Exit interviews have the potential to provide employers with valuable information to help them retain employees and protect their businesses from competition and breach of confidentiality. Research suggests that upwards of 80% of companies in the US conduct exit interviews with departing employees, but only 1/3 of those companies act upon the information collected.

Talent Intelligence has cultivated a list of 8 exit interview tips that will help your company make the best use of exit interviews:

Don’t let this valuable opportunity slip through your fingers!

1. Make them “mandatory” 

The best way to achieve maximum participation in exit interviews is to require departing employees to take part in them. Although employees are not legally required to participate, and employers are not allowed to penalize those who refuse to participate, setting expectations that there will be a mandatory exit interview increases the likelihood that they will participate. Be sure to give departing employees a detailed explanation of how the exit interview will be utilized.

2. Guarantee confidentiality

stock-photo-the-word-confidential-on-blu-1088564-366212-edited.pngChief among the reasons departing employees refuse or prefer not to participate in exit interviews, is fear of retribution. Depending on the circumstances of their departure, many employees prefer not to burn bridges as they exit the building – after all, the very managers they may wish to air complaints about are the same managers they will look to when they need references for the next or future jobs. Ease the departing employee’s mind by guaranteeing confidentiality and offering a detailed explanation of how their privacy will be protected.

3. Create distance

Departing employees, particularly those who choose to leave with little or no notice, tend to be more emotional than usual. They may find themselves overwhelmed with positive, negative, or even bittersweet feelings about their position, co-workers, supervisors, and the company as a whole. Give the departing employee time to decompress and settle into the new situation in which they find themselves before subjecting them to a probing interview. Many companies ask departing employees to fill out an exit survey on their last day and notify the employee that they will reach out in the coming weeks to follow up.

4. Use a third party

The guarantee of confidentiality alone is often not sufficient for collecting open and honest feedback in an exit interview. An effective way to avoid confrontation while still gaining meaningful information is to conduct the exit interview through a neutral third party. An additional benefit of going this route is that independent interviewers are specially trained to ask the kind of probing questions that lead to actionable insight.

5. Review contractual agreements

In addition to collecting valuable information that will protect and grow business, exit interviews present an opportunity to review non-disclosure agreements, and non-compete clauses, as well as request the return of company property – including electronic data that may be stored on the departing employee’s personal devices. Pursuing this approach puts your company in a stronger position to address any legal issues that result from an employee’s termination or departure.

stock-illustration-man-with-ear-listenin-475395-203862-edited.png6. Ask these questions

A list of the most common exit interview questions is not difficult to find – alas, we include such a list in our Exit Interview Toolkit, which you can download at this link. Here are a few questions you may not find, that will help make your exit interviews more meaningful: 

  • What could we have done to keep you from leaving?

  • What lessons will you take with you from your time here?

  • Under what conditions, if any, would you consider returning?

  • When did you realize you simply couldn’t work here anymore?

7. Incorporate other data

It is important not only to track data from exit interviews over time to identify trends, but also to incorporate data from employee surveys and reviews to develop a more complete understanding of organizational issues.

8. Act upon the findings

The biggest reason exit interviews fail to provide value to a company is due to inaction. Work with your leadership team to develop a policy for utilizing the information provided in exit interviews in your company’s recruitment and organizational development programs.

Download the Talent Intelligence Exit Interview Toolkit and begin protecting your company today!