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It’s Hard To Say Goodbye: 5 Tips For Conducting Effective Exit Interviews

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It’s Hard To Say Goodbye: 5 Tips For Conducting Effective Exit Interviews

There are few things more awkward for an employer and an employee than an exit interview. One of your employees wants to move on, so they give you their two week notice. In response, you ask them to sit with you on their last day and answer a slew of questions like “Why are you leaving?” and “Did you feel you were adequately compensated?”

Still, as an employer, the exit interview can be extremely valuable. It offers a rare chance to see through the eyes of his or her employees.

  • The whole idea behind the exit interview is to score information that will eventually improve the quality of your workplace and reduce the amount of, that’s right, exit interviews you have to conduct.
  • Happy employees don’t often leave their jobs.

So, now that we know what an exit interview is and why you as an employer should make them common practice when one of your employees chooses to leave, here are 5 tips that will help you make your interviews as effective as possible.

# 1. Mano A Mano

Exit interviews, in my opinion, should be a semi-personal experience for both the interviewer and the interviewee. Online or written survey-style exit interviews tend to be cold and distant, they don’t give your soon to be ex-employee a reason to open up.

Now, I don’t mean there should be hugs and holding throughout the interview, unless of course that’s typical of your office…what I mean is that exit interviews should be conducted face to face.

  • An in-person exit interview give the interviewer a chance to change the questions depending on the interviewees reaction, improvise, and ask followup questions that can give the employer a better understanding of why the employee is leaving.
  • The most successful exit interviews have more in common with a conversation, I think, than a traditional interview.

# 2. The Questions

The hardest part of conducting an exit interview is composing the questions.

  • There are standard questions, some of which I already mentioned, for example: “What was your favorite/least favorite thing about our organization?” – “How would you improve the organization?” etc.
  • Still, the best questions are specific to the person who is leaving. I know this might not be possible for a manger to do on his or her own, especially in bigger companies.

That’s why I suggested a non-formal sit down in the previous point. A conversational exit interview will naturally lead to more in-depth questions.

# 3. Irate Employees

As I’m sure you all know, not all employees who are leaving a business will look back at their time at that business with fondness. That’s right. There’s a chance you may have to conduct an exit interview with a not so happy person.

While exit interviews should always be voluntary (meaning your angry employee may scoff at the idea), you should still extend the offer — you can learn a lot from someone if you pay attention, even if they are in the middle of a cathartic rant.

# 4. The Results

This goes without saying, but once the exit interview is over, it’s important to share the results with the entire management staff.

  • The managers should then brainstorm ways to use this information to better their workplace.
  • Of course, not all the information will be valuable, but it’s important that what information you do get from the exit interview is put into play as soon as possible.

# 5. Don’t Wait

There is one other thing I’d like to mention. You don’t have to wait for an exit interview to find out how your employees are feeling or if they think improvements can be made.

Keep the lines of communication open between you and your employees and, if your lucky, you won’t be conducting any exit interviews at all.

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Image: “Portrait of young man driving car /

Daniel Cassady is an experienced freelancer, guest blogger, and frequent contributor to a blog hosted by Benchmark Email, one of the world’s global email marketing providers.

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  • Hi Warren, this is a great list with so much great information. Some of these blogs I was already aware of but many of these I’ve never read before, so thanks for the introduction. 

  • Christina Giliberti

    A great pick here Warren. Glad to see Seth Godwin in there and will make sure I read that entry!

  • Debi Harper

    Thank you Warren, these are blogs I never would have come across,looking forward to reading them all. I love this quote To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

  • What a comprehensive list Warren – thank you for sharing – I look forward to reading some of them over the coming weeks.

  • warrenrutherford

    You are all welcome. It’s fun doing the research and learning from others.

  • Thanks for the list! Been working through reading them. Can I be bold and add a posting on this site that I did that got a lot of positive action about 5 things that make a great manager and leader that may also add to the discussion:

  • warrenrutherford

    Gary – absolutely. The more interaction the better. As you know there is a lot of advice available. Reading through the different material helps us to understand better what resonates best – so share on.

  • Thanks for gathering all these posts about effective/better management/leadership. We need more leaders. “Bosses” are seriously outdated specially in this day and age where technology has afforded opportunities to even the most average of joes. We ALL need to learn to be leaders.

  • Good work Warren!. I appreciate the blog on:
    How to Lead Yourself When the Boss is Not Around
    It gives me an idea on how to practice maturity and being trustworthy at work. 

  • Losing employees can be a direct consequence of not having your “door open” Communication is essential for employee retention, along with respect, transparency etc.
    It’s a sad company that speaks to their employees at entry and exit only. “Inbetween” chats should be mandatory.
    Having said that exit interviews are critical for relevant and timely feedback. Organisations can learn a lot from those leaving the company, and they should be in person, I agree.
    Good tips Daniel

  • Welcome to Tweak Your Biz Eric and a great first post for us. I particularly like your 3rd point. In the past I have been known to write a reply quickly but intentionally not hitting return. So I feel like I’ve said what I wanted to say – even if I haven’t put it out there. Thanks for sharing these tips with us and I look forward to your next post.

  • Thank you for this. I am new to social media marketing and found this “not to do” list very helpful. I have yet to see any positive business results because of social marketing, but I haven’t been doing it very long and so am hopeful.

  • This “not to do on social media” thing, You’ve stated an idea for awareness and improving social media activities and movements. Especially the 4th one, sometimes I’m also do error on replying, i’m a little bit impulsive with my replies that sooner I realize, “O if I did this it’s gonna be perfect” That’s the lesson for me . Thanks for this.

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  • Steven Scheck

    Yes Sian, this really seems to be a great initiative. And will surely be of great help, not only to the tourists but also to the people traveling everyday in the city. With almost everyone owning a cellphone, the phone booths had become irrelevant. So, this is surely a welcome decision. 🙂

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