An exit interview is a valuable tool, which when properly conducted, can be used to improve an organization. Exit interviews can uncover cultural disconnects, leadership errors, and training inadequacies. They can be used to identify equipment that needs repaired, replaced, or updated. Exit interviews may identify trends that adversely affect performance and production. And exit interviews can be used to recognize and eliminate causes of turnover.

When should an exit interview be conducted?

Before conducting an exit interview it should be determined:

  1. If an attempt should be made to retain the employee.
  2. How to meet the employees needs if he or she is to remain employed.

Only after determining whether or not to retain the employee should an exit interview be conducted.

Who should conduct exit interviews?

The Human Resources department should conduct all exit interviews. But what if the small business doesn’t have an HR department? In that case, someone other than the employee’s manager should complete the interview. Direct supervisors may have too many preconceived notions and prejudices to interview the employee with an open mind and employees may not be as open and forthcoming with their direct report as they might with an HR specialist.

How to conduct an exit interview

  • Conduct the interview in a quiet area without interruptions.
  • Set the stage by explaining the purpose of the exit interview, which is to seek the employees help and suggestions for improving the company and position.

It may help to explain that the employee has a unique vantage point and may be able to offer valuable insights to leadership.

What to ask in an exit interview

The purpose of the exit interview is to discover opportunities for improvement. It’s not to place blame, protect the organization from exposure, or justify the departure. It’s to learn how to be a better organization. With that in mind, questions should be based on areas of possible improvement. They should, in most cases, be open-ended, and when possible, be geared to the challenges of the company. Here are a few examples.

  • What could be done to improve your position?
  • What tools need repaired, replaced, or upgraded?
  • What training is lacking?
  • What would you tell your direct supervisor to help him or her be a better leader?
  • What would improve the overall culture of the company?
  • What would make this a better place to work?

Exit interviews can be the start of something

The best exit interviews are conducted openly in honest conversation focused on improving the organization. And when they are, they help businesses avoid mistakes and reduce turnover. They improve production and performance by identifying areas where improvement should be focused, and they target areas for follow up leadership training. When an exit interview concentrates on finding areas of improvement, they will be found. Do you conduct exit interviews? What have you learned?

Photo by Kurt Bauschardt / CC BY-SA