HR · 27 February 2019

4 ways to nail the exit interview process

The exit interview doesn't have to end in tears and resentment.
The exit interview doesn’t have to end in tears and resentment.

More often than not, it’s usually a bad thing for your business when one of your employees hands in their notice.

Despite this, a silver lining is that by completing an exit interview you can gain an invaluable feedback point of the internal culture of your company which can drive positive change to retain your top performers, says Robert Scott, managing director at Aaron Wallis Marketing Recruitment.

“Exit interviews are a rare opportunity to discover the inner-workings of your company and find out views that employees may have been previously afraid to share,” he adds.

“Creating an open and structured exit interview process for every leaver is a key step for driving positive change in your business.”

How do you even start the exit interview process? The four tips below can help you put an effective process in place.

Plan to perfection

The biggest pitfall in exit interviewing is scheduling an hour-long session with a leaver without a clear format and planned questions. This can create too an open discussion which isn’t productive for you as an employer.

Think of it a job interview in reverse, rather than a candidate justifying why they’re the right fit for your organisation, plan the exit interview to create an environment where the employee can openly explain the reasons why they want to leave.

Simple things like booking a truly private meeting room and picking the right interviewer can make a world of difference. Often an employees line manager may not be the right person to conduct the exit interview.

Pick your questions carefully

There are key internal themes which are the most useful areas to gain feedback from an employee leaving. Focus your questions around company structure, culture and incentives to get the most out of your exit interviews.

Aaron Wallis Marketing Recruitment’s Robert Scott suggests the following five questions are worth including in exit interviews.

What could we have done to keep you?

This isn’t necessarily about convincing an employee to stay, usually, it’s too late for this. This question can give you proactive insight into retaining your best members of the team.

How did you find the culture of our company?

Company culture is a current hot-topic in business and any feedback in this area can drive beneficial change in your organisation.

Are employees recognised and rewarded appropriately?

This may be a financial incentive or something as simple as internal recognition schemes. Improving how valued employees feel in your organisation is crucial to keep your top performers.

Were you happy with the way you were managed?

A common grievance of employees is the organisational structure of a business and how they were treated by their superiors. Try to keep the discussion about company structure rather than individual managers.

Would you ever return to our company?

Particularly for a top performer who may be leaving, it can be extremely useful to know what you’d have to do to re-attract top talent.

Questions not to ask

It’s important to keep aware of any hints of individual bullying or harassment, but a more structural discussion is likely to be the insight you need to make a positive change in your organisation.

Asking about individuals, or relationships with a particular colleague, can fuel office gossip and what you hear might not be entirely accurate or fair.
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ALT_TEXT

Interview ethics: The 27 questions to avoid asking candidates

How much do you weigh? Are you planning on having kids? All off limits!
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Leave on good terms

Finally, it’s crucial to do all you can to ensure that a leaving employee has a positive impression of your business. After all, it’s a small world in business and people talk – negative external perceptions of your company can prevent you from recruiting other top talents from the industry.

How do you handle the exit interview process? Share your questions and experiences with us below.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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