Keen to learn about exit interview best practices, read on…
Exit interviews are not mandatory, and many workplaces don’t bother with them.
However, others make them an integral part of the exit process for employees, and they can be treated as seriously as the job interviews that all candidates go through.
Though ‘entrance’ interviews are ubiquitous across the labor landscape—even newer, unconventional workplaces that ‘don’t like interviews’ have them in some form—exit interviews don’t enjoy the same widespread usage.
Still, knowing exit interview best practices can ensure you handle these scenarios well if you find yourself in one.
Exit interview best practices matter for both sides of the coin
First things first: let’s not forget that an exit interview work both ways.
They need to be as useful for the employee as they are for the employer. What this means is that to make an exit interview really ‘work’, it can’t just be a string of questions for the employee with no room for their own input.
The process needs to work for both sides, and this demands different circumstances for each (which can luckily coexist in the same interview).
A successful exit interview for an employer involves getting as deep a view as possible into an employee’s time with an organization. The questions should give plenty of room for their opinions without judgement.
However, while the employee needs to be given room to express thoughts on their time in their role, the employer needs to maintain overall control. Ideally, it shouldn’t be used as an opportunity to air dirty laundry and make a dramatic exit.
Expectations should be set and managed going into the interview, ensuring that everybody is on the same page. To help with this, it may be beneficial to set some ground rules at the start.
On the employee’s side, an exit interview needs to give them a chance to speak their truth and be as open as possible—perhaps even resolve past conflicts and tie up loose ends.
As we’ve said, this isn’t a chance for the employee to come in guns blazing. Not only would that be unprofessional and inappropriate for the context, it also risks burning some major bridges in your career.
Younger and more inexperienced workers might not have the wherewithal to understand when they’re doing this, so strong guidance may be needed in an exit interview to save some people from themselves!
For an exit interview to work for the soon-to-be-ex-employee, it needs to present a genuine opportunity to share what has worked and what hasn’t; the aspects of the role that made them happy and the things that could and should have been improved.
You may elect not to deliver an exit interview face-to-face, and instead book it using a networking platform designed for the workplace.
How do exit interviews help retain team members?
It might seem counterintuitive to say that something conducted on exiting employees could help with retention, but it makes sense if you look at the bigger picture.
There may be little you can do to keep an employee who’s firmly on their way out, but the lessons learned from exit interviews are ideally applied in the business moving forward.
Let’s say you have three employees in a large company leaving within the space of several months, and you conduct exit interviews with each. One has no complaints about their role and is just moving for a better salary.
The other two, however, have had issues. One employee feels that they were too micromanaged, and the other employee feels that they were always trying to please someone else in their work, rather than pursuing what they felt was best.
While slightly different in phrasing and approach, these two complaints stem from a common issue that can then be addressed by the workplace. From here, the organization’s leaders can dig further and find out if other employee’s have similar feelings.
This can unearth silent problems at the foundations of your business. Just because nobody talks about an issue out loud, doesn’t mean it’s not being felt by many.
Showing a willingness to identify these problems out and open dialogues up about them proves to your staff that you’re willing to improve and to listen. This builds respect and ultimately helps you hold on to your staff better.
Exit interview best practices – questions
Choosing the right questions is a big part of what separates a successful exit interview from a bad one. Your questions have a difficult balance to meet: being incisive, fair, and appropriately open-ended without being too personal, leading, or numerous.
Open questions are best for getting the unique viewpoints of your employee, such as:
- What was the best part of your job?
- When did you feel most appreciated and valued in your work?
- What was your favorite thing about working here?
These questions give you the who, what, why, where, and when of an employee’s opinions on their workplace. They give you qualitative data, if your business is large enough that you have enough exit interview answers to analyze.
Closed questions give you quantitative data. Your answers won’t be as rich or unique, but they’re much easier to sort. Closed questions yield multiple choice or ‘yes/no’ answers:
- Have you enjoyed your time working here?
- Do you feel your salary was fair for your role and responsibilities?
- Would you recommend working here to a friend?
In many of these cases, you may want to append these questions with ‘why?/why not?’, effectively giving you a mixed of open and closed answers.
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