Exit interviews are a pretty controversial topic across the HR and recruitment industry. To some they’re really important and essential for tying up loose ends and gaining precious insight into working conditions and company culture, while for others they’re a waste of time and a chance for the employee/employer to have one final dig at each other.
Whatever your point of view, exit interviews are still very much part of the overall HR strategy and procedure for many businesses – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easy or a walk in the park for either party.
If you’re tasked with conducting an exit interview with one of your employees, there are a number of rules you need to follow to ensure both parties get the most out of the process.
Here are our top Dos and Don’ts for exit interviews from an employer perspective.
Do: Keep It Professional
When it comes to exit interviews, it’s important to keep them professional, even if you’re on great terms with your employee and you already know why they’re leaving. Be sure to book a room in advance, give the employee advance warning of the interview and if necessary, arrange a HR employee to sit in on the interview and make notes. You also need to make sure you follow your HR procedures – so it might be a good idea to read up on your policy in advance to see what kind of structure the interview should take and what kind of things you can/can’t say.
If you’re running a small business it can be tempting to take it personally when someone hands their notice in – but as I said earlier, you need to try and keep it professional. Try and put any personal differences you might have with the employee aside – and try and approach it with a purely business mindset. Try and forget what might have happened leading up to this point, and instead try and focus on tying up any loose ends and finding out any information which might help to reduce future staff turnover.
Do: Prepare In Advance
Just like standard job interviews, it’s important to try and prepare some questions ahead of time. Consider what the employee might be able to tell you about your business which might have contributed to their decision to leave. Is it the holiday policy? The working hours? Or the company culture? And could their reasons be causing any of your other employees to look elsewhere? Try and come up with a list of questions that might help to give you an insight on what it’s like to work for your company and which might identify any areas for improvement.
Don’t: Get Defensive
As I said earlier, if you run your own business, it’s easy to take any criticism personally and act defensively – but you really need to resist. OK, so they might not have been the greatest employee in the world and they might not have agreed with a disciplinary action that was taken against them but it’s important to stay calm and act professionally. By all means, you can answer any questions they might have and respond to comments but you need to be careful not to come across as too defensive. In this instance you want the employee to feel confident that they can speak openly and without judgement – so you might have to hold your tongue in a few places.
In exit interviews, it’s important to really listen to what the employee is saying… because it could prove to be invaluable. Give them the opportunity to speak openly and really listen to what they’re saying with regard to why they decided to look elsewhere.
Don’t: Forget To Make Notes
With that last point in mind, it’s important not to forget to take notes. Not only will these notes help you to recall the conversation – but they could end up helping you out in the future if the employee decides to take action further down the line. These notes can act as your minutes and can help you to recount exactly what was said by whom in which order… which is why it might be worth asking another employee (preferably from the HR team) to take notes on your behalf.
Do: Give The Employee The Option Not To Attend
As I said earlier, exit interviews might be part of a lot of HR strategies but that doesn’t mean they’re mandatory or that the employee has any legal obligation to attend. That said, it’s important that you give the employee the choice of whether to attend… which brings me nicely on to the last point…
Don’t: Be Too Pushy
Whether it’s asking the employee to take part in the exit interview or quizzing them about their reasons for leaving, it’s important to ensure you’re not too pushy when it comes to this process. Remember, everyone’s entitled to their privacy – and while you might be keen to gain company insights from your employee, you need to respect their prerogative if they’re not overly forthcoming with any information.
Of course, every employer and brand will approach exit interviews differently depending on the HR policies and procedures they have in place but this post should help to give you a good starting point on how to approach exit interviews from an employer perspective.
Think I’ve missed anything out? Or have something else to add? Leave me a comment below.