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Exit interview – How to master it!

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Mercedes G

HR professional with extensive international experience. Expert in Small and Medium Businesses
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Even though an exit interview will be the last stage of your relationship with some of your employees, it may be the beginning of a good onboarding process and the perfect way to correct your mistake after receiving lots of constructive criticism from your future former employees.

The base of conducting exit interviews with employees who have decided to leave, rather than while they are employed, is because they feel more comfortable speaking about the company culture and their former colleagues while these constructive feedback can not affect their salary or daily work. In the end, it is understandable that an existing employee wouldn’t like to speak about their colleagues or line managers as this could create a bad atmosphere.

Note that even though, employees tend to be more sincere, it has been seen (Brooks, B, 2007) that exit interviews are not 100% accurate and that some employees will cover with a plain version of the reality so they don’t affect other colleagues, or because they consider the situation confidential, as Taylor. S, 2014 explains.

How do you master an exit interview? Find below some guidelines to create your own exit interview template with some exit interview questions. Of course, this is only a guideline, so feel free to adapt it to the needs of your company and make sure you leave some space to make free notes for each employee, as they will all have specific comments very differents one from the other.

Please note that is important that you introduce the conversation by letting the employee know that the interviews conducted will be confidential, only the human resources person or the managing director will know about it. The sole purpose of the meeting is for you to understand what you can improve as a company, not for you to critizise any existing employee. Only to improve the employee experience of the people who are staying. For this sole purpose, you would like them to be as honest as they can be, so things can improve in the future.

You will be surprise of the amount of feedback you can receive during an exit interview. It is important that their line manager don’t do the exit interview as it could eliminate the honesty factor if the reasons are related to their line manager.

Before you start, if you haven’t had a conversation prior to this,

  • What is the reason for you leaving the company? This question should lead to a broader conversation. If the employee starts answering some of the questions below, of course, don’t ask them again 🙂 and just complete with those that you feel necessary. In the end, this is about your business.

During your time with us…

  • Do you feel that at the job interviews we reflected properly the job?
  • Do you think your job description matched the role you were doing?
  • How would you describe the culture of the company?
  • Do you feel aligned with that definition?
  • What would you say that has been the best part of working for us?
  • How was your relationship with your line manager?
  • How would you describe the relationship with your team?
  • What has been the worst part of working for this company?
  • Did you feel that we care and/or worried about your professional development?
  • What made you decide to start looking for another role? (if they were not head hunted)
  • Will you recommend this company to your friends?

About your next company…

  • Which company are you leaving for?
  • What will be your next salary?
  • What kind of salary package do they give you?

Any other thing that it would be important for us to know?

If by any chance you didn’t have the opportunity to do an exit interview before they leave, or they are concerned about the confidentiality, you can send them the questions and do an exit survey. This option is colder, but it works fine if the relationship doesn’t end well. A written exit interview, it also gives the opportunity to the exiting employee to be able to write everything they wanted to say and think about it before they press send. It may not be that spontaneous, but it may be deeper.

There are plenty of platforms for online surveys where you can put the questions and collect all your leaver’s information in one report so you are able to compare in the long term.

If you were lucky and the conversation went well, you will be able to implement a lot of changes in your culture and on the onboarding process for your new employees. Make sure that the replacement of the person who is leaving doesn’t go through the same bad experiences, if there were any.

I hope you found this useful!

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