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10 Critical Elements to Include in Your Exit Interviews

From bringing up important, possible legal issues to taking the feedback seriously, here are 10 answers to the question, “What are some critical elements to include while conducting an exit interview?”

  • Reminding of Crucial Clauses and Conditions
  • Creating a Safe Environment
  • Expressing Gratitude
  • Allowing Employees Closure, Honest Feedback
  • Including the Main Reasons for Leaving
  • Preparing a Standard Set of Questions
  • Giving the Thought Process Behind the Decision
  • Encouraging Honest Feedback
  • Asking, “What Attracted You to Your New Employer?”
  • Identifying a Possible Broken Feedback Loop

Reminding of Crucial Clauses and Conditions

Even after an employee leaves a company, they may be required to adhere to specific clauses and conditions in their employment agreement. These conditions could range from non-disclosure clauses (disallowing an employee from sharing confidential company information with other employers or sources) to restrictions on working with competitors. 

An exit interview is a perfect time to gently remind the employee of these clauses that bind them even after they leave the company, as well as make them aware of the consequences of not abiding by the rules. Only when you reiterate these conditions will the employee understand their seriousness.

Riley Beam, Managing Attorney, Douglas R. Beam, P.A.

Creating a Safe Environment

You may ask—why create a safe environment for an exit interview if the employee is leaving (or already gone)? It is quite simple. Regardless of when your organization conducts the exit interviews, it is essential to create and provide a safe environment for the departing employee in order to obtain the feedback you seek.

Confidentiality is the core component of that safe environment. This starts by clearly communicating to departing employees the confidentiality of the exit interview and choosing the method that is a better fit for your organization. This includes, but is not limited to, using a neutral third party to conduct the exit interview, keeping the responses anonymous and confidential, and/or using a third-party tool to collect the responses. 

More important than anything is ensuring that we practice what we preach and employees have trust in this process based on our actions throughout time in how we manage and respect the confidentiality of this process.

Patty Hickok, SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, Sr. Director Employee Relations, HRIS, and HR Operations, NANA Regional Corporation

Expressing Gratitude

During an exit interview, the employer should officially thank the departing employee for their efforts and contributions to the business. This will make them feel truly valued and appreciated. It is essential to leave a positive impression upon those leaving a company, because this can affect how well they speak about your company to others.

Drew Sherman, Director of Marketing and Communications, RPM

Allowing Employees Closure, Honest Feedback

One critical element to consider while conducting an exit interview is giving the departing employee the opportunity to provide their honest feedback without fear that it could lead to negative repercussions, such as not providing them with a reference. 

A less common action during an exit interview, but still essential for creating employee trust, is making sure the employee receives closure on any open questions related to the role and how they were managed. 

After managing someone for an extended period of time, employees may feel uncertain about any unresolved conflicts or unanswered questions—addressing these can help create closure and allow for honest dialogue about workplace culture.

Grace He, People and Culture Director,

Including the Main Reasons for Leaving

Conducting exit interviews can be challenging. The first critical element to include is the reasons why the employees decided to leave the company. First, it’s necessary to understand the main reason the employees no longer want to work for your company—focusing on job tasks and responsibilities, management, and culture. This can be a valuable opportunity to understand some of your pain points and know what to improve.

Karolina Kijowska, Head of People, US Visa Photo

Preparing a Standard Set of Questions

Ready to leave a job on good terms? When an employee leaves the company, they either have many things to ask or have nothing. To conduct the best exit interview, an employer must follow a standard set of questions. This is a kind of feedback about the company that helps HR to improve the employee experience in the company.

A fixed set of questions puts all levels of employees in one frame. This way, an employer can understand what employees think about the work culture, colleagues, company culture, and many other things. Asking questions is the best practice because it’s easy for employers to set and for employees to respond.

Furthermore, most employees don’t tell the real reason behind leaving the company, so with the help of a standard set of questions, you can find out the reason for the same. This is important feedback to improve the company and work culture and to retain employees for a long time.

Saikat Ghosh, Associate Director of HR and Business, Technource

Giving the Thought Process Behind the Decision

As a recruiter, I know employees feel better about an exit when an explanation is given. Euphemisms like “wrong fit” or “unexpected downsizing” might look neat in HR records, but when you’re conducting an exit interview, be sure to give a detailed reason for the dismissal. 

No one can correct their behavior if they’re not informed of what went wrong, so by avoiding a tough conversation, you might just be foisting the problem onto the next company. And, if it’s truly an internal decision, the employee will feel reassured to know that their work was adequate.

If it’s an employee-induced exit, the advice still applies: give workers a final review so they can head out with confidence.

Tim Walsh, Founder, Vetted

Encouraging Honest Feedback

The most critical element of conducting an exit interview is to create an environment where the departing employee feels comfortable and encouraged to provide honest feedback. This means that the interviewer should avoid being defensive or dismissive of negative feedback, and instead actively listen and note any concerns or criticisms. 

Additionally, the interviewer should emphasize that the feedback provided will be used constructively to improve the company’s culture and procedures. By prioritizing honesty and valuing the feedback of departing employees, a company can gain valuable insights into areas of improvement and potentially prevent future turnover.

Jefferson McCall, Co-founder and HR Head, TechBullish

Asking, “What Attracted You to Your New Employer?”

Traditionally, exit interviews focus on the “push” component of employees leaving, identifying the shortcomings of the organization that lead to attrition. However, this only represents half of the story, and organizations should also focus on the “pull” component, i.e., what drew the employee to their next employer.

By asking what attracted them to their new employer, the organization gains valuable information about candidate attraction. For example, if the employee was drawn to a higher salary, this information helps inform the remuneration strategy going forward.

By focusing on both the push and pull elements of attrition and attraction, you maximize the quality of exit interviews, yielding information that helps inform your entire talent management process.

Ben Schwencke, Business Psychologist, Test Partnership

Identifying a Possible Broken Feedback Loop

The single most important question you can ask during an exit interview is, “Do you feel like you tried to share your concerns with your manager and team before you made this decision?”

If the answer is yes, you have a broken feedback loop. This is effectively like navigating with a blindfold on.

If you don’t fix your feedback mechanism, then you can’t fix your churn issue. So, before you add employee perks, higher salaries, or any other solutions you may consider, make sure you fix your feedback.
Bogdan Zlatkov, Lead Instructor for HR and Hiring, Growth Hack Your Career

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