Exit Interviews: 10 Tips That Improve Your Odds for Success

Exit interviews can be goldmines of information if you know how to conduct them. Each one is an opportunity to get honest feedback from someone who is in-the-know — your soon-to-be former employee.

“For an exit interview to be effective, you have to remain interested, non-judgmental and welcoming,” says Steve Cohen, president of Missouri-based Labor Management Advisory Group Inc. At the end of the day, you’ll want to get information you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and you have to convey your appreciation, from simply saying thank you to giving the employee your full attention.

Here are 10 tips for conducting a successful exit interview.

1.  Heads up


Consider giving the employee a heads up about what will be discussed, says communication consultant Karlyn Lothery, founder of Washington, D.C-based Lothery & Associates. Even a quick overview of two or three general topics is helpful, and it conveys the message that the meeting is important to you.

2.  Starting the meeting


Begin by communicating your objectives for the exit interview, such as gathering information on the employee’s experiences, feelings and judgments. Explain that your objective is to listen to what the employee likes and doesn’t like.

3.  Unstated objectives


If applicable, this may be the time to try to get the employee to stay. Or you may just be giving the employee a chance to vent. Ultimately, you don’t want a PR disaster, or worse, a complaint filed, says Cohen.

4.  Assurances


Assure the exiting employee that there would never be any retaliation or negative consequences associated with providing candid information. Remember that the employee is under no obligation to share information with you. In fact, it can be argued that it would be more politically correct not to give honest feedback. Treat him as a witness, not a rat, says Cohen.

5.  Thanks


This is a basic rule, but critical one, states Cohen. Thank the person for taking the time to participate.

6.  The questions


Keep the questions open-ended. Avoid yes or no questions.

7.  Don’t ask this


Lothery advises against asking employees where they’re going. It’s irrelevant, and you don’t want to give the impression that you are following them or calling ahead of them.

8.  Listen


Let the employee do most of the talking. Practice active listening, seeking clarification on each point shared. Avoid defending the company, management or arguing. Doing so marginalizes the employee. This is the employee’s chance to shine.

9.  Show interest


Maintain eye contact without appearing aggressive. Avoid asking the questions from a laundry list and looking at the paper, as though this is on your “to do” list, says Lothery. Also, make sure you don’t exude a judgmental attitude and that you understand what is being conveyed.

10.  Conclusion


Thank the employee again for taking the time and providing the information.

Conducting a successful exit interview can go a long way in improving employee morale and reducing employee turnover which positively affects productivity rates and your company’s bottom line.

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