Exit interviews: Top tips

Exit interviews: top tips

No matter how good your company culture is, or how great the learning and development program is, or how amazing your team benefits are there’s one inevitable... employees will leave you.

There are many different reasons why an employee leaves: career progression, change of career, relocation, or the birth of a baby. Life happens and, unfortunately, you won’t be able to hold on to every employee.

So, when they do decide to leave it’s crucial that you hold an exit interview with them, and they receive a positive goodbye. It also plays an important role in assessing the overall employee experience within your company and can help to identify opportunities to improve retention and staff engagement.

Why are exit interviews so important?

Done well, exit interviews can give you great insights into your business and help to identify any issues with employee engagement and satisfaction. If you are experiencing a high staff turnover then something isn’t working properly, couple this with the costs of recruiting and training staff and this can be an expensive problem to have.

Exit interviews are a good way to discover what the problem is and how to fix it. Whilst it may be too late for employees who are already leaving, it can help you as an employer put in place a strategy to reduce your staff turnover and ultimately bring down costs.

They also add value to your company culture and staff performance. A well-structured exit interview will leave a positive lasting impression on an employee. The feedback can also be used to identify improvement opportunities in your people development training, which will in turn help with staff retention.

When is the right time to carry out an exit interview?

Exit interviews should ideally take place halfway through the employees notice period. If the interviews are carried out too early during the notice, they may be hesitant to give honest feedback, but by leaving it too late you will find that employees are likely to have mentally checked out.

 What questions should you ask?

Here is a selection of example questions you can ask in an exit interview.  

  • Why did you start looking for a new job?
  • What is your main reason for leaving?
  • Do you feel that you had the tools and training required to do your role well?
  • What do you like and dislike about your role and what would you change?
  • What is your impression of the company culture and work environment?
  • Do you feel your professional development was supported?
  • Do you feel that your wellbeing was supported?
  • Is there anything else that you would like to share about your time at the company, or any further feedback?

There are both pros and cons to holding interviews;  on one hand, they give employees an opportunity to share their views, they provide a positive end to their experience with your company and can make someone feel valued right until the end. However, employees might not be completely transparent (due to fear of burning bridges), and they won’t add any value unless followed up correctly

If the reasons behind them moving on are unfavorable, the exit interview could be a tense experience so it is important that the person holding the interview has the skills to do this.

Exit interviews top tips

Consider who you choose to carry out the interview, many businesses choose to have an HR representative carry out their exit interviews. Employers should be mindful of choosing the right person to conduct an exit interview. Typically, this should be someone who comes from a neutral position in relation to the employee. For example, the employee’s direct manager wouldn’t be a neutral choice. It may result in the employee not being fully transparent, particularly if their reason for leaving is linked to their manager.

Preparation is key: the interviewer should ensure that they follow a checklist of questions

Choose the format: the two most common ways of carrying out an exit interview are either by running through questions and the employee answers them or by asking the employee to complete a form and you then discuss their answers together.

Allow the employee to feel comfortable in expressing themselves, and try to be as positive as possible avoiding negative or accusatory questioning.

Creating and implementing an effective exit interview can seem daunting and challenging but the information you can gain from them is priceless and will be invaluable to your team retention rates and ultimately the growth of your business.


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