How to Conduct an Effective Exit Interview (with Examples)

How to Conduct an Effective Exit Interview (Examples)

An Employee Exit Interview is a meeting with an existing employee usually conducted by an organization’s human resources staff member. The primary purpose of conducting an exit interview is to assess the organization’s overall employee experience and identify opportunities to improve future employee retention and engagement.

 In an employee exit interview meeting, the employee who is leaving the organization is likely to provide the human resource manager with honest and frank feedback about the workplace at large.

This plays a substantial role in establishing trust between the manager and the terminating employee. When trust exists, the feedback provided can be beneficial for organizational improvement and development.

Importance of Employee Exit Interview

Employee exit interviews are important because they offer a more profound outlook into an organization’s culture, day-to-day processes, management solutions, and employee motivation and morale. Having clear standards for conducting exit interviews also plays a notable role in risk management.  Given that these interviews are completed in a standardized way, they can foster positive working relationships and a welcoming environment. As a human resource professional, you need to embrace the value of conducting exit interviews with your departing employees and consider it an integral part of your employment termination process.

The following are some of the reasons why managers and human resource staff members should conduct employee exit interview meetings:

  • Generally, exiting employees are more forthcoming than employees still in their jobs. For this reason, the human resource officer can get frank and honest feedback from these employees, which can be used for organizational improvement and development
  • During the exit interview meeting, you will learn the real reason for an employee’s departure. To your surprise, it might be totally different from what you had imagined.
  • An employee exit interview allows the departing employee to provide constructive feedback and leave on a positive note with no hard feelings. This allows the organization to protect its reputation as there is no likelihood of bad publicity from the employee.
  • From the exit interview meeting, the organization’s human resources staff member can get a candid assessment of the organization’s overall environment and culture.
  • The feedback provided by the exiting employee is very useful in identifying areas of improvement that can help improve staff retention within the organization.
  • That last touchpoint allows the organization’s managers and personnel department the opportunity to review any continuing obligations with the employee, for example, intellectual property agreements, etc. 
  • Conducting an employee exit interview also provides the opportunity to inquire from the departing employee if there are any open issues that you need to be aware of. This is especially useful in risk management and identification of matters that may demand special attention. It is important to note that when employee issues relating to employment termination are addressed effectively within the organization, there is no need for external investigations, litigations, or bad publicity.
  • If the exit interview is conducted effectively, trust is established between the human resource staff and the employee. Once trust is there, the departing employee can reveal useful insights into recruiting, onboarding, and training needs that they may have identified while working with your organization.
  • Through the meeting, improvement opportunities in management, development, and succession planning can be detected.
  • Employee exit interviews are generally cost-effective and easy to facilitate rather than dealing with staff retention issues, negative publicity, litigation issues, external investigations, and decreased productivity.

Considering facts and figures

Previous Research and studies have indicated that over 90% of organizations conduct employee exit interviews. According to these studies, out of the 90%, 70% of the organizations have their Human Resource Department conduct the employee exit interview.  10% of the organizations conducting exit interviews have the departing employee’s direct supervisor conduct the interview, 8% “of those” delegate the job to the supervisor’s manager, while nearly 1.9% turn to external consultants. While nearly all companies conduct these interviews, just over 40% view the practice as successful. To obtain value from the exercise, individuals tasked with scheduling exit interviews, including the human resource managers, departing employee’s direct supervisors, direct supervisor’s manager, or external consultants, should do so in a way that they obtain actionable data. Otherwise, these interviews cannot bring value to the company.

Achieving the results that go hand in hand with conducting exit interviews usually starts with asking relevant questions specific to the exiting employee’s role. The next step involves understanding how to interpret and analyze the information provided by the employee that is leaving the organization, and lastly, converting the results from the interview into actionable goals. In essence, you should at least be able to identify a specific example of an action taken as a result of previous exit interview data collection.

Steps to Conduct Employee Exit Interview

As mentioned earlier, employee exit interviews need to be conducted diligently to help provide useful insights that could foster positive relationships and encourage a healthy workplace. Otherwise, there is a likelihood of obtaining sad results from the interviews. When tasked to conduct an employee exit interview, follow these five steps to make your exit interview data collection matter

Ask and listen attentively

During the employee exit interview meeting, ask the most relevant questions specific to the departing employee’s role. Avoid ambiguity as much as you can. You will want to listen attentively to the employee’s feedback and ask as many questions as possible. This ensures that you hear what the employee is saying and what he/she is not saying, both of which are essential. While at it, try as much as possible to understand what the employee is describing and relate it with the employee’s true feelings.  Remember, sometimes, one’s words may not convey one’s true feelings.

Further, take some notes for future reference because you would not want to trust your memory. Writing down the employee’s feedback is also considered a good practice as it demonstrates to the employer that you care about the information, he/she is providing. This, in turn, allows you to collect more information and feedback than you could otherwise have received.

Include the positive aspects

Comprehending the positive aspects of employment within your organization makes it easier for you to retain essential employees and improve overall worker productivity. By understanding these positive aspects, you will have the necessary information required to provide a desirable workplace.

During an exit interview, you are allowed to ask all questions.  This is usually the best chance to inquire about things such as remuneration and compensation benefits, employee recognition practices, etc., at competing companies. You may find out that you top the list! Additionally, you could ask the departing employee for any positive feedback that they would want to share about your company’s managers, the organizational mission and vision, or if you excel at lines of communication. All this could provide you with valuable insights and information that could help improve your organization at large.

Create a suitable ambiance

Before starting the exit interview meeting, you’d first want to create an environment where the departing employee feels free and comfortable sharing their feedback frankly and honestly. You could establish a suitable environment by clearly stating that your company’s culture fosters useful exit interview feedback. Departing employees are allowed to express themselves freely and are encouraged to criticize processes and methods without any judgment or reprimand.

Treat the employee’s anxiety

Generally, an employee may feel shy or anxious to share negative feedback with an employer because they are concerned about their reputation and how the exit interview data will be used. To distill their anxiety, you need to assure the departing employee that the feedback he/she provides will be combined with other exiting employee’s feedback and that it will be presented to the management in an aggregated format. You also need to assure the employee leaving the organization that your company values utmost confidentiality- meaning their feedback will be kept private.

As you may already know, how one quits their job can affect their future career life. For this reason, employees worry about burning bridges and leaving the employer with a less than favorable impression if they speak too frankly at an exit interview. Your goal is to create a suitable environment in which the employee trusts that their feedback is used in an aggregated format to provide useful information that could help you improve your organization and help with future staff retention.

Ask essential questions

The single most important question during an employee exit interview meeting should be what caused the employee to start looking for a new job in the first place.  Make sure that you cover this critical question in the exit interview and make it your bottom line.

Realistically, employees may come across marvelous opportunities from time to time, and a job offer to move up the managerial ladder may befall an individual occasionally. Naturally, one can’t resist such chances in life. Therefore, they may choose to leave your organization. However, for your average employee who is leaving your organization, you’d want to know why the employee was open to a new job offer and why he/she was looking for one in the first place.

Again, you have to create a comfortable ambiance for the employee to provide you with open and honest feedback to make the exit interview effective.

Free Templates

Following are the free downloadable templates for better understanding:

Exit Interview Template 01

Exit Interview Template 02

Exit Interview Template 03

Exit Interview Template 04

Exit Interview Template 05

Exit Interview Template 06

Exit Interview Template 07

Exit Interview Template 08

Exit Interview Template 09

Exit Interview Template 10

Exit Interview Template 11

Exit Interview Template 12

Exit Interview Template 13

Exit Interview Template 14

Exit Interview Template 15

Exit Interview Template 16

Exit Interview Template 17

Exit Interview Template 18

Exit Interview Template 19

Exit Interview Template 20

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    What is asked in an exit interview?

    In an employee exit interview, you can ask the departing employee any question, including why the employee is leaving the organization; what prompted them to start looking for a new job; why they were open to a job offer; how they feel about your organization’s management and if they have any suggestions for improvement of this function; if there are instances where they felt proud of their work in the organization; and whether or not they received proper onboarding and training.
    Further, the human resource manager can ask if the employee leaving the organization feels the company supported their career goals; if they would recommend the company to other job seekers; what criteria they used for choosing a new employee; or if they would consider staying on if the management made some adjustments to solve their grievances.

    Are exit interviews worth it?

    Absolutely! Effective exit interviews can be great tools to help managers improve their workplace, increase staff retention, and increase overall worker productivity. However, this only applies if the exit interview is conducted effectively.

    What does HR do with the exit interview feedback?

    Once the exit interview is complete, the HR reviews each part of the information provided removes any identifying information such as names or dates, and analyses it on an annual or quarterly basis to identify trends.

    Final Thoughts

    Organizational human resource professionals or departing employee’s direct supervisors conduct exit interviews at the end of an employee’s tenure within the workplace to gain context around why the employee is leaving their position. If conducted properly, this meeting is an opportunity for the HR manager to gain helpful information from the exiting employee’s feedback, which helps them improve the organization. Employee exit interview meetings should be conversational, and issues such as job satisfaction, policy, and direction should be considered the discussion’s bottom line.

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