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As it is natural and even healthy for your company to have an employee turnover, all HR professionals will have to deal with an employee exit.

As you might be seeking to understand why employees chose to leave their job, you can uncover the details behind a voluntarily terminated contract by conducting an exit interview. However, to get the most valuable feedback and a pleasant experience for the person quitting, you want to optimize the interview process.

In this article, we will cover all the do’s and don’ts an HR manager needs to know when conducting an exit interview

Related articles:

Employee Offboarding Checklist for a Happy Company

How to Fire an Employee the Right Way

What is an Exit Interview?

An exit interview is a meeting between an employee that is leaving a company and a human resources professional. The meeting is set up for the company to ask the employee their reasons for leaving the organization and serves as a good opportunity to get actionable employee feedback about the employee experience and working conditions at the workplace.

In some cases, companies use the exit interview as a moment to encourage a resigning employee to stay on, typically by bringing new incentives to the table, such as an increased salary or any preferred perks. An exit interview can also be conducted in a questionnaire or online survey format rather than a face-to-face meeting. 

Why an exit interview is important

Exit interviews are an important part of the employee offboarding process. Offboarding itself is an essential part of the employee experience as how you handle the last days of your departing employees will set an example for your current employees.

If your organization and HR department treat your exiting employee with respect, it will likely improve your employee morale and the workplace culture. For employees that are being treated nicely during their exit process and leave the company on good terms, are more likely to return to the company as a boomerang employee.

Not to mention, the exit interview is a valuable moment to get honest feedback and sacred insights into your employee experience and work environment. Someone that is leaving might feel more comfortable being honest and straightforward about their feelings toward the company as they do not feel like there is anything on the line.

With an exit interview, you can get valuable and forthcoming information that otherwise you might only be able to retain through anonymous survey data. In the end, the exit interview can be the moment that provides a treasured understanding of your employee engagement and can be the key to improving your employee retention.

6 Steps for Conducting an Exit Interview

There are several parts that go into conducting a successful exit interview. Remember, you want your resigned employee to leave on good terms, happy with their exit process so you want to make sure to optimize it. Below, we provide 6 steps to successfully conduct an exit interview:

1. Choose interview format

First and foremost, you need to pick your interview format as this will influence the rest of the steps. Choose between one of the three formats below:

  • Face-to-face meeting
  • Online survey
  • Questionnaire/document with fill-in questions

In general, a face-to-face meeting will feel more personal and improve the experience for the employee, although this will require more time and effort from the human resources team.

2. Select interviewer

If you decided to go with a true interview format, you want to select your interviewer. Most commonly, companies tend to go with someone from the HR department since this is their field of expertise. Although this might be the best option in most cases, sometimes it can be worth considering bringing in someone else as an interviewer. For example, some people might feel more relaxed speaking the truth about the reason for leaving if they have a closer relationship with the person that is interviewing them, such as their supervisor

 3. Decide on questions to ask and not ask

Now here comes the important part. You want to gracefully select your exit interview questions as they are the key to giving the interviewees a pleasant interview experience and making them feel comfortable about providing constructive feedback. You should avoid asking any questions that might make the respondent feel pressured or at unease, preventing them from providing their honest thoughts. Further down this article, we provide concise examples of effective exit interview questions.

4. Schedule the interview

Once you have decided how you will conduct the exit interview, you want to schedule it and arrange all the logistics needed. Typically, employees provide two weeks notice, which means that it is appropriate to schedule the exit interview around one week before their departure. If you need to reserve a meeting room, this would be a good time to do that as well.

5. Conduct the interview professionally

When it is time for the interview, you want to make sure that you are conducting it professionally. As mentioned before, this is a valuable opportunity to get important employee feedback on your company and its human resources practices, however, do not make the employee leaving the interview feeling used or disgruntled. Prioritize making the employee feel comfortable and cared for.

Listen closely and avoid making assumptions about any feedback they might be providing. Ask open-ended questions that allows the employee to speak with their own words on their experience.

6. Share the results

Unless the interviewee wants confidentiality, you should consider sharing the survey results with relevant people within the organization. For example, if the departing employee provides actionable feedback on their manager, you can share this feedback with the manager to help them act on any weaknesses in their mentorship. To not make anyone feel uncomfortable in the situation, you should consider waiting to share any interview results until after the last day of the employee that is leaving a job. If you received any valuable information about the work environment and workplace culture, you might want to share these results with the upper management at the organization.

Questions for an Exit Interview

Remember to personalize the questions depending on the employee’s situation and experience. Below we list the most important questions to ask during an exit interview, but consider adding some personalized questions of your own:

  • Why did you decide to leave our company?
  • Is there anything different we could have done that would have kept you from leaving?
  • How could we have improved your time and experience here?
  • What were your favorite things about working at our company?
  • What do you think the company could improve on?
  • Would you have any advice for a potential successor?
  • What expectations did you have on this job before you came here, and how did they differ from your actual experience?
  • Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share before leaving?

Questions to not ask during an exit interview

As discussed earlier, you want to avoid making your employee feel uncomfortable and leaving the exit interview feeling unhappy and dissatisfied. Are there any specific interview questions that can lead to a troublesome exit interview process? There certainly is. 

Avoid any leading questions about people and issues. In general, you want to avoid asking about co-workers and individuals within the organization, as this can give the interviewee the impression that you are trying to build a case against someone at the company. You also want to stay away from addressing office gossip from other employees, it is important to keep the interview professional and strictly work-related. Although one might think it is a good idea to provide personal opinions in order to relate to the respondents and make them feel more relaxed, this should be avoided as well. Of course, you should never question the employee’s decision to quit and move on with a new company.

Below, we list some examples of interview questions to not ask during an exit interview:

  • Are you leaving because of a specific person within the organization?
  • What do you think about [individual’s name]?
  • Would you stay if we offered you better compensation and benefits?
  • Is there someone in your team that you do not like?
  • Why do you think the disengagement is so high?
  • Did you experience something at the office that annoyed you?

Post-Interview: Takeaways

Once the interview is done, the real work of the exit interview starts. As we all know, there is no point in collecting data if it is not properly analyzed. Except from sharing the results with management and leadership at the organization, you want to analyze the employee feedback and data metric that you received. The interview might have provided useful information and identified weaknesses in your workplace culture, work environment, supervision, and employee satisfaction.

It could also help you to determine whether the employee is eligible for rehire at some point down the line and how to avoid having them leave again if they do return to the company.

By applying the takeaways from the exit interview to your HR strategy, you can improve your employee motivation, employee engagement, employee recognition, and much more. Finally, do not forget to prepare farewell!

Analyze Responses with HR Software

You can optimize the takeaways of your exit interview with HR software that allows you to analyze data from interviews in dashboards and reports. PeopleSpheres consolidates all your HR software on a single platform, and by doing so, centralizes your human resource management, including offboarding.

With PeopleSpheres, everything from the data of the exit interview to the last paycheck can be accessed on the same platform. Don’t waste time browsing around separate HR software, consolidate it all in one place today!

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