Exit Interviews: What’s the Purpose for the Company?

For some employees, the exit interview is the dreaded last step before they can walk away from a job. For some employers, the exit interview is often a perfunctory exercise that yields few actual productive results. Human Resources expert Sharlyn Lauby at hrbartender.com says the ill fate of the exit interview is due to a problem in planning in mindset which can easily be turned right and be used productively.

In the first place, should exit interviews be merely perfunctory? Lauby says the purpose shouldn’t be simply to fill out the correct paperwork. Instead, the company should be looking to gather data that will benefit them and their future employees and to find out what drove the employee to seek out or answer the call to new employment in the first place. Knowing this, Lauby says, will help you with future retention and employee engagement.

Secondly, companies may be misguided on the best time to conduct an exit interview. Lauby suggests waiting until after the employee has actually left the position, maybe weeks after the employee has left, in order for them to gain perspective. Angry employees might speak out of their frustration at an exit interview, while other employees might say very little in an effort not to burn any bridges between themselves and the company. Companies might receive more honest answers when former employees have some hindsight. Spark Hire’s video interviewing features could be a beneficial way to conduct this sort of exit interview. Instead of asking a former employee to come back into the office, set up a time to speak with them face to face via video feed. The former employee can speak from the comfort of their own home and the company can still achieve the desired effects of an exit interview.

Finally, who should sit across from the employee to conduct the exit interview? While this job typically falls to the employee’s manager or to an HR professional, Lauby suggests bringing in a third party representative. Perhaps you can recruit a manager from a different department to sit down and have a candid conversation with the employee. Whomever is chosen, the chances of an employee on their way out speaking openly with them is more likely than with their manager, who they might need to vent about specifically, or HR, who is their key for references or even coming back to the company at a later date.

Employees are probably wise not to go tearing down bridges between themselves and their company during exit interviews. Self-preservation is necessary in a job market that is constantly in flux. Companies, then, are left with discovering how to leverage the exit interviews in a way that provides them with useful data. Reassessing very simple parts of the exit interview process can help get companies on the path to making exit interviews a productive experience.

Is it time to reassess your exit interview strategy? Let’s discuss in the comments.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by C.P.Storm

  • I agree with Lauby. Exit interviews should be used to the employer’s advantage.

    I never really understood why many businesses acted like bitter exes who get all prideful or jealous acting when an employee chooses to leave. Yes it is unfortunate but no, not good riddance.

    Often, it’s not personal and if it is personal, that is something the business absolutely needs to know. (If, at the very least, to know if any legal red flags arise)

    That exiting employee has insightful information that the company can use to better itself and its practices. Useful information that can help guide the company in a direction of competitive gain especially pertaining to recruitment and retention.

    I think it is important that the exit interview is held in a neutral setting like the conference room rather than the manager’s office. I also believe that the exiting interview should be conducted by a neutral person within the company. The timing of the exit interview is equally important. Going into an exit interview prepared and focused on the information that the business would like to obtain is also essential.

    A great interviewer knows that the questions make or break the process. It’s time to make that exiting process as good as the process to enter because they are both so very important.

    • Thank you for giving us your thoughts, Amanda! Couldn’t agree more with everything you said.