How to Conduct an Effective Exit Interview

When an employee leaves, it gives you a rare opportunity to collect valuable data– but it’s not always easy. Here’s how to conduct an exit interview.

how to conduct an effective exit interview

In 2018 in the United States, a survey revealed that companies saw a 22 percent turnover rate on average. With turnover rates this high (particularly voluntary turnover, which accounted for the majority of the total turnover rate), exit interviews have become crucial for businesses that desire growth and retention in 2019.

What is an Exit Interview?

When an employee resigns from their current job, they are often invited to participate in an exit interview. This interview, usually conducted by a member of human resources, a supervisor, or a manager, provides an opportunity for employees to leave helpful feedback “on their way out.” By asking questions related to the employee’s reasons for leaving and requesting feedback on a company’s current structure, environment, and employee engagement, an HR representative can gather a great deal of data useful to the company moving forward.

Are Exit Interviews Required by Law?

No, it isn’t required by law for employers or HR staff to conduct exit interviews, nor is it required for employees to attend them (unless their initial contract indicated otherwise). However, exit interviews can be an incredibly useful tool for gathering information, so it’s a good practice to make them a regular part of an employee’s resignation process.

What are the Benefits of an Exit Interview?

If performed consistently and effectively, exit interviews can be a huge help to your business as a primary source of data collection and an opportunity to receive constructive criticism. By discussing with soon-to-be ex-employees their reasons for leaving, employers can gather crucial data necessary for improving their operation and the employee experience.

Plus, the Harvard Business Review points out that by asking resigning employees about their new jobs, exit interviews provide a unique opportunity to learn what competitors are offering.

What Should I Include to Create an Effective Exit Interview?

If you work in HR or have been asked to conduct an exit interview for your organization, you’ve been trusted with quite the task. The following considerations will help you facilitate a productive discussion.

  1. Pay close attention to your demeanor and body language while conducting an exit interview. Do your best to smile and make eye contact. Use open and friendly body language to invite the interviewee to share their thoughts. Above all else, avoid judgmental responses (nonverbal reactions count, too).
  2. Remind the employee clearly (and more than once, if necessary) that their responses will not be attached to their names when analyzed later. Be clear about how collected data is aggregated and kept anonymous. There are certain exceptions to this, of course, if you learn of something that is potentially dangerous to another employee (for example)– so make sure to make those situations clear as well.
  3. Focus on listening. Sure, you’ll be the one asking the questions, but this is the employee’s time to talk. Give them the floor, and then show them that you’re engaged by avoiding distracting actions like looking at paperwork the whole time.
  4. Provide contact information for follow-up, and encourage the interviewee to continue the conversation if they wish. This gives the resigning employee a chance to contact you with more information in the event they leave out an important detail or clam up during the in-person meeting.

Most importantly, keep exit interviews friendly and consistent, then make use of the insights gained. There’s always room for improvement.

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