6 Exit Interview Tactics to Make Your Organization Great at Goodbyes

Replacing an employee typically costs thousands of dollars (or more). Before someone in your organization is about to leave, and before you gear up your recruitment process, you’ve got one crucial step that can make a big impact in your hiring decisions: the exit interview.

It’s your last chance to find out just what makes that employee tick—what they want in a job, why they left, and if something about your work environment or company culture made them want to leave. If you follow exit interview best practices, you gain valuable insight. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity, you may be replacing your next employee sooner than you think.

We’ve put together actionable tips and strategies that will help you master your next employee goodbye. Meaningful conversations with employees are worth the effort, but can take time to get right. Learn how BambooHR’s award-winning platform can help you handle time-consuming HR tasks so you can focus on your people.

What Is an Exit Interview?

To put it simply, an exit interview is a chance to talk to an employee just before they leave a job. The goal is to gather feedback and to gain a better understanding of how your organization can improve and reduce future turnover.

Employee exit interview methods typically include:

Always say goodbye on good terms.

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How Can You Get the Most Out of Your Exit Interviews? (5 Goals)

Listen to Genuine Feedback

The point of an exit interview isn’t to get a bland, noncommittal answer to your questions. Even if it breaks your heart to hear, genuine feedback is extremely helpful. The key to getting genuine feedback during offboarding is to make employees feel safe and ensure that they know that their answers are valuable.

Ultimately, this means not being afraid to ask tough questions. Leaving a job is when an employee is likely to feel the most comfortable being frank and honest.

Part on Amicable Terms

Exit Interviews happen whether the employee is leaving voluntarily or not. In either case, exit interview best practices include making sure that the process is as positive as possible. Even when employees might be airing grievances or upset that they have been let go, it always helps to be kind and patient. Failing to do so can result in long-term issues, such as data breaches.

Explain the Offboarding Process

Offboarding can be a complex process and employees need to know relevant details, such as how long they will be covered by health insurance, if there is a severance package, what the process might be if they want to reapply, when and how to return equipment, how a non-compete might work, and more. The exit interview is the ideal venue for having this discussion and resolving any lingering questions.

Support an Employee's Transition

As an employee transitions into a new phase of their career, they may not be sure how to navigate what comes next. They may wish to know how to set up COBRA insurance, for example. Others may want the exit interview to provide feedback on their performance so that they can understand what changes they may need to make in the future.

Protect the Company's Reputation

People talk. Employees tell their friends and family about their current employers, and they’re not afraid to talk about previous employers. Simply giving employees a chance to get things off their chest in the exit interview can prevent them from spreading negative opinions about your organization. At the same time, you can use the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings and diffuse some of the negativity.

Preparing for an interview? You’ll want to use these questions.

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6 Exit Interview Best Practices Your Company Should Implement

1. Schedule the Exit Interview (And Communicate The Purpose)

Technically, an exit interview can take place at any time between when an employee decides to leave and their last day, but many HR leaders believe that the best time to schedule it is on the employee's last day. Ideally, this happens as the last thing an employee does before walking out the door for the last time.

To make the process as smooth and productive as possible, schedule the meeting or survey beforehand, making sure to communicate how important the exit interview is and which types of questions will be asked. That way, everyone is prepared and ready to go.

2. Include a Neutral Party

If you want employees to be frank and honest, exit interview best practices include making sure that the person conducting the exit interview is not their direct manager or a close coworker. Even when the employee has a good relationship with their manager, it can be hard to get them to feel comfortable sharing everything in an honest way.

3. Encourage Openness By Reinforcing Confidentiality

It’s not wise to burn bridges when leaving a job, and most employees have no desire to do so, which is why many are hesitant to share honest feedback if they are not sure it will be kept confidential. Ensure that anything they say will be kept between you and them, and any feedback used after the conversation will not be directly tied to them. If the employee wants to come back at some point down the road, they won’t want any negative comments coming back to haunt them.

4. Guide the Conversation With Appropriate (and Useful) Questions

Don’t rush into the exit interview hoping to wing it and have everything turn out fine. If you do, you may kick yourself afterward for forgetting a crucial question or getting sidetracked into an unproductive conversation. If you outline the interview and write down your questions, even doing a little bit of research on the employee, you’ll let them feel seen and avoid wasting time.

» Learn More: The 15 Best Exit Interview Questions

5. Express Excitement And Support

It’s a bummer when top performers leave, but if you genuinely care about employees (and you should!), you should be excited that they’re taking on new challenges. Where appropriate, express how much you and the company appreciate their contributions and how excited you are for the next step of their journey.

6. Implement The Feedback

If nobody learns anything from an exit interview, why did you have one? It may seem obvious, but the most important thing to do after an exit interview is to use the information you’ve gained to make needed changes. Not every exit interview is going to provide you with actionable knowledge, but they can tip you off to trends or patterns that will require attention in the future.

3 Common Exit Interview Mistakes to Avoid

It can be easy to botch an exit interview if you are not careful. Avoiding the following pitfalls can help ensure that the last interaction you have with a departing employee is positive and fruitful.

Three common exit interview mistakes include:

Denying or dodging critical feedback. It can be easy to take a defensive stance when someone is providing a lot of feedback (let alone criticism). Your organization wants the feedback, and the exit interview isn’t the place to refute any criticisms—whether the criticism is fair or not.

Oversharing. It might be tempting to respond to exit interview feedback with a bit of insider information, especially if you’re close with the departing employee (e.g. “Between you and me, you’re not the only one to report that behavior from her.”) It’s especially important to ensure you walk the line and don’t let anything slip in the exit interview that could create any legal problems for your company.

Pressuring or forcing employees to participate. You may have employees who don’t want to do an exit interview at all. While it can be disappointing for you, don’t force them as it likely won’t result in any productive outcomes. If you have paperwork they need to sign or procedures they need to complete, provide them with a task list and due dates. As their final day approaches, you can check back in to ensure all your offboarding ducks are in a row.

Next Steps: Upgrade Your Exit Interviews

When it comes to offboarding, information is your best friend. The exit interview is the perfect place to make sure that both you and the departing employee have the most helpful information possible. By following these exit interview best practices, you’ll be able to say goodbye on great terms.

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