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Exit Interviews Can Provide Helpful Insights for a Business

An employee gives notice and an interview is scheduled on the last day on the job. Just what has been accomplished? Nothing. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As we enter 2013, some workers may be seeking greener pastures. But before they do, will the typical exit interview process uncover what employers really need to know?  

Exit interviews are usually scheduled on the person’s last day on the job and often don’t elicit the real reason for the departure.

Standard forms are completed, and everyone moves on. But just what has been accomplished? Probably not much!

Consider these 5 simple tips on how companies can successfully complete an exit interview:

1.) Time it right.  If your company’s policy is to conduct the exit interview in advance of the departure, interview the staff member on his or her last week, when he or she may feel more comfortable speaking freely.

Another option is to conduct the interview post departure; this may allow for more candid — and constructive — answers about your company. Before an employee’s final day, ask if you can contact him or her for a phone interview at a later date. Make sure to schedule enough time to ask all of your questions and thoroughly discuss the employee’s answers.

2.)  Encourage participation. As you kick off the interview, remind departing employees that the comments they provide can help to make a meaningful difference at the company, especially for their soon-to-be former colleagues. This may help them feel more willing to share their feedback.

For those reluctant to participate in an exit interview, you might offer the alternative of completing a questionnaire. Follow up with the individual who’s leaving after reviewing the document to clarify any comments or concerns.

Keep in mind that it’s best to conduct exit interviews with those who have voluntarily given notice. People you’ve let go may be candid, but their comments may be more negative than constructive.

3.) Choose the interviewer wisely. Managers should never conduct exit interviews with their direct reports. If supervisors are the reason for leaving, it may be very awkward for employees to admit it to them.

Pick a neutral person in the company – perhaps an HR representative – to conduct the meeting. As you’ll want to find out the real problems so changes can be effectively implemented. Avoid a team approach to exit interviews – having more than one manager meet with the person who quit will make the process very intimidating.

 4.) Don’t be predictable. To get to the heart of why that person is leaving, you need to be a little creative – ask a variety of questions that zero in on the specifics.Ffor example, “What circumstances prompted you to start looking for another job?” “What advice would you give to the person filling your role here?”, Or “Do you think management adequately recognizes employee contributions? If not, how do you think recognition could be improved?”

Be careful to avoid questions beginning with “who” – if you try to get the person to name names, it may seem more like a witch-hunt than a meaningful discussion. Listening is also key – the person conducting the interview should make sure not to argue or get defensive, as talks will quickly lose all value and purpose.

5.) Take action. If you file away the comments made by the exit interviewees, there’s no point in putting time into the process. This feedback should be reviewed by managers and given thoughtful consideration.

You may notice a pattern with comments from multiple people who have left the company in recent months – taking action and making the necessary corrections is ideal, to prevent issues with morale and retention.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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