The exit interview is a face-to-face opportunity to get honest feedback about your company.

If your employee turnover rate is too high, or you are losing employees you want to keep, you might consider incorporating exit interviews into your procedures. Exit interviews are face-to-face discussions with employees leaving your company. They are valuable,for two reasons:

They allow an employee an opportunity to vent or to give any ideas he may have without being judged. When an individual leaves your company, you want him to leave with a good feeling about the way he was treated during his exit. Remember that an ex-employee may run into your customers, suppliers, current employees and potential employees after leaving the company. Anything you can do to have an ex-employee say good things about your company is worth the effort and an exit interview is a great tool to accomplish that.

You might actually learn something. This is critical: if you cannot go through this process without getting angry or defensive, ask someone else to do the exit interview.

For best results, conduct exit interviews a few days prior to the employee's last day. If you wait until the last day, the employee may cancel and you have no date to reschedule. More importantly, on the last day the employee is often distracted, perhaps because leaving is an emotional experience, but also because he may have a lot to do on the final day.

At the beginning of the meeting, always tell the person that if there are things he would like kept confidential, he just needs to let you know and you will honor that request if at all possible.

Only ask a few questions and then follow-up for details. Try these:

• Tell me the first time you thought that this might not be the place/company for you long-term. Asking the question this way will keep the employee from saying he got a better offer, is going to a job closer to home, etc. You want to find out why he was even interested in looking for other opportunities.

• If you were in your manager's position, what would you do differently? This is better than just asking what he liked or didn't like about the company. By asking what he would do in the role, it makes him a little more accountable for his answer.

• If you were opening your own business, who are the people working here that you would want to hire for YOUR company? People seem much more open to answering this than they are if you ask who the top performers are in the group. They personalize it as they consider having their own businesses.

• Who wouldn't you have working in your own company? Some will refuse to answer this, but by this time in the interview they are usually loosened up a bit.

• When you go to your next job, what will you tell them about our company? You want the person to actually hear himself saying good things about the company. There is something about getting someone to say something out loud that they remember. If the last thing a person tells you is that the company has a great atmosphere and great benefits, it may influence him to not go out and trash the company.

• If you could give your current supervisor/manager just one piece of advice, what would it. be? Sometimes this one question will make the entire interview worthwhile. You may learn there is something specific that the supervisor does that sabotages his own efforts to be successful; also, by limiting this to one suggestion, you find out what's really important.

• Can you tell me anything else about your experience here that might help me in my efforts to not lose good employees in the future? This is just an open-ended question to allow the employee to say anything he had on his mind that you may not have asked about.

• After the interview is over, exchange some pleasantries, wish him luck and say goodbye. As soon as possible, record any notes and prepare comments for the employee's manager.

Exit interviews take time and you will get a lot of information that is not credible or useful. However, the gems you occasionally unearth make the process worthwhile.


James W. Evans, is a human resources consultant with more than 20 years of experience. He is based in Metairie.


From India, Bangalore
Dear Friend,
Very good article. Questions are going pretty well with the exit interview intention.
In many companies they have the standard format with specific questions. The interviwee is also asked sign the form. Conducting interview with limitations should be avoided.
In our case attrition rate is high. We conduct exit interview but, we didnot get any imp. feedback to help us in retaining people. Everybody speaks good of the orgn. at the time of leaving.
We are thinking to seek feedback from the employee after few months of leaving us. He may be open to us.
The learning from your article will help us in revising the process.


Exit Interview How much is the last word worth?

As a matter of policy, most companies these days conduct exit interviews with departing employees. But do such interviews really serve a purpose--besides giving the exiting worker the opportunity to voice platitudes or grind an ax? Yes, says Grace Figueredo, a speaker at The Conference Board's Employee Retention & Loyalty Seminars.

Prior to her current position as director of workforce diversity at United Technologies Corp., Figueredo was HR director at Hamilton Sundstrand, a division of UTC, which specializes in global technology. Before that, she had worked in retail at Macy's New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, and CVS. Over the years, Figueredo estimates, she has conducted more than four hundred exit interviews. She spoke by phone with Across the Board associate editor Vadim Liberman about why each of them was important.

Many critics charge that exit interviews are a waste of time because they don't lead to any changes in an organization.

Not true. The Norma Rae in me believes that what workers say when they leave can make a difference, and I can give you an example to prove it. In a business unit where I formerly worked, someone in an exit interview said how the unit's workers weren't kept aware of goings-on in the unit or the company. As a result of his comments, we put together a newsflash process, where we would send internal e-mails notifying workers of upcoming events, employee arrivals and departures, new procedures, and those sorts of things.

That seems like an easy thing to implement. But what happens when a departing employee has negative things to say about his manager?

It depends on whether the person chooses to have the information remain confidential. Sometimes employees will say which parts specifically not to share, and other times they'll ask that I wait three months to report the comments. If the employee does not want his boss to know what he said, then I usually share the results with the overall leadership of a company in aggregate, without specifying who said what.

But how would that lead to any change specific to the manager being discussed?

Oh, you find ways. For example, I remember one incident involving a new manager who'd just taken over a group. The manager before him was very approachable and allowed flex-time--which, by the way, the company generally allowed. But the new one was the complete opposite. So during an exit interview, a worker complained that the new manager's attitude had made it impossible for her to work in the department. After this worker left, I asked a group of supervisors during a meeting about their thoughts on the policy of flextime. And I could see that this particular manager was uncomfortable talking about it. He later told me he didn't agree with the policy. But we continued talking, and eventually there was some compromise.

Also, even if a worker's comments remain confidential, they can still change things because he doesn't necessarily know what's going on out side his area of work. For example, senior management can be debating a policy that might be influenced by his comments.

When employees don't mind their managers knowing what they say, why not just have the manager take part in the interview?

Because there's a theory that says that people don't leave companies--they leave people. When you get down to it, people are leaving their managers, and I don't know that someone would be that candid with their boss sitting in the room.

How do managers generally react when you relay exiting employees' negative comments to them?

As you can imagine, sometimes not so good. I recall a senior vice president at one of our aerospace companies who asked me to personally conduct an exit interview with a woman whom he couldn't believe he was losing. During the interview, the worker shared some pretty intense stuff about how she didn't like the vice president's style of management, the lack of communication between them, and how she didn't like working in the environment he'd created. She also let me know, since this was her last day, that she would even be fine telling all this to her boss, but only if he wanted to talk about it. So I went up to his office and I simply handed him the report of my conversation with the outgoing employee. I sat there silently while he read. Then he simply lost it! Immediately, he started to refute things that were said. He just kept venting and justifying his conduct and policies. When he was done, I asked if he would like to share his comments with the employee. And he just said, "No, that's OK."

After a couple of weeks went by, he and I revisited our discussion, and we put together a strategy based on the comments of the worker who left, but in a way so that it didn't seem a reaction to her comments. As a result, he was able to improve communication between himself and his staff.

I also recall, when I worked in the retail industry, an exiting employee--who wanted his comments to remain confidential--who complained about a manager creating an environment not only toxic to employees but one that contributed to a lot of theft. Finally, we were able to pull him out.

Because of what the employee in the exit interview?

No. But we would've noticed his problems eventually, because other tenured employees who worked for him started leaving, too.

But why did you wait until those other workers left? Why didn't you do something right away after the first person complained?

Because, unfortunately, despite the theft issues, this manager was showing results.

So because he looked good on paper, he stayed. Isn't this exactly why there are maw skeptics when it comes to exit interviews?

I understand, but the fact is that we needed more information in order to get rid of him. It took four months from the time the first person complained to build a case against him. I realize that seemed like light years for those still working under him, but at least we were able to remedy the situation.

All this does no good for the departing employee. Why should someone care what happens after he leaves?

An employee might cam about the co-workers--the survivors--he's leaving behind. They will often wonder if he's said something to change things.

Have you ever asked employees why they waited until they were leaving to bring something up?

Yes, and sometimes they have a good reason. For example, I was at a forum where someone from another division of the company talked about a worker who told him he felt like he wasn't being utilized to his full potential. The worker's manager, who was also present, immediately became defensive, and afterward, the worker noticed a change in his behavior toward him in that he was being excluded from matters that concerned him. He brought this to the attention of the HR director, who then walked into the manager's office and brought it to his attention. Well, you can imagine what happened next! The individual felt he had no recourse but to leave the company. So you can see why some employees worry about coming forward with their issues.

I come from a retail background, and in retail, you must know your customer. Likewise, working in an HR department, I felt like my main priority was to know my internal customers. I had six hundred people for whom I was responsible at one company, and I wanted to know what each of them needed from me. The only way I knew how to do that was to sit down and have a conversation. Believe it or not, I set up six hundred one-on-ones, with every single individual. And there were people who said to me, "I've been at this company for more than thirty years, and no one has ever asked me what I thought."

Surely most HR people don't go that far. Are they just lazy?

No, they're not. But you have to realize that a lot of what we do is transactional in nature, like telling an employee how much vacation time he has left. We're reactive. It takes a lot of planning and discipline to be proactive.

By Grace Figueredo and Vadim Liberman

Grace Figueredo is director of workforce diversity at United Technologies Corp.

Vadim Liberman is associate editor of Across the Board.


From India, Bangalore
It is seen in most of the organizations exit interviews are just part of the exit formalities. Not much is being done to use the feedback received during the exit interviews.
Are there any industry practices which any one of you have come across where in the data received are analysed. If so please share your experiences and if there is a particular menthod/ format to analyse the data.
This information will be very useful.
Thanks & regards,
Asha Srinivas

From India, Bangalore

Survey finds information provided during exit interviews often makes a differenceThe information provided by departing employees during exit interviews often makes a difference, a new survey suggests. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of executives polled said they "always" or "somewhat frequently" act on information gathered during exit interviews. The survey developed by OfficeTeam was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 150 senior executives at the nation's 1,000 largest companies. Executives were asked, "How often do you act on information gathered during exit interviews with departing employees?" Their responses: Category Percent Always 19 Somewhat frequently 57 Rarely 11 Never 6 No exit interviews 6 Don't know "Whether or not they are leaving on good terms, employees should take the time to share their insight and suggestions for improvement," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. "It's not always easy to offer constructive criticism but this feedback is valuable to the employer as long as it's delivered diplomatically." Advice for exiting on the right note: * Avoid burning bridges. Even if your work experience was not always smooth sailing, keep your interaction in the meeting positive and professional. Avoid negative comments about individual supervisors or co-workers. * Keep it constructive. Managers want information they can use to improve policies and procedures, department structure and corporate culture. Offer feedback and suggestions that can lead to change. * Be candid but accurate. It's often difficult for supervisors to get honest feedback from current employees so your candor is appreciated. Be as truthful as you can but be mindful that what you say could have an impact on other people's careers.


Dolan Media


From India, Bangalore

Exit interviews: how to conduct them

Why is it important?

Exit interviews are seen as good employment practice, giving employees an opportunity for closure and employers a chance to gain valuable feedback on their organisation. If conducted properly, they represent one of the most direct routes for finding out employees' perceptions on everything, from your company culture to the staff canteen.

Information gleaned should form the basis for making improvements that help to attract and retain talent. The experience can also help strengthen the employer and company brand. "Remember that the individual should ideally become an ambassador for the company, and may potentially be a future customer, so do everything in your power to make the exit process a positive experience," says Jo Bond, managing director of career consultancy RightCoutts.

Where do I start?

As with any interview format, the key to success lies in the preparation. Make an assessment of the individual's achievements and what else they have brought to the company. Was their performance consistent across every aspect of the job? Did they frequently demonstrate initiative? And how did they get on with others?

Consult with their line manager and relevant colleagues to gain further insight, especially on why they might be leaving and how difficult they might be to replace. Compile a list of questions and areas for discussion and add to it any general points you want to raise about their perceptions of the organisation.

Ensure the employee is ready

Both sides will gain a good deal more from the exercise if the employee is also given time to prepare. Provide a form and a list of questions so they know what to expect and to help them formulate their thoughts in advance. There is an outside chance that some employees will use the interview as an opportunity to rail against managers, colleagues or the organisation. Providing a mechanism to focus their thoughts may help avoid this.

Do not disturb

Find a comfortable and quiet room. Get rid of all distractions and reduce the possibility of interruptions. Make sure you are both ready to listen and pay attention.

What skills do I need?

Employ similar skills and techniques as you would during any interview. Make the employee feel comfortable and relaxed with a few general questions about their role and responsibilities before moving on to more revealing ones, such as overall job satisfaction and their reasons for leaving. Also, be watchful for tell-tale body language and encourage them to substantiate claims with specific work situations so you can more easily put comments into context.

Some employees may be hesitant about expressing honest opinions of their immediate manager or aspects of the organisation, so ask ancillary questions. "Remember that the goal of an exit interview is to extract information," says Bond. "So it is in your interest to be objective, rather than emotional, and to ask open questions that encourage honest and considered responses, while avoiding leading and limiting questions."

Finding a replacement

It makes sense to use the interview to help you assess the kind of person that should replace the exiting employee. Ask them about the skills and characteristics they think are needed to do the job. How well does the job description match the role? What training is required? How experienced should the person be? And how well does the pay and benefits package fit the position?

"A successful exit interview will extract all the helpful messages that will assist the organisation in recruiting a replacement," Bond explains. "It can also ensure a culture of continuous improvement to achieve greater employee job satisfaction and to become an employer of choice."

Get them back

If the person leaving is a major loss to the company, it is likely you will want to leave the door open for them to return. Thank them for their co-operation in the interview and be positive about the feedback they provide. Ensure they know where to find out about future career opportunities - ie, the corporate website - and try to follow up after six months, once they've had some time or distance from the organisation.

If you only do five things...

Do your homework on the employee

Ensure interviews are carried out by experienced HR staff

Be objective and ask open questions

Express your appreciation

Leave the door open for them to return

Expert's view: Jo Bond on how to conduct a successful exit interview

Jo Bond is managing director of RightCoutts, a division of HR consultancy Right Management Consultants.

What common mistakes are made when conducting exit interviews?

HR departments should never delegate exit interviews to a junior, unprepared, or inexperienced member of the team. Think of the departing employee as a customer and treat them accordingly. It is imperative to ensure that both parties are well prepared and have realistic expectations of potential outcomes. Most importantly, the interviewer must always be impartial: resignation should not be seen as a personal affront and the exit interview is no time for bitter recriminations.

How should you best use the information gathered?

All feedback from exit interviews should be objectively reviewed and put into proper context. The best way to do this, and to make sure that any anomalies are accounted for, is to distil all the exit information you gather into an annual or bi-annual report. All interviews will send out messages that need to be addressed. A report will help you to prioritise those messages and take appropriate action in a timely manner.

What are your top tips for conducting an exit interview?

*Be objective. Exit interviews are only of use if you can look beyond your immediate emotional response and make practical and rational plans for the future.

*Be prepared. Nothing is more frustrating or futile than an interviewer who isn't ready, willing or able to conduct a productive

exit session.

*Show your appreciation. If your organisation has benefited from the skills and dedication of the employee, the exit interview is the right time to express your appreciation for their contribution to your business.


Scott Beagrie


From India, Bangalore
Dear MR. James, Very goog question indeed & can be helpful in getting out appropriate information too.
From Singapore, Singapore

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