How to Conduct Employee Exit Interviews
To avoid burning bridges and ensure that you’re making the most of these interviews, we’ll explain what an employee exit interview is, and detail the do’s and don’ts of conducting them. By taking this information into account, you can make these meetings a positive experience for everyone involved.
What Are Exit Interviews?
An employee exit interview is conducted when an employee leaves their role at your company. Before their last day, an exit interview should be scheduled to discuss their time at your company. During this conversation, a human resource manager should ask the employee about what they liked about working for your business, what they disliked, and potentially their reasons for leaving. Preferably, these interviews should be conducted face to face.
Keep reading, and we’ll further explain potential pitfalls you should avoid in exit interviews, and tips that can lead to a successful meeting.
What Are the Do’s and Don’ts of Exit Interviews?
Do: Prepare for the Interview Ahead of Time
Once the exit interview is scheduled, your HR team and the employee’s manager should meet to discuss the purpose of the exit interview. For example, if you’re in the process of trying to fill the employee’s role, you should be sure to ask them for any input on the job description. Or, perhaps you’d like to determine why they are leaving, to determine if there’s a common reason leading to employee turnover.
By preparing for exit interviews, you’ll ensure that you can cover everything that needs to be addressed. To start, we suggest using this list of exit interview questions from Glassdoor. This list can serve as a guide to keep the conversation moving but be sure to ask follow up questions about issues that the employee brings up.
For example, perhaps they share that they didn’t like the management style, or they were dissatisfied with the benefits. By asking for more information, you can take note of this feedback after the interview.
Don’t: Create an Uncomfortable Situation
As you conduct the exit interview, keep your employee’s experience in mind. Remember that although an exit interview may be your company’s policy, the exiting employee isn’t legally required to participate.
When planning for the interview, consider who should give the interview. Personal issues with specific supervisors could make the employee uncomfortable and prevent them from being completely candid. If you have a human resources representative, it might be best to have them lead the interview. Or, if necessary, you could hire an external consultant.
Do: Keep the Conversation Professional
One of the most important factors when conducting an exit interview is ensuring that it remains professional. Rather than discussing personal issues or inserting your own opinion into the conversation, keep the focus on work-related issues. Your employee could (and should) give you constructive criticism throughout the interview. Don’t take the comments personally – and give them the freedom to voice their opinions.
Don’t: Be Pushy
It’s important to understand that this might be a difficult time for your employee, regardless of the reason they’ve decided to leave the company. It’s important to note that some individuals may not be comfortable sharing details about their departure. There are many reasons that employees may choose to leave their job, and some are more sensitive than others. Don’t demand answers; instead, try to engage in a relaxed yet professional conversation.
Do: Listen to Your Employee
When participating in an exit interview, listen carefully to your employee and recognize opportunities to get more insights about why they’re leaving and how your company can improve. It may be tempting to ask as many questions as possible, but the purpose of this meeting should be to hear your employee’s feedback. If you’re talking more than them, it isn’t going to be a useful meeting for either of you.
Don’t: Forget to Take Notes
A lot can be said in a short conversation. As you listen to your employee’s responses, be sure to take notes. Then, review the notes later and pick out key themes about your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve held several exit interviews with different employees, you’ll have a wealth of information that could help you to make necessary changes to your company culture.
Do: Be Receptive to Feedback
By asking the right questions and giving your employee the opportunity to share feedback about their role, manager, and the company culture, you’ll hopefully receive honest feedback. It may be unrealistic to think that through this interview you’ll find the key to keeping employees happy, but you’ll probably get some insight on how you can improve.
Don’t: Gossip About Interview Answers with Coworkers
When you finish the exit interview, you’ll most likely know personal information about your employee. Due to this, keeping the conversation confidential is crucial. Unless there was an ethics violation or mention of a hostile work environment that needs to be reported, the information that was revealed to you shouldn’t be shared.
Conclusion: End on a Positive Note
Exit interviews may not be a time to celebrate, and you probably won’t convince the employee to stay, but they can still be a positive experience for both employers and employees. Ultimately, you can use data from exit interviews to determine trends in employee retention and evaluate how to improve your business.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in August 2019.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.