Exit interviews: you’re doing them wrong

by Sarah Megginson27 Mar 2014
If you’ve been giving your soon-to-be ex-employees an exit interview in the days before they leave your organisation, then it’s likely you’ve been going about it all wrong.
When conducting an exit interview, you need to do so in an environment of transparency and honesty, advised HR professional Natasha Hawker, from Employee Matters.
For this reason, she suggested that HR profiessionals should consider completing an exit interview when an employee joins the organisation, in addition to conducting one if and when they leave.
“This allows you to explore the reasons why someone is likely to leave, and then compare it to actuals when it does happen,” she said.
Employees are generally more open when they are leaving and while a traditional exit interview gives you the opportunity to glean valuable feedback about the role and the organisation, it’s usually too late to do anything to retain that particular employee.
By holding an ‘entry’ interview as a new hire enters the organisation, it gives the employee the opportunity to pre-determine any potential red flags. It can also give HR “a clear indication of how to maintain the motivation and tenure of the individual” going forward, Hawker added.
It works in a similar manner to stay interviews, which can be powerful retention strategies, said Danny A. Nelms, SVP and managing director of The Work Institute.
Stay interviews are a tool that KMPG uses with their female partners to help understand drivers for engagement and to increase diversity and inclusion within the organisation.
They’re particularly valuable as the scope of the interview allows HR to “address intent to stay, barriers to job performance and satisfaction, and potential supervisor concerns”.
Hawker clarified that entry interviews should be conducted alongside exit interviews, rather than in replacement of.
“Exit interviews can really give you a wealth of information that may not come out in normal channels,” she added.
“For example, if one particular team has higher than average attrition compared to the rest of the business, it might mean the manager is not effective, or the jobs are not designed effectively, or they don’t have sufficient resources to be productive. Exit interview data can enable HR to see trends developing and to react, which is why I believe that to ignore exit interviews is equivalent to putting your head in the sand.”


  • by Michael Minns 27/03/2014 3:07:49 PM

    Having the HR person conduct the exit interview, either at the beginning or at the end of the period of employment d-skills the manager

  • by John Linnett 27/03/2014 3:25:49 PM

    Why would KPMG only use "stay" interviews with Female Partners? Is that not sexism with a capital S for stupid?

  • by Harley 31/03/2014 11:23:36 AM

    @John: Stay interviews would reveal a lot about the barriers, either due to gender or other that would allow these partners to exceed in the workplace. While I see your point about the one-sided nature, it would also be apparent that high level female employees would encounter fairly unique challanges that their male counterparts would not.

    Back to the main point, I think these are a fantastic idea. When I worked with volunteers I'd spend half the interview probing what they wanted to get out of the expeirence of volunteering. It gave me a good chance to align their wants with the area of the organisation (often different from what they were applying for) and weed out those without suitable expectations.

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