Exit Interview

Definition: The formal conversation that takes place between an employee and an HR or other manager to determine the reason(s) the employee is leaving

Exit interviews are prime opportunities to figure out why someone is leaving your organization. (If you're firing someone, of course, you don't need to know why they're leaving, so exit interviews aren't necessary in this case.) Effective exit interviews can help improve your bottom line by reducing turnover and the associated costs of hiring and training new employees. Bear in mind, too, that nobody is likely to speak more candidly and knowledgeably about you and your company's failings than an employee who knows what's going on and has nothing to lose by talking. You may get some important tips about the problems and issues that are causing your employees to leave.

To help you prepare for the exit interview, give people who are resigning a questionnaire to be completed before their final day on the job. You can also give a form to the employee on their way out and ask them to complete and mail it back. Finally, have a face-to-face or phone meeting the final day. Ask:

  • What was your favorite part about being an employee here?
  • What was your least favorite part about being an employee here?
  • Have you had complaints? Were they handled fairly?
  • Do you feel you had a clear career path here?
  • What could we do better?
  • What, if anything, would convince you to continue here?

When you've had a few people quit, analyze the results of your exit interviews. Try to figure out trends, such as the main reasons they give for leaving, the typical length of time a person works for you before quitting, the type of jobs that have the most turnover, and patterns of resignation in departments or groups associated with particular managers. The idea is to identify changes you can make to keep people from leaving. So the most important advice of all about exit interviews is to make sure you're really listening and that you actually do something, including making changes in your company, with the insights you gain.

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