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Exit Interviews – the door’s that way

The general idea of an exit interview is to understand the reasons why someone has decided to leave the company, and for the company to gain feedback on what they may or may not be able to do differently in the future.  However, it’s often the case that an employee doesn’t see any value in the process and either doesn’t participate or does so reluctantly.

So how does an organisation hold a meaningful exit interview without everyone involved feeling that it’s a waste of time?

Encourage honesty

It’s important to consider that the employee who’s exiting the business may not want to share the reason why they are leaving, either because it’s for very personal reasons or because they don’t feel they can be honest.  You should encourage them to be honest from the beginning of the exit interview and tell them that their feedback can be given off the record if they wish.  Tell them that any comments they make about other colleagues and/or managers will not be attributed directly to them.

Choose carefully

No one should accept a resignation letter without question – even if you are delighted to be seeing the back of them.  Sometimes the resignation won’t come as any surprise and it will merely be a formality.  Sometimes, however, it comes out of the blue and you definitely should not leave it until the exit interview to find out why.  Knowing why the person has made this decision will help you to work out whether an exit interview is necessary or not.  An ill-advised exit interview could add fuel to the flames in a difficult situation so it’s worth giving some thought to it before you proceed.

Explain the reasons

It makes sense to explain the reasons for holding the exit interview, i.e. to gain feedback that may be useful for the company in the future.  Remember that most if not all employees will be thinking “what’s in it for me?” so if you can address that point, you’re likely to score a few brownie points and increase the chances of getting honest comments!

Questions

Assuming there is a genuine reason for holding an exit interview and you’re reasonably confident that you’ll get some useful responses, here a few questions you could consider including:

  • What are your reasons for resigning? (although arguably you should already know the answer!)
  • How/when should we hand over your duties to someone else?
  • What are your outstanding projects/commitments?
  • Who else knows you are leaving?
  • What does your new employer offer that we cannot?
  • How did you view your management?
  • Did you feel supported in your role?
  • Did you have enough training opportunities?
  • Are there any areas you would have liked to receive more training in?
  • Were you given enough opportunities to give feedback during your employment?
  • What can you say about the team dynamics and/or morale in the team?
  • What do you see as the company’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • If we could improve anything what would it be?

If you do decide to ask any or all of these questions, make sure you’re prepared to acknowledge and take on board the answers, even if you don’t like them!

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