Best Practices for an Effective Exit Interview

Most people are well-acquainted with ideal etiquette for an interview for prospective hires, but exit interviews are less common, and can be a little trickier to navigate. An exit interview is a meeting with a terminating employee that is generally conducted by a human resources staff member. Managers and supervisors are also encouraged to conduct exit interviews, particularly if they think that they could learn something to adjust their management practices for future employees.

Exit interviews may not always be pleasant, but they provide your organization with the opportunity to obtain open and honest feedback from the employee who is leaving your employment. This interview provides useful feedback for the organization to improve and and possibly evolve. However, though the individual is leaving your employment, there are still a few employment practices issues that can arise during an interview. This is not the time to let grudges come to the forefront. An effective exit interview will be comfortable, professional, and purpose-driven.

Be Attentive and Inquisitive

Listen carefully to what you are told in an exit interview, and ask many questions to help ensure that you are understanding what the employee is saying. It is easy to assume that you understand what the employee is describing, but the employee’s words may not accurately convey their true feelings. Being attuned to the employee’s subtle differences in context is crucial to the usefulness of the information you receive. It’s also best to write down what is said for reference.

By understanding the positive aspects of employment with your organization, it will be easier to retain critical employees and improve workplace productivity. Conversely, you can use their negative critiques to create a better employee experience going forward.

Utilize this time to inquire about compensation and benefits at competing companies. You could also ask for any information they want to share about managers, the organizational mission, and the vision of the company. You may be shocked at what you learn.

Ultimately, every exit interview should contain the most critical question: what caused the employee to begin searching for a new job in the first place? Don’t place any blame on the exiting employee or speak disparagingly about their future plans. Even if you are disappointed that they are leaving your company, use their reasoning to prevent more of your valuable employees from jumping ship.

Create a Comfortable Environment

Create an environment in which the exiting employee is comfortable providing honest feedback. The organizational culture that fosters useful exit interview feedback is one in which employees are comfortable sharing ideas openly and encouraged to provide constructive criticism about what may have been poor methods of business.

Assure the employee that the feedback they provide will be combined with other employee feedback and presented to management in a professional manner, to help lower employee anxiety that there will be vengeance for less than positive feedback. Employees are commonly concerned about their reputations, and how the exit interview data will be used. They want to be assured that if they run into their manager or coworkers in the future, their information has been kept private.

Generally, employees don’t want to burn bridges by speaking too honestly at an exit interview. Your goal is to create an environment in which the employee trusts that their feedback is used in with the goal of improving the organization.

Before engaging in any interviews (exit or otherwise), make sure your New Jersey Business Insurance program includes EPLI coverage. The individuals you’re interviewing may not be under your employment, but allegations of discrimination, harassment, and other hostilities can still arise.

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