How To Conduct An Effective Exit Interview?

Top Questions, Best Practices and a Free Template Included

In this article, we have put together an exhaustive guide for conducting the most effective exit interview. Full of best practices, it will widen the inside information you get from your employees during the offboarding process. The best exit interview questions are provided and a downloadable form is available.

Human resources are like natural resources; they're often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they're not just lying around on the surface."

Ken Robinson

Every time an employee informs you he’ll be leaving the company, your first thoughts and actions are steered into finding a replacement: posting ads, searching the HR database for potential candidates, choosing the new member of your team. But don’t neglect the person who is packing his things. Focus on conducting an exit interview. That one former employee may be the key to solving your turnover issues and finding effective approaches to improve retention.



1. A simple definition to understand what is an exit interview?

The exit interview is the final meeting held between the management and an employee who is leaving the organization - either voluntarily or by termination. Its main purpose is to discuss the employee’s reasons for departure and the overall experience he had during his time within the company. This final interview is a chance for the employer to collect useful feedback that can be of great help in the future.

Exit interviews are typically found in private business, but also in government environments.



2. The exit interview process and why it is important for your organization

The exit interviews process is critical for modern organizations. Here is why:

  • Employees are inclined to be more honest during an exit interview:
    During an exit meeting, you are very likely to discover the cause of your high employee turnover or the origin of staff conflicts. Why? Because usually employees are cautious when referring to these topics when they’re still in office, but when the prospect of leaving the company is clear, they tend to loosen up and speak openly.
  • Understand the cause of your management issues:
    You may think everything works just fine between management and staff, but what if you’re wrong? A lot of employees leave their jobs, due to a bad, distrustful relationship with their manager. And you won’t find out about this through any other review processes. But an exit interview is the perfect occasion to receive feedback from employees on managers.
  • You can check how good your hiring and onboarding processes are:
    The exit interview is practically the image of retention deficiency. Your aim should always be a great hiring process that triggers retention.
  • Stay up to date with salary and benefits:
    Compensation is one of the most common reasons for leaving a job. Therefore, the exit interview will reveal if that is the case for the specific employee and if yes, then you have a good opportunity to see how your company compares with others and whether you need to step up your game.
  • Enhance your employer brand:
    Even if you can’t control their decision of ending the collaboration with your organization, an exit interview is the chance to end things amicably. And most important, to show those employees that you value their feedback. You will have to gain from this approach, because in the future, those ex-employees may be more likely to recommend you, as employer, or the company, for other business collaborations.


3. Select your exit interview layout meeting

The less time-consuming way of getting feedback from a departing employee is the written one: you ask the person to fill out a questionnaire. Many HR departments develop a template with some basic questions and just give it to the employee.

However, if you really want to gain some knowledge from that employee, the one-on-one meeting is the format you should choose. You should provide a private room for the exit interview and assure the employee that confidentiality will be respected.



4. Select the interviewer

A member of the HR department is the best alternative because they have the needed soft skills and can address specific complaints related to the role of the employee and general issues related to the organization. The HR specialist should prepare an employee exit checklist and use it constantly, for every departing employee.

Some companies go further and choose an external consultant to conduct the interview. But you should be careful, this practice may seem impersonal.



5. What SHOULD you ask?

What are the best practices when talking about how to conduct an interview?

We don’t have the absolute perfect answer to this question, but will offer some expert tips and valuable HR guidelines.

First, the interviewer should have the questions ready, planned and make sure you use the same for every exit interview. This shows consistency and helps you extract something from all the received feedback.

The next step is to create a casual and cordial atmosphere, while reassuring the employee that everything discussed will be treated as confidential information.

Be transparent and share with the employee the reasons behind the exit interview. He should know that this discussion is not about deciding who is guilty of his desire to leave, but simply a discussion about what brought up this decision.

Your goal is to obtain useful feedback. This is why the best moment to hold the exit interview is the last day the employee spends in the office. If you have it a week or even 10 days sooner, you risk he will provide dishonest feedback. This may happen because of the chit chat caused between colleagues who hear of the departure.

Also, another key point in exit interviews is to refrain from disputing the employee’s performance, work and behavior. You are not holding this meeting to reprehend him. Even if he chooses to speak badly about managers or colleagues, do not engage in this type of arguments.

Try to make a connection between the employer’s departure and the hiring process. Did he get the job he expected, was the job description accurate? It’s an important view for you and for your recruitment and onboarding process.



6. Best Exit Interview Questions

Make sure your tone is adequate and you allow the conversation to flow without restraints. Here are some of the must ask exit interview questions to consider, divided by topics:

A. Reasons for leaving:
  • Why did you start looking for another job?
  • What are the reasons for your departure?
  • What are the areas you believe we need to improve?
  • Did you share your concerns with anyone else from the company?
B. Experience
  • How would you describe your overall experience in our company?
  • What was the best part of your job here?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your supervisor and your coworkers?
  • Name 2 things you enjoyed here and 2 that you feel should be changed.
  • Do you believe your work was recognized and appreciated?
  • Do you believe you were given fair training and assistance?
  • Do you feel your job description changed since you were hired?In what ways?
  • Did you receive frequent, constructive feedback from your manager and colleagues?
  • Do you believe your work was directly linked to your personal goals?
  • What benefits or compensation did you feel were missing from the organization?
  • How would you describe our company culture?
C. Looking towards the future
  • What could be done to make this company a better place to work?
  • What advice would you like to give to your team? To the management?
  • Would you ever consider working here again?
  • Would you recommend others apply for a position at our company?
  • Do you have any other issues or comments you’d like to address?


6. What SHOULDN’T you ask?

There are some topics you should avoid when conducting an exit interview. Stay away as much possible from risky questions like:

  1. Is there a chance you will reconsider and stay? How can we convince you?
    The exit interview is not the moment to ask the employee to stay. It’s too late. This is the time for you to gain insight into their perspective and experience.
  2. Why didn’t you enjoy the time spent here?
    An employee’s resignation may bring up many emotions for you as the employer. You may feel offended, outraged, hurt or relieved. But for the benefit of your image, as an organization, you should refrain from showing these emotions.
    Instead, you can ask positive questions like: “What things would you change about this job?” or “Could you offer us some suggestions for improvement?” Avoid all types of negativity in your speech.
  3. Could you point another person who should leave instead of you?
    The exit interview is without a doubt the time to learn about employee and management relationships, but try not to turn the discussion into a gossip, don’t make things too personal. You should refrain from asking questions targeted at explicit people or issues. If the employee wants to share some bad experiences, give them space, listen to them, but don’t initiate this type of discussion.


7. How to prevent the feeling of dishonesty during exit interviews

An employee’s departure is a situation that could have many reasons and could reveal all types of reactions. How can you keep the discussion at a high level of honesty? Be positive: don’t disclose any grudges. Thank employees for their work and wish them the best for the future.

Keep it short: don’t waste time with endless questions. The employee has made a decision, there is no point in trying to win him over. Just show him that you care about his feedback and this could be a great asset for your reputation.

Don’t have a defensive attitude: try not to interrupt the employee while he’s answering your questions, even if you disagree with what he says. You are just an observer at this point, try not to defend actively the company or the management.

Having completed the exit interview, your job now is to analyze the responses you got and use that valuable feedback for improvement in:policy changes, management training sessions, better benefits packages.

Rarely will an exit interview tell you every single piece of information you'd like to know, but it's a practical start on determining why good employees leave.

“Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t have to.”

Sir Richard Branson Click to tweet


8. Exit Interview Form Template

If you enjoyed this guide, for sure you would like to download a ready to be printed. The template comes in PDF and Word format. We provide you the form for free.


Word Exit Interview Template

Start using the exit interview word template for within your company for every employee that is leaving. Not only that you will know what went wrong, but also how you can make your company better.


PDF Exit Interview Template

If you are keen on ready to use pdf forms, we have one that you can just download for free.



Conclusion

Think about exit interviews as the perfect tool to increase the value of your organization: both internally and externally. By asking the right questions and planning the exit interview from top to bottom, you can disclose the true importance of this process.

We hope that our list of tips, best practices and advices regarding the exit interview will ensure you will have a smooth offboarding process.

Learn more: Once an employee departs due to termination or resignation, you will need to hire and onboard newcommers.


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