Experts Recommend These Exit Interview Best Practices

When an employee leaves your company for another opportunity, it’s natural to wonder why. Exit interviews offer you a chance to ask questions of an outgoing employee that might help you improve your organization. Here’s what you need to know about making the most of your company exit interview.

A fired worker carries a box of belongings depicting a company exit interview

How to Conduct an Employer Exit Interview

If done well, a company exit interview allows you to gather information about how your business functions on an employee level. From the top, seeing your employees’ day-to-day obstacles is hard. Enough exit interviews can help you identify patterns and problems you might not otherwise see.

However, exit interviews also have disadvantages. Many employees, even when departing, won’t feel comfortable being completely honest. They may fear it will jeopardize their chances of a positive reference down the line or burn a bridge if you don’t like what they have to say.

To get the most out of your conversations, here are some exit interview best practices to keep in mind:

  • Ask about both positive and negative experiences the employee may have had at your company. Knowing what you’re doing well and what can be improved is good.
  • Prepare questions in advance, but let the employee guide the conversation. Listen and take notes, even if you disagree with what the employee is saying. They deserve to have their opinions heard. Ask follow-up questions if necessary.
  • Take feedback with a grain of salt. The employees wouldn’t be leaving if they were pleased at work. You can decide later what is actionable and what can be safely ignored.
  • Whatever you do, don’t overreact. Some of what your employee says might be hard to hear, but your reaction to the critiques you receive will determine whether future employees will feel that they can voice honest concerns.
  • Never conduct a company exit interview with a terminated employee. In addition to being in poor taste, you’re unlikely to get unbiased feedback from someone you’ve just fired.

Should You Do an Exit Interview?

Although a company exit interview can be helpful under the right circumstances, it is not mandatory. Exit interviews aren’t the only way to solicit feedback from your employees. Instead of a traditional exit interview, you can opt for an informal chat about the high and low points of your employee’s time with the company.

Ideally, though, you won’t wait until an employee is leaving to ask about their concerns. We think exit interviews are compelling because the employee has nothing to lose by being honest, but what does that say about the work environment we’ve cultivated?

Our employees should never fear that speaking up about a problem will cost them their jobs. The best way to receive honest, constructive feedback is to create a culture where it’s welcome. By doing so, we can retain more employees by fixing the problems they might otherwise quit over.

Collecting actionable information from a departing employee requires skill and practice. Click here for a complimentary meeting with Coach Dave to work on your list of questions.

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Dave Schoenbeck
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