What You Gain From Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are an awkward process. For the most part, there’s a reason the exiting party is, well, exiting and that makes for a rather uncomfortable sit down. Yet, exit interviews are par for the course in offices throughout the world. So rather than count the minutes until the uncomfortable encounter is over, what can human resources professionals gain from exit interviews to help guide the course of the company’s future?

The first thing about exit interviews is to assume you won’t be getting completely honest answers; rather, you’ll be getting a puzzle piece of the truth. Unless you have a bottle of Veritaserum* hanging around your office there’s no way to goad the complete truth out of guarded soon-to-be ex-employees. The employee will likely have been told not to divulge too much info to human resources. They won’t want to answer with anything that might come back to hurt them in the future, and if they have a job already lined up, there’s likely less of an incentive to bash or reveal bitter feelings in the exit interview.

However, knowing you won’t be getting every detail doesn’t mean there’s nothing to gain from an exit interview. You can use some of the insight provided to help make future changes to common employee problems such as pay, benefits, company culture, and more. A Wall Street Journal piece suggests asking the ex-employee to pinpoint why he/she originally began looking for a new job. This will help get to the root of the problem, whereas asking why the person is leaving may lead to a bland “because I got a new job which pays more” response. Once you have a clearer picture of why an employee decided to leave, input their response into a database. Using the accumulated responses, you may be able to discern a pattern. If, for instance, many people state in their exit interviews they are unsatisfied with the benefits package offered, you can take future steps to adjust this, potentially saving the company from more employees leaving voluntarily.

If conducted correctly, exit interviews can be a helpful tool for human resources officials in planning for the success of their company’s future. Ensuring a person’s confidentiality will help get a better picture of what caused his/her discontent, and an accurate recording system will show patterns of why employees are leaving. By analyzing these patterns, human resources pros can help fix the problem for the future.

*a truth serum for non-Harry Potter readers

How do you usually start off an exit interview? Taking a hint from the Wall Street Journal, do you try to pinpoint why an employee began looking for a new job? Leave us a comment below.

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