Paper Trails

What is an exit interview?

Equally as important as the employee onboarding process is a business’ employee offboarding process. Part of the offboarding process is the exit interview. This is a critical time for a business to learn about their company. So, what is an exit interview? And what are some best practices when conducting an exit interview?

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a conversation with a departing employee about their time at the company and the reason for their departure. This is an optional, but recommended, interview to have with your employees before they complete their last days of employment. Exit interviews are typically only done with employees that are leaving the company voluntarily as opposed to being terminated.

Exit interviews typically use one of two formats: an in-person interview or a form the employee completes on their own. Each format has unique advantages. The in-person interview allows for further and more specific questioning in the event the employee mentions something a manager would like additional information about. The written form option allows the employee to give more consideration to each question and, in some cases, employees may answer each one more truthfully.

What are the benefits of an exit interview?

Exit interviews can be a good opportunity to get the employee’s perspective on many areas of the company. Areas that employers can address and learn about from an employee perspective are:

  • The training the employee received.
  • The compensation the company offered.
  • The growth potential the employee felt they had.
  • The performance review process.
  • Their assessment of employee morale and employee retainment practices.
  • Their assessment of supervisors and managers.

Furthermore, these interviews can also shine a light on the issues within the company and allow businesses to work on improving areas of need such as:

  • Toxic management practices.
  • Hostile work environments.
  • Departmental conflict.
  • Additional employee concerns that have not been shared with management or HR.

Best practices for an exit interview

There are many ways to conduct an exit interview. Below are some practices to help ensure that it is a success.

Put the information to use

First, and most importantly, if conducting an exit interview, be sure to put the information that is learned to good use. Share it with the leaders in the company. Some conversations might be difficult, especially when addressing sub-par management practices, correcting unproductive working conditions, or investigating harassment. However, exit interviews will be useful only if these conversations happen and the necessary changes are made based on the information provided.

Be casual but professional

Exit interviews should be both professional and casual. Employees should feel comfortable to be honest about their experience in their role at the company. Making them feel like the interview is more of a two-way conversation, rather than a formal interview or disciplinary meeting, allows them to be more open and honest. Taking the interview away from the office to a more relaxed environment can also help.

Be prepared with specific questions

Prepare before the interview. Have specific questions outlined about specific areas the business wants to know more about. Additionally, use previously conducted interviews as a guide to create new questions. For example, if multiple employees in previous exit interviews have expressed concerns with coworker dynamics, then ask about that.

Some good questions to consider are:

  • Why is the employee leaving?
  • Could the company or manager have done anything differently?
  • Did the employee have any negative work experiences?
  • Did their supervisor demonstrate fair and equal treatment?
  • Was their supervisor following policies and practices?
  • Was communication good or bad? What made it that way?
  • What training did they receive or not receive?
  • How did they feel about career development opportunities, employee morale, and performance reviews?

Listen to the employee

The reason for these interviews is for the business to learn about itself. This will not happen if the manager or interviewer is doing all of the talking. Make a list of specific questions that should be asked, but then give the employee time to answer with their own opinions, instead of telling them what the answer should be. Also, do not make the employee feel like they are giving wrong answers as they are speaking to their individual experience.