you do to improve the situation which compelled you to put down your papers?
  5. What do your colleagues feel about this situation?
  6. Can you name a few things which the company isn’t doing, which if it started to do, would improve the state of things?
  7. How would you like to describe your overall experience of working with this organisation?
  8. List three things which you enjoyed the most while working here.
  9. List three things which you would want to change about this organisation.
  10. Do you have any ideas that you wish you would have loved to implement during your tenure here?
  11. Can you share the three best things about working with your supervisor?
  12. What would you wish to change about our new employee orientation program? Let’s say if there are certain things that you wish you had known before getting into this company. Would you like to share your thoughts on this?
  13. During your time in this organisation, list three people who you think have had the most positive impact on you and your career here in this organisation.
  14. What would you like to advise the next person who would come over to fill your position?


Exit Interview Questions to Avoid

While it is certainly important as an organisation to be on guard regarding harassment or discrimination complaints shared by your departing employee, you would not want to add fuel to the fire. However, if your departing employee complaints of harassment issues during an exit interview, you must follow the standard HR investigation procedure to address this. Remember that exit interviews should focus on the organisation. The information that you gather from these interviews should be on a constructive note that you can utilise to help your organisation, employees, and processes to move forward. Be careful not to encourage negative in any of the following ways:

  1. Avoid asking questions about specific people or issues. While it is completely fine to ask for general feedback about a supervisor, you should not be feeding your words into the mouth of the departing employee during the conversation.
  2. Avoid getting into office gossip as it isn’t constructive and you won’t be able to extract any reliable information.
  3. The conversation during exit interviews should focus on the sheer experience of the employee. It is natural for departing employees to mention certain negative things about some individuals. You should listen neutrally without agreeing or disagreeing with his or her point of view.
  4. Avoid laying the groundwork in such a manner that it appears as if you are setting someone up for termination. Refrain from sharing any other employee’s performance and status within the organisation with a departing employee.
  5. Avoid getting into personal issues. Keep your conversation strictly work related and on a professional note.
  6. Avoid trying to convince the employee to change his or her mind about leaving the organisation during the exit interview. If at all you wished for an employee to stay back, you should have had this conversation right at the time when the employee had put down his papers.


How to Process the Employee Feedback

Every exit interview should ideally help you identify opportunities for improvement. It is imperative that you share the key points derived from the exit interview with the departing employee’s supervisor or to the next level up wherever the feedback holds relevance.

Be observant and look for common feedback patterns during exit interviews to figure out possible organisational issues. Always enter your notes from these exit interviews into a spreadsheet so that you can quickly reference the information and look for similar comments. In case you do notice a trend, you must take it to the leadership team and suggest some corrective actions to avoid further attrition. For instance, if you notice that a common feedback that most of the departing employees shared is that the job was not what they had expected to do when they were hired. This is a strong indication that you need to review your job descriptions and hiring practices.

Byron Conway

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect