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The best way to handle an exit interview

It’s time for one of your employees to move on, so now’s the perfect time to learn about the business’ strengths and weaknesses in a candid exit interview.

In theory, the whole idea of an exit interview is to improve the way the company operates by picking the brain of departing employees who are likely to be candid about their experiences. Good, highly motivated people are the key to running your business. You spend a lot of time and energy recruiting, training and developing your staff. If and when they leave, you lose that investment and, more importantly, the promise of their future contribution to your success. Perhaps even more troubling is that sometimes you can’t put your finger on the reason why.

Whether they’re retiring, been let go, found another job, been lured over to the competition, or have simply had a change of heart, you should take the time to ask why they have decided to move on. Knowing what motivates a valued professional will help you attract great, fresh talent moving forward.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind if you choose to conduct an exit interview with outgoing employees.

Have the ok from the professional

Some organisations like to conduct exit interview with employees who voluntarily resign because they might provide the most useful information in a manner that’s generally not emotionally charged. On the other hand, exit interview responses from employees who involuntarily terminate must not be discounted. Just because an employee is fired doesn’t mean their input isn’t valuable. Consider conducting exit interviews for all employees, but always ensure they are happy to do it.

Formalise it, or keep it casual

You can formalise an exit interview by making it meeting style, inviting a HR representative or by using survey software or a form and allow the professional to take time to complete it. However if you are a smaller organisation or have a good relationship with an employee, it can be a more casual affair with just yourself and the employee.

Set yourself some questions and be prepared for the truth

Regardless of whether it is formal or not, set yourself some questions before to make sure you get some useful information. Let your emotions take the back seat, be prepared for some answers that might sting a bit but always remember to take any criticisms as constructive. Some common questions include:

  • Asking them to explain in their own words why they are leaving the company
  • What were the best and worst parts of the role, and why
  • What they would change about the role/company, and why
  • Would they recommend the organisation to others, and why

Keep the questions fairly consistent throughout all the exit interviews you do so you can see any trends or patterns.

It can be difficult to see a valued professional walk out the door. However, it can be a valuable learning experience and guide you to making your next recruitment decision.

Erica Lindberg

Erica Lindberg

Erica has almost ten years of recruitment experience in the secretarial & administrative support, IT, HR and commerce spaces. In Erica’s current role as Director – Secretarial & Support and IT, she is responsible for the management of approximately 30 temporary and permanent recruitment consultants, who specialise in IT, commerce, personnel, human resources, administrative and secretarial support. Prior to joining Robert Walters, Erica worked for Masterson Personnel in the United States. Erica has gained broad industry experience, dealing with clients, candidates and internal personnel at all levels in productive recruitment environments.

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