From the December 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

It's an employee's last day on the job, and that means an exit interview. Beware: You may be going about it all wrong. It's time to look at the exit interview in a whole new light.

"The old-school [thinking says] you want to figure out why people are leaving and change that pattern," says Richard Harding, director of research for Kenexa, a Wayne, Pennsylvania, employee research and employment process outsourcing firm. "The new philosophy around exit interviews is to turn that around and figure out why productive people stay."

One emerging technique born out of that theory is to expand exit-interview techniques to the existing work force. Ask the same questions, but change the verb tense from past to present. Comparing ex-employees and current employees lets you create a "retention index"--points of overlap between groups where the company can improve its management skills.

Another new practice with exit interviews is to wait three to nine months before calling ex-employees, a strategy that can yield better insights. Waiting "gives the person the chance to put their experience in perspective," Harding says.

Employers can also use exit interviews as a recruiting tool, asking valued ex-employees what it would take for them to come back some day--a tactic that could pay off in a hot job market.