Exit Interview

  • End of Employment
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll discuss why companies conduct exit interviews, how to conduct one, and what you can gain from departing employees.

Staff leaving your business is always inevitable. Whilst it's time-consuming to recruit again, a departing employee is also an opportunity for your business to improve. And is why you should conduct an exit interview.

An exit interview is a chance to receive honest feedback about employee satisfaction. Specifically, it can help you gain insight into your company culture. As well as revealing any issues within your work environment.

In turn, this could improve employee retention rates, increase employee engagement, and make your workplace more appealing to top talent.

In this guide, we'll discuss why companies conduct exit interviews, how to conduct one, and what you can gain from departing employees.

What is an employee exit interview?

An employee exit interview is a face-to-face interview an employer conducts before a staff member moves on. The two-way conversation allows you to gain valuable insight into the employee experience. Specifically, the reasons behind an employee's decision to leave.

From the answers, the employer can collect the exit interview data. This data should reveal any issues within a working environment that might help a company improve. It could be anything from problems in your company culture to work life balance.

Whatever the findings are, exit interviews are important conversations to hold when an employee leaves. And should form an integral part of your offboarding process.

Where should you hold an exit interview?

It's important to hold exit interviews in a private place where you can ensure confidentiality. This will help you receive more honest feedback. Ideally, in an area away from other employees and their workspaces.

Remember, an exit interview is about receiving valuable information to help future employees. So create a safe environment where your employee feels comfortable opening up.

When should you hold an exit interview?

You can hold an exit interview at any point during the offboarding process. This could be right after an employee hands in their resignation letter. Or the days before they begin their new job.

The best time to hold the interview however, would be the last day of the staff member's employment. They'll likely be more comfortable sharing their thoughts with you - knowing they don't have to return to the workplace. Especially, if their issues lie with senior members of staff.

Who should hold the exit interview?

It's up to you who conducts an exit interview. Typically, employers will ask a senior co-worker to hold them. This would ideally be a line manager or someone who has worked closely with the employee leaving. You could also ask your human resources (HR) manager to perform them.

Why are exit interviews important?

A successful exit interview helps you gain insights into the pros and cons of your corporate culture. But, it could even highlight any issues in your work environment that you were unaware of. Which will help stop issues or disputes from becoming more serious.

It's also a great way to improve the employee experience within your business. And if satisfaction increases, it could increase employee engagement and morale. As well as preventing more employees leaving the company.

Can an employee decline an exit interview?

Yes, an employee can decide to decline an exit interview.

This could be for a number of reasons, so don't be disheartened if they do. Just ensure they know they can speak to you about anything before they leave.

Are exit interviews a legal requirement?

No, holding exit interviews aren't a legal requirement under UK employment law.

However, it's important you provide training to your senior staff and managers on exit interviewing. So when the time is right, you can relax knowing you're getting all the information you need.

What are the best exit interview questions?

Exit interview questions vary from industry to industry. So it's important you make a list of ones relevant to your company and its operation. Ensure you're asking open-ended questions where the answer will be of benefit.

Examples of exit interview questions include:

  • What made you look for a new job?
  • Is there anything you would change about your current position?
  • What makes your new position more suitable than your current one?
  • Is there anything we could have done to prevent you leaving the company?
  • How did you manage your workload?
  • Are there enough development opportunities for employees?
  • How did you get along with your team members?
  • What are the pros to working with our company?
  • What would you change about the working conditions in the company?

You can also download an exit interview template online. This will give you a structured process to follow if you have less spare time to create questions.

The advantages of conducting exit interviews

An effective exit interview takes preparation. But if you conduct them correctly, it can provide your business with several advantages.

Let's take a look at them in more detail below.

Provide valuable insights

One advantage of using exit interviews is the perspectives you can gain from departing employees. Exit interviews spark an open dialogue where team members can voice how they actually feel. And constructive feedback can reveal how you can change your company for the better.

You should also analyse the data of your exit interview results annually. This will give you wider representations of each year's employee turnover.

Additionally, you could narrow retention trends to specific demographics. For example, employees of a certain age, gender, or race.

Helps maintain a good impression

Exit interviews can also maintain positive relationships with your ex-employees. Specifically, if you keep in touch with your team members even after they leave.

Staff might leave for reasons beyond your control, or even because of issues in your company. But, giving them an open forum to voice their feelings will make them feel valued.

Either way, maintaining a good rapport with them might encourage them to consider rejoining you in the future. Especially, if they can see you've made improvements since their departure.

Improve employee retention rates

Using exit interviews might also help you improve the retention of staff. This is because an effective interview will highlight why employees are leaving. And what areas of your company you could improve to enhance employee satisfaction.

The answers to your exit interviews should give you a solid plan of action. Now you know what your company's strengths and weaknesses are, you can understand how to change for the better.

Once you've conducted a few exit interviews, trends should start appearing. Ultimately, you should be able to work out what you need to do to reduce turnover.

The drawbacks of conducting exit interviews

Exit interviews can benefit your business when team members move on. But they can come with their own drawbacks if you don't conduct them properly. There are a few things to consider to ensure a successful process.

These include:

Could create an uncomfortable atmosphere

One drawback to be aware of when performing exit interviews is that it could create an uncomfortable atmosphere. Because the employee leaving will likely voice negative feedback that won't be easy to hear. This is specifically applicable to their line manager, or any other manager that works close to them.

Consequently, you should ensure that every manager in your company has had appropriate training. And are aware of what an exit interview entails.

Remind them not to take every bit of feedback personally. Ultimately, it's all helpful for the progression of your company.

Accurate feedback might not be provided

Every employee at your company will have a different experience in regards to their duties, culture, and workplace relationships. But, that doesn't mean everyone will be truthful when reflecting on their employment with you. And this could impact the validity of your interview data.

However, even if an employee describes an issue with another colleague you have trouble believing, it doesn't mean it's not true. So it's best to treat every interview the same. Ultimately, you'll be able to choose which data is relevant to you.

In cases where you don't have as much trust in the employee you’re interviewing, ensure you still listen and engage. Once you have their answers, try to verify some of their experiences with other colleagues. Or compare it to existing data.

How to conduct an employee exit interview

As mentioned, preparation is key when it comes to exit interviews. If you're looking for an exit interview process to follow, we've outlined some steps below. These are:

Create a comfortable environment

To encourage your employee to be honest with you, you need to create a comfortable environment for them. This will help them relax, which will make it easier to address more difficult topics.

Remind the employee that the conversation is completely confidential. And that any comments they make will not be met with judgement. It's important they know that the purpose of the exit interview is to improve the employee experience. So you require honest feedback.

Make sure you also offer them some water if you expect to be talking for a long time.

Listen more than you talk

It's helpful to imagine exit interviews as the opposite of a job interview. Whereby the employee dictates the conversation. You likely have prepared your own questions and have your own topics you'd like to discuss. However, it's important to give the employee the freedom to express themselves.

For example, you ask your ex-employee what aspects of their role they found difficult. But, they start talking about their issues with the team dynamic. In this instance, you should allow them to voice their thoughts - as it's obviously important to them.

Trust that you'll circle back to anything they haven't answered properly at the end. Whatever they want to discuss as a priority will indicate what aspects of your business need work. So it's important to follow their lead.

Make a plan

Throughout the conversation, ensure you make the appropriate notes to refer back to. This includes any actions you need to take - in order of priority.

When the exit interview ends, you'll be able to make a plan of action based on your notes. Ideally, your employee's answers will indicate where issues lie. And there might be several steps you need to take.

These could involve speaking with staff members, asking your HR department to review current systems, and researching training methods.

Get expert advice on exit interviews with Peninsula

You should conduct exit interviews to improve your company's procedures. Having a strong exit interview process at your helm will make it easier to receive constructive feedback. And end an employment contract on a positive note.

Without them, it'll be harder to understand why employees are looking to leave. As well as what ways you can improve your business for the better.

Peninsula offers expert advice on exit interviews. Our teams provide 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.



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