Tips for a Successful Exit Interview Program

May 26, 2022
Be it life or work – goodbyes aren’t usually the easiest thing to do. But great exit interviews can leave behind great insights to help improve your workforce culture down the line. They can help you repeat pleasant experiences (for instance, “my manager was very supportive”) or discard the unpleasant ones (for instance, “my suggestions weren’t valued”). In many cases, the soon-to-be-former employees have valuable insights that the management might never have tapped into before.  There is a lot to gain when the exit interview is constructed in a structured manner – either through professional third parties or internally. The challenge pops up when you need to get your departing employee to express freely what their thoughts are about the company. In this article, we’ve laid out some valuable pointers to help you and your interviewee sail smoothly through the interview. 

Select the Right Interviewer 

Companies typically have two options when it comes to selecting an exit interviewer: someone from the company itself (usually a member of the HR team) or an external third party. When an HR team member conducts the interview, they can focus on role-specific suggestions or complaints about the company as a whole. But the slippery slope here occurs when – an employee might not feel entirely comfortable speaking freely about their experience with someone from within the company. Interviews by a third party, on the other hand, offer a high degree of anonymity. In most cases, this diffuses the tension in the room and the employees can be fully expressive of their feelings about the company.

Plan the Interview Well

When it comes to a successful exit interview, preparation is key. While the process is the same for most interviews, preparing for each departing employee individually can help a great deal. Be familiar with the interviewee’s role and responsibilities, create a personalized list of questions to ask, and plan out how you want the interview to take its course. You can even have the employee take up a written survey before the interview hour strikes. This can help make the interview more productive.

Get the Timing Right

Timing is another factor that can make or break an exit interview. Most people give a two weeks notice when they announce their decision to leave. So, the best time to conduct the exit interview here would then be one week after the initial announcement. This is the time when the initial avalanche of emotions has subsided and the employee hasn’t checked out mentally yet.

Have Them Write A Survey

Written surveys are a great way to squeeze out better results from the interview. They give employees the chance to record their responses before the interview date. As a result, the employees can be more comfortable and open about their thoughts of leaving. It even gives the interviewer the opportunity to know the employee’s thoughts before and frame valuable questions around their answers. 

Create A Comfortable Space

Companies that foster friendly, comfortable, and useful interview feedbacks have the most to gain from exit interviews. You want to make your employees comfortable – literally and figuratively – to express without any restrictions. Create a space for them to share ideas freely. Allow them to give honest feedback about the company processes and methods. Make a space where they don’t assume they’d be punished for saying what they think. 

Let The Employee Talk

Given the emotional nature of exit interviews, it takes some effort to get to the heart of the matter. Allowing the employee to talk at length while you listen and erasing any signs of authority are a great start to spark a meaningful conversation. Allow the employee to spill all their thoughts out – let them vent if the need be. You don’t want to have a frustrated ex-employee walk out of the company premises, unleashing their issues on public platforms (like dropping a negative review on job-search sites like Indeed). Lastly, make sure you end the interview on an amicable note. 

What To Avoid During an Exit Interview 

Sure, an exit interview can be tricky. You want your employees to be comfortable but you’re also hunting for feedback that can count. While there are no solid interview rules set in stone, it’s still critical not to touch on certain areas. Some of the major “Don’ts” of an exit interview include:
  • Asking the employee to reconsider. Remember, the goal of the interview is to understand the employee’s experience; not re-employ the candidate. If need be, the “reconsideration question” can be raised by managers when the employee gives a two weeks notice; not when they already have one foot out of the door. 
  • Asking questions about specific employees. The employee shouldn’t think you’re asking about someone for a specific reason. This may give the impression that you’re building a termination case against that person. 
  • Putting your Opinions Forward. Exit interviews are about encouraging the employee to talk. Here, the interviewer needs to listen more and perhaps ask questions only to make sure if they’re on the same page with the employee. 
  • Mentioning office gossip. Refrain from engaging if the employee discusses minor office scuffles or gossip. Let the employee know that while they can express their feelings, you cannot put forth your opinions on the matter.
Before your employees step out of your company for good, make sure you draw in as many insights as you can from them while helping them leave on a good note. When performed in the right manner, exit interviews leave “insight jewels” that can truly benefit your company.  If you’re looking to create exit-interview success stories, ComplianceLine is here to bring structured, anonymous, and result-yielding exit interviews for you!