Over the years I have personally hired hundreds of people. But rest assured, I have also had my fair share of employees come up to my desk with a nervous look on their face and ask, “Can I please see you for moment?”
Resignations are an unfortunate fact of life, but there are certain strategies that can be put in place to ensure sufficient feedback is obtained from an employee before they walk out the door.
Why Conduct an Exit Interview?
People leave jobs for many reasons: to start a family; because their partner is being transferred interstate or overseas; because their career aspirations aren’t being met in their current role; or maybe they have lost respect for their manager. (Yes … that could even be you).
For any manager or business owner it’s important to find out the reasons why someone that you once brought into the business has decided to leave the organisation.
If you give an employee the opportunity to share their thoughts and provide you with some (often) constructive feedback before they leave, the information they provide can often help you implement positive changes to your business moving forward.
When to Conduct an Exit Interview
When I resigned from my first job, my boss suddenly started asking me a barrage of questions. At the time I had no idea why he was asking me these questions, and to be honest I felt as if I was being pressured into responding without having had any time to prepare.
A few years later a colleague of mine handed in his resignation. The team took him out for a farewell lunch on his last day and Oliver had a few drinks. As he was clearing the last of his things off his desk, the Team Leader came over and casually asked why he was really leaving, and what he’d enjoyed about working with us?
A two-question ‘exit interview’ with a semi-intoxicated employee in front of peers is probably not the best approach either.
If an employee resigns and gives sufficient notice (and isn’t going to a direct competitor), you should set time aside to conduct a formal exit interview at least a week before they are due to finish up. Whenever possible, it should be conducted face-to-face … but not quite like this.
What to Ask in an Exit Interview
Once an employee has handed in their notice, they are certainly not obliged to take part in an exit interview. But if they choose to accept your invitation, let them speak their mind – even if some of what they say is hard to take in.
Accept their constructive feedback, and take some time to process the information later.
Never get defensive or confrontational.
A well-structured exit interview should cover the following areas:
- A general reflection of their time with your organisation;
- The employee’s general impressions of the organisation as a whole;
- Feedback around their actual role in the business; and
- Their reasons for leaving.
It Doesn’t Always Mean the End of the Road
Although nine times out of ten, their mind is 100% made up and there is nothing you can do, from personal experience it isn’t always a fait accompli.
Whenever I conducted an exit interview, there was always one particular question I asked every time.
“What factors (if any) would encourage you to stay?”
There were a handful of situations where the answer to this question led to some very open and honest conversations after which I was able to make sufficient changes to their role or to the team structure and they were happy to withdraw their resignation.
However once somebody decided to leave my team, I had a policy that I would not have them back again in the future.
A Few Handy Tips
Remember to think carefully about your line of questioning:
- Ask open ended questions as much as possible;
- Avoid asking leading questions;
- Don’t ask multiple questions;
- Ensure the employee provides real life examples from their time the business.
A Free Template to Download
You’ll find everything you need to run a well-structured exit interview in our guide: A Rock Solid Exit Interview Template and Guided Framework.
- A rock-solid framework to use in any exit interview;
- A guided example of interview notes and a bank of questions; and
- A blank template to print and use when conducting an exit interview.