How to run an exit interview

Outsourcing HR: What you need to know

Holding an exit interview when a member of staff leaves can be just as important as their initial hiring interview. Yet many businesses don’t use this opportunity to gather feedback and use it to their advantage.

It may be uncomfortable, and easier not to explore the reasons why someone is choosing to resign, but understanding their motivation is crucial. Not only can it help when replacing them, but also for staff retention, motivation, and overall business performance.

What is an exit interview?

Typically, a short, open, and honest discussion between the employee and a manager (or HR representative) to understand their reasons for leaving the job, and to gain their feedback on the company (the way it is run, what motivates the team, and management styles).

It is an ideal opportunity to gain insight into where the business is doing well and identify areas for improvement. It can also sometimes help to ensure the employee leaves the business positively, keeping the company’s reputation intact.

When is it appropriate?

We would always advise offering an employee the option of an exit interview so that they don’t feel pressured or under obligation. Some staff will not want to engage, and in these instances, there is nothing more you can do. However, many do feel that it gives them a forum and ultimately demonstrates that they are being listened to.

Where should you hold an exit interview?

Choose somewhere private to have the conversation or call. It might be easier to meet out of the office to avoid disruptions and ensure privacy.

Which format to use?

Whilst some interviews are conducted online, via a questionnaire, we would suggest always holding them face-to-face. If this is not possible then a telephone consultation can work just as well. It’s always better to chat face to face as you want to encourage the employee to open up and be honest, something that a questionnaire simply may not capture. They should be reassured that this an information-gathering exercise, and an opportunity for them to share their views, rather than a formal assessment.

Who should conduct the exit interview?

Ideally an impartial or neutral member of the team, as opposed to a line manager. The employee is much more likely to relax and be honest if they are speaking to someone else from the business. HR representatives are ideal as they are not involved in the day-to-day management of the team and can encourage a franker discussion.

When not to hold an exit interview

In sensitive situations, such as redundancy, exit interviews should be handled carefully or assessed as to whether appropriate at all. It can be beneficial to understand (from the employee’s perspective) how the redundancy was handled, but if emotions are running high then it is likely to cause further issues and should be avoided.

For smaller businesses, it may be better to pitch it as a ‘closing conversation’ as opposed to anything more formal. This can involve a chat, rather than asking set questions.

How to get the most from the meeting

Consider the aim, what do you hope to get from the conversation? Some clients we work with use them to gather formulaic data to analyse at the end of the year to understand staff retention patterns and what drives their team. For others, it’s more of a qualitative conversation which can help them to identify issues immediately and act on them.

Make sure that all questions are open-ended so that you are not influencing the outcome and that the employee has an opportunity to ask questions.

Consider asking questions such as:

  • Why have you decided to leave the company?
  • What is your new role offering you that the current one doesn’t?
  • What do you value about the business?
  • What do you dislike?
  • Did you feel you had the resources available to do your job properly?
  • How was the relationship with your manager?
  • What are your views about management?
  • Did you receive adequate feedback about your performance and day-to-day duties?
  • Would you consider working for the company again?

For HR support from our team of outsourced HR Consultants, you can find out about how to work with Bespoke HR here. 

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    Written by:

    Marketing Team
    Marketing Team - We are a team of HR and business consultants based in Guildford, Surrey and work with hundreds of clients across a range of industries ranging from healthcare, hospitality and finance to media, manufacturing and IT.