Tips for Mastering the Exit Interview

The exit interview poses a series of challenges for both employers and candidates alike; however, when navigated correctly, it serves as an invaluable resource for employers. It provides insight into key issues that may affect an entire team, and also allows managers to gather honest feedback on their organization as a whole.

While employees leave for a variety of reasons – a career change, termination or retirement – the exit interview still is the most effective tool for employers seeking to better understand their workforce. Therefore, it’s imperative that employers not only commit to conducting this conversation, but also to mastering it. Addison Group, a professional staffing firm, has four tips on how managers can best conduct the exit interview to yield valuable, actionable insights.

View it as an opportunity to learn. While it’s important to use this time to understand an employee’s reason for leaving, a manager should also collect feedback about the team, the organization and even their management style. This insight can help managers improve employee relations by identifying the broader issues affecting their team. For example, if an employee was leaving as a result of a specific issue, by getting to the root of the problem and making changes, managers can avoid losing talent for similar reasons in the future.

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Demonstrate consistency with each interview. Maintain a standardized format to ensure you gain a holistic viewpoint, regardless of why the employee is resigning. A consistent and uniform exit interview allows managers to gather balanced information which helps identify trends in workplace-related issues. Each interview should last from 30 to 60 minutes and include at least five of the same questions. Additionally, organizations should conduct two exit interviews – one led by the manager and another by HR – for well-rounded feedback.

Create an open and understanding environment. No matter what the situation, leaving a company can be challenging, making it all the more important these conversations are handled with delicacy. Reflect on how you can best demonstrate empathy during the interview, focusing on your tone and verbiage. For example, a pointed question, such as “Why are you quitting?” paired with an aggressive tone may make the employee feel they’re being accused of something. Instead, a tactful question like “Tell me what prompted your job search,” matched with a compassionate tone will open up the conversation and yield more useful information.

Remember to interview retirees. Often the most overlooked, retirees can provide a depth of knowledge and feedback about the organization. Because they’re less concerned about potential backlash that accompanies honest responses, retirees are more inclined to speak candidly about the team and their experiences. Great questions to ask include, “Tell me what are the three best things about working here,” and “What do you believe are the key skills required to be successful at the organization?”
However difficult the departure of an employee may be, employers can find value in the process through the exit interview. When done correctly, feedback from this conversation has the potential to provide instructional insight into areas of improvement, in turn, benefitting overall company culture and employee retention.

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Dave Morgan

Dave Morgan
Dave Morgan is president of the IT practice at Addison Group.

Dave Morgan

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