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Should You Conduct Exit Interviews?

Posted on August 20, 2018

When an employee resigns, it’s routine to have one last meeting with the employee. Beyond collecting employer property and materials, such as swipe cards, laptops, company-issued mobile phones and keys, exit interviews can be structured to determine why the employee is leaving and how the employer can improve retention efforts.

Effective exit interview questions should be structured with the goal of gleaning information about their separation from the company, and maybe identify policies that need to change or any problems or issues. 

These interviews are presented as no-pressure meetings, because the employees have already terminated their relationship with the employer, so they may be more open about the issues involved. However, there is a school of thought that these interviews are a waste of time, and the information provided may lack credibility. 

Pros of Exit Interviews: 

  • Provide the company an opportunity to gain information about the reasons behind employee turnover, which may help to reduce turnover in the future if the information is acted upon. 
  • Gather insights into problems in the organization that were not otherwise obvious. For example, they may highlight problems with specific managers. 
  • Ideas for additional workplace training that could be useful. 
  • Structured to for the employee to return employer-owned equipment and for the employer to provide final paperwork, final paycheck, and information about benefit continuation. 
  • Provides a final opportunity to emphasize any obligations the employee may have regarding the confidentiality of trade secrets and employer data. 
  • Obtain information about the employee’s new job—and about the new benefits that were attractive enough to entice someone to leave. It may include new insights about what is on offer with other firms. 

Cons of Exit Interviews: 

  • Employees may be fearful of burning bridges, which may mean they have little incentive to be completely open. 
  • If the situation surrounding the employee’s departure is tense, the exit interview may be tense, too. It could be spreading tension and creating unnecessary difficulty without necessarily having a clear benefit. 
  • Even if actionable information is found, if there’s no process in place to follow up and make changes, the point will be lost. Exit interviews need a formal structure and process to follow for improvements to occur in the coming days, weeks, and months. 
  • An exit interview may be seen as “too little, too late” by an employee who is leaving, and it could engender frustration that it took leaving to be asked for an opinion. 
  • If word gets around that employees who leave are giving input that is never acted upon, that could decrease morale among the employees who stay. 

Sample Exit Interview Questions 

Explain that the purpose of the interview is to help the company improve its processes and retain its valuable employees. Also tell employees that their statements will be kept confidential to the greatest extent possible. 

  1. What prompted you to seek alternative employment? 
  2. What ultimately led you to accept the new position? 
  3. Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well? 
  4. Before making your decision to leave, did you investigate other options that would enable you to stay? 
  5. How did you feel about your salary and the employee benefits? 
  6. How frequently did you have discussions with your manager about your career goals? 
  7. What did you like most about your job and/or this company? 
  8. What did you like least about your job and/or this company? 
  9. What does your new job offer that your job with this company does not? 
  10. Do you have any suggestions for improvement? 
  11. Would you recommend this company to a friend as a place to work? 
  12. Additional comments about your job or this company 

When an employee is leaving, they may be able to open up about problems they were previously afraid to bring up. The employee no longer has a fear of reprisal, so it may be a chance to get more feedback than an employee would normally provide.

Employers must be prepared that exit interviews may uncover major problems, such as harassment or discrimination claims, that will need to be investigated or acted upon immediately. If the employer does not have mechanisms in place to follow up on exit interview findings, they may want to consider not conducting the interviews. 

Lauren Sims is the article’s author and the Director of Human Resources. 

Whenever you require professional Human Resources or Payroll guidance to navigate the ever-changing landscape of California and Federal Employment Laws & Regulations, contact us for a no-obligation consultation. 

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