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How to hold an exit interview

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Have you got an employee who just resigned? This particular coworker has probably already made up their mind, but grab the opportunity to learn something for the future. Through an exit interview, you gain valuable input for how to improve as a leader and as an employer. 

Here is some advice on how to conduct an exit interview. 

1. Think about the purpose of the exit interview

An exit interview should not be an interrogation about ‘why are you leaving?’ or something to take personally. See it as an opportunity to learn. Learn how to become a better manager, och gather information about how you can become a better employer.

2. Share the purpose with the person who has chosen to leave

Be clear about the purpose of the exit interview towards the person who has chosen to resign. Be honest about the fact that you want to use this person’s feedback to improve yourself and your work place. 
 

3. Conduct the exit interview

Preferably book your exit interview before the person has left or maximum within a month after, and set off about 1,5 hours so that you have plenty of time. Also, conduct the exit interview as a one-on-one meeting. Maybe you think that HR or the manager’s manager should participate, but this can be contra-productive as it may feel threatening for the coworker who has chosen to leave if there are too many people on ‘the other side of the table’.
 
It can also be a good idea if it is not the coworker’s direct manager who conduct the exit interview. Many times it will create a greater openness if it is the manager’s manager, HR, or another leader in the organisation who hold the exit interview. But decide ONE person who conduct the interview, so that it becomes a one-on-one meeting and not a  panel debate.
 

4. Proposed questions in the exit interview

  • What would you say was the main reason for choosing to leaving us?
  • When you decided to leave us, which were some of the main factors that you considered in your decision?
  • What did you appreciate the most while working for us?
  • What made you most frustrated while working for us?
  • What would you like us to handle differently if you would start working for us again?
  • In what way was the relationship with your manager helpful?
  • In what way was the relationship with your manager frustrating or problematic?
  • What advice would you give to management to become a better employer?
  • What did you find as the biggest difference between what we said that the organisation would be like, compared to how it actually is?
  • What can we do – if anything – to support your career development in your future role?
  • Is there anything else you think that we should know, to improve as an employer?

 

5. Be grateful for the information that you get

When you have a person leaving, you can probably find loads of reasons why it happened. But when you hold an exit interview, don’t question or defend what the person says. Make sure to create a safe environment, where the coworker who is leaving can be honest and really say what they feel. Listen and take in the feedback you get. You can then choose what to do with the information, and decide what is relevant and what is not. 

Finally, treat everyone with respect, also those who choose to leave. The person who is leaving might want to and get the opportunity to return to you in another role, and can then bring relevant experience that could be useful for you. Perhaps the person becomes a future customer, supplier, or even your future manager’s manager.

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