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Conducting Exit Interviews: What's the Point?

Updated on October 5, 2012
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

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Conducting Exit Interviews Can Affect the Bottom Line

Employers who make use of exit interviews find they provide valuable insight to the work experience of departing employees. People tend to be more honest and forthcoming with their opinions about the workplace when they are resigning or retiring from a job. Since employers need to know what they are doing well and what they are not, conducting these interviews can provide the feedback you need to make the workplace better for your employees.

How Do You Conduct an Exit Interview?

Generally, exit interviews are done in the Human Resources Department on the last day of employment. Due to scheduling reasons, some employees might come in earlier than the last day. However, many employees feel more comfortable with their "tell all" conversation if they can sit for the interview toward the end of their notice.

Also, if possible, sit with the employee at a table rather than sitting behind a desk. Employers are seeking feedback from the employee and will want the employee to be as comfortable as possible. I usually allow for an hour for the interview but often do not need that much time. Interviews for this purpose only need to be handled by a manager or HR professional with the employee, in a one-on-one setting.

Questions to Ask the Employee

To maintain an informal, friendly atmosphere, it is helpful to keep the interview questions simple. Basic, open ended questions will allow the employee to offer responses that will vary in length but provide useful feedback. It will also allow the interviewer to ask the employee to elaborate if more information is needed. The following questions are sample questions for your interview:

1. What did you like best about your experience at the company?

2. What did you like least about your experience at the company?

3. Why are you leaving? (Examples: retirement, other employment, relocation, school, personal, etc.)

4. If you are leaving for other employment, what is the name of your new company?

5. What suggestions do you have for your work area or department?

6. What training would you suggest for our employees?

7. What suggestions do you have to improve the benefits that our company offers?

8. Did you receive performance evaluations during your time with the company? Did you find them accurate?

9. How would you rate your supervisor? Was he/she fair? Supportive? Good communicator?

10. Would you recommend our company to your friends as a place to work?

11. Do you have any additional thoughts you would like to share?

Interview questions can be modified to fit the needs of the organization. The list above will provide some basic feedback that can give good insight to how the employee was able to function as an employee. The whole point of the interview is to communicate with the employee, and the questions do not need to be complex to get good information. The employee will be appreciative to be allowed to sit with you to provide the feedback. This interview may be an outlet to allow the employee to vent.

Exit Interviews Provide Valuable Feedback to the Organization

Exit interviews should be voluntary. Since you are asking the employee to share their opinions, insisting or requiring the employee to participate would be fruitless because they would probably give some lame answers to just complete the process. Unless you plan to tie them to a chair while you interrogate them, it is prudent to allow the process to be voluntary. Once the interview is completed, thank the employee for their participation. You can assure them that the information will be analyzed and shared with the appropriate management staff.

Do not miss the opportunity to gain valuable insight by failing to do an exit interview. The information you can gain from this fairly easy process will display the organization's interest in the employee. While the responses you receive may be negative or difficult to hear at times, it is better to know his information and make changes to the environment. If you are unable to meet with the employee before their separation, you can also send a questionnaire to the employee which they may or may not choose to complete. The face to face interview is a much more productive method for the exit interview. The communication between the employee and manager is likely to have some positive results for gaining insight to what employees feel about the workplace. When you analyze the responses you receive and share them with management, there will be an opportunity to address issues and make necessary changes to improve the company for a more productive future.

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