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Last Updated February 16, 2021

The benefits of a successful exit interview

An exit interview is a meeting with an employee leaving your business generally through resignation, retirement or the end of a contract.  The exit interview is conducted by someone in the management team or human resources.

The exit interview can often by overlooked or skipped in the rush to recruit someone to fill the vacant position.  Often people think an employee who is leaving the business, no longer has anything to add. If this is you, then think again. 

By conducting an exit interview you have the opportunity to obtain frank and honest feedback about what lead the employee to leave.  Feedback from the exit interview can also assist to improve aspects of your business, retain better employees and reduce turnover. 

Following, are five areas to consider with your exit interview process. 

Opportunity for business improvement
By overlooking an exit interview, you will miss your best opportunity to gain the employee’s honest, transparent view of your business and to explore the reasons they have chosen to leave.  The information provided can be an excellent foundation on which to build changes to your culture, processes and technology that help you improve every aspect of your business.  

Create a comfortable environment
When conducting an exit interview try to create an environment in which the exiting employee is comfortable to provide honest feedback.  Make the interview one-on-one, rather than ‘ganging’ up on an employee.  Where possible have the interview conducted by someone other than the employee’s immediate supervisor, some in management or Human Resources is preferable. Conduct the meeting in private, reminding the departing employee that the information will be confidential and anonymous.  Keep the interview short and simple.

Leave on positive terms
This kind of opportunity for information must be managed carefully so that the departing employee leaves on positive terms with minimal impact to your business’ brand.  During the interview thank the employee for their contribution to the business and maintain a positive outlook You never know if the person may return as an employee again in the future, end up working for a competitor / supplier or have the opportunity to refer a potential candidate / client.

You must allow the outgoing employee to express their feelings and opinions honestly without then ‘rebutting’ these comments. Resist the urge to make your own negative comments, rather focus on being sure the individual feels they have been heard. Remain professional throughout the interview.  Listen carefully to what is said at the interview, but also what is not being said. It is also a good idea to write down what the employee says so as not to forget anything. 

Example questions
Have the interview questions prepared in advance.  This will allow you to focus on what the employee is saying during the interview. 

At the exit interview try to ask open, general questions that encourage engagement and answers such as, ‘What was the best thing about your role here?’ and ‘Did you feel you had the appropriate tools, resources and working conditions to be successful in your role?’, before you get to the big question – ‘Why did you start looking for a job in the first place’ and ‘Why did you choose to leave?’.

No matter how good you think your relationship with a departing employee may be, the interviewer must be prepared for negative comments. It’s imperative the interviewer doesn’t take the comments personally and takes the information as an opportunity to explore and improve.

For more tips and to discuss your employees needs, chat to us at Small Business Society.

The information provided in this document is for your guidance only and is general in nature. It does not constitute as legal advice. It is the responsibility of the individual to seek legal advice where required.

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About Kate Tongue

Kate Tongue is the founding Director of Small Business Society.

She is a qualified and experienced Human Resources professional with more than 10 years of experience across the private and public sectors.

Her particular interest and experience is in managing the employee life cycle, delivering process improvements, and Human Resource strategy.

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