Exit Interviews: How to make the most of a departure

December 6, 2017


Too often, exit interviews are a forgotten piece of human resources. When an employee resigns, recruiting to replace for their role and ensuring handover often take precedence over spending candid quality off-boarding time with the departing employee.

The last few days of an employee’s tenure is often the perfect opportunity for the employer to learn about how the employee really feels about the company and gain insight into their departure.

Aim of the exit interview

The purpose of an exit interview is for an employer to receive honest, candid feedback they can use to improve organizational culture, minimize employee turnover, lessen recruiting and training costs, and improve the brand.

A good exit interview will unpack what’s behind a resignation letter. A company should prioritize the exit interview to pinpoint exactly what is triggering valued staff to leave.

The exit interview is a window to who your employees are, what you are doing well as a company, how your clients potentially view you, where you can improve, and ultimately, how you can create a happy and healthy workplace. It is a cost-effective tool to obtain pertinent information on how a company needs to engage, retain, and attract future top talent to strengthen the organization.

Who should conduct the exit interview?

The effectiveness of an exit interview depends on who and how is it conducted. There are two main categories of exiting employees:

  • Those willing and not afraid to voice their opinions and offer honest feedback about their employee experience, and
  • Those who don’t care and want to leave without any fanfare.

Exit interviews should be encouraged but never forced. To obtain honest answers, exit interviews should be conducted by a human resources representative or an objective third party consultant outside the company or firm.

Approach to conducting an exit interview

Given the emotional nature of most resignations, it imperative an interviewer listen with empathy, compassion, appreciation, enthusiasm and respect to reach the heart of the matter and ensure an uplifting and productive exit interview. It is vital to acknowledge what the exiting employee is going through and ensure that they are comfortable with the exit interview process. The employee should be made aware of the reason for the exit interview and to whom the final document will be distributed to and why. It all boils down to making the departing employee feel respected and appreciated for opening up and sharing their views and thoughts.

Actions to take post-interview

The management team and the employee’s direct supervisor should be made aware of the feedback and be guided to act upon the feedback as part of a positive change process. In many instances, you may need to make some minor changes in your organization to keep your employees engaged and happy. But you won’t know what those things are unless you keep an open mind to what a departing employee says.

An exit interview should be part of your future talent attraction and retention strategies. Your departing employee can still be a source of referrals for clients and future employees, as well as an advocate for your brand.

A strategic exit interview process conducted by the right people with the right approach at the right time can turn into more proactive stay interviews, resulting in a more engaged workforce and potentially brand your organization as an “employer of choice” for years to come. Do not miss out on your offboarding program, it may be your last chance to listen, part on good terms, and bring closure to the employee-employer relationship.

Chaaya R. Jugdeb, Recruitment Associate