Breaking Up Is Hard To Do – The Exit Interview
How to say goodbye with grace
The exit interview can be very uncomfortable at times, however, they can be of great benefit to both an employer and the exiting employee. The exit interview should not be intimidating for either party involved. It should be viewed as an opportunity to make one last good impression and share meaningful dialogue with your former employer or employee.
So what are the main purposes/benefits of an exit interview for an employer and an exiting employee?
- Exit interviews, in my opinion, should be a semi-personal experience for both the interviewer and the exiting employee. Written or online survey-style exit interviews tend to be cold and distant. Give your employee the respect and time they deserve. Allow them the opportunity to sit down face to face and discuss their reasons for leaving. If the employee is leaving on bad terms, they are still entitled to be heard.
- “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out”! Never allow your personal feelings towards the employee be shown. If the exiting employees new job offer falls through following the exit interview they may accuse you of sabotaging their employment prospects.
- Before conducting an exit interview create a script of general questions. And always have a neutral third party or someone from another department conduct the interview. Ironic as it may sound the whole idea behind the exit interview is to score information that will eventually improve the quality of your workplace and reduce the amount of exit interviews you have to conduct.
- Exit interviews are important tools used to uncover potential legal liability early and learn if there are morale (or other) problems in an organisation. It offers a rare chance to see through the eyes of his or her employees. Done wrong, though, they can land you in some hot water.
- Happy employees don’t often leave their jobs. Remember that leaving is a highly emotionally charged situation, so try to be empathic to the employee. Not all employees who are leaving a business will look back at their time at that business with fond memories. Never forget that while the exit interview may be confidential for the employee, it is not for you and the employee may repeat to anyone else what you said. As such, work with your legal department or outside counsel to ensure that the questions you ask don’t violate the law.
- Once the exit interview is over, it’s important to share the results with the entire management staff. The managers should then brainstorm ways to use this information to better their workplace. Of course, not all the information will be valuable, but it’s important that what information you do get from the exit interview is put into play as soon as possible.
- Prepare a few notes in advance of your exit interview. Practice stating what your issues or concerns were without finger-pointing or assigning blame to any one particular person. Then, ask yourself: “how can you make the feedback constructive as opposed to negative”? For example, if you felt lost and like your job description and responsibilities were never clearly defined, you can say something like “I needed more direction”. If there is a question of abuse or harassment, there will most likely be previous documentation, assuming of course you have pursued the matter. You may want to seek advice on how to best handle this interview.
- Don’t tell lies. You don’t need to put your credibility at risk to protect your privacy. The last thing you want is to get caught in a fabrication. If you do not want to reveal your reason for leaving your existing employment, it’s best to just remain vague on the subject. Keep in mind that you’re not obligated to answer every question. If a specific inquiry makes you uncomfortable, simply tell the interviewer that you have no comment. Another reason for not lying is that employers sometimes make a counter-offer to get you to stay. You wouldn’t want them to tailor their offer to the wrong information.
- Don’t be afraid to ask them about your performance. Use the process to improve your own professional skills. If your manager is present at the interview, ask for some constructive criticism. You’re likely to learn a few things about yourself that will help you on your next job and also it gives you an idea of the comments you’d get if you were to use this employer as a reference.
- Don’t be irate. Of course, there’s a possibility that you can’t wait to get out of your existing employment. You shouldn’t use the exit interview as an opportunity to slag off your managers or fellow colleagues. Always try to remain professional and give only constructive criticism. Remember it’s a small world. And you never know when it might come back to bite you.
(Director) BBS (Hons), MBPICS – Shannon Office
Joe Robbins is co-founder of CareerWise Recruitment. A graduate of the University of Limerick (Degree in Business Studies, 1985), Joe worked in the UK for five years where he specialised in materials management, production management and plant management for a number of companies.
He returned to Ireland in 1992 to become Operations Manager for a Cork-based start-up, FMC Automotive Division which was subsequently taken over by Snap-on Equipment. Joe managed the business re-location of this company to Shannon in 1997 before setting up CareerWise Recruitment in 1999.
He is a committee member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Mid-West region, and a former Director and Vice President of the Shannon Chamber of Commerce. Joe is former Chairperson of the Sixmilebridge Camogie Club and current Chairperson of the Clare County Camogie Board.