Exit interviews are an invaluable tool for employers to gain an often-hidden perspective of their business. With the CIPD reporting that 60% of businesses are finding it harder to retain talent compared to last year, the feedback and insights provided during exit interviews can support your HR and recruitment strategy in the long run.

If you aren’t prioritising exit interviews, let’s delve into the reasons as to why you should be.

What is an exit interview?

Exit interviews take place with departing employees who are leaving an organisation to gain a true understanding behind their reasons for leaving. They are a great opportunity to gain direct feedback on their experience within your company and to shine a light on your organisational culture.

Exit interview feedback and comments are a brilliant way to identify the strengths and weaknesses within an organisation. Use this as a crucial resource to recognise if there are any workplace issues or misconceptions amongst employees that could be addressed and rectified to support a positive workplace environment.

9 Exit interview best practices

1. Book the exit interview

An exit interview can be scheduled any time from when an employee hands in their notice to their last date of employment. If you are looking to gain the most honest insights and feedback it’s recommended to schedule the exit interview as close to their last date of employment as possible. For instance, an employee may be reserved to provide their true view if their exit interview is scheduled at the start of a 3 month notice period.

2. Preparation is key

Provide the employee with an exit interview survey to complete and return a few days before their scheduled exit interview. Be mindful not to send the survey too far in advance to ensure you get their most up to date thoughts.

Explain to the employee in advance that the structure of the survey will be used to form the exit interview format. This will typically cover their reasons for leaving, how satisfied they were, their rating of their role, line manager, technology and any other comments they wish for the Company to be aware of.

3. Select a private and convenient location

To encourage the employee to provide their open and candid thoughts, it’s best for the exit interview to take place in a private and convenient location. If it’s not practical for the exit interview to take place face to face, ask the departing employee their preferred method to arrange a virtual meeting.

4. Explain the purpose

Whilst some employees may have agreed to the exit interview without a second thought, it’s best to explain the purpose of how the exit interview will be used. You should explain to the departing employee that their feedback is completely confidential to put them at ease and who this will be shared with internally, such as Directors or senior management.

5. Actively listen

Whilst open dialogue is key, it’s important to actively listen to the leaving employees’ comments. You are bound to get more effective insights by making the employee feel heard.

6. Write notes

After the exit interview takes place, write up the interview notes in as much detail as possible to accurately capture the conversation. Send this on to the employee to add any further comments before their last date of employment.

7. Act on feedback where necessary

Over time you may find common themes from exit interviews that highlight areas you may want to pay attention to. For example, in relation to the induction process, recruitment process, job description, salary, company culture, communication style, company equipment and software, line management style…and the list goes on!

8. Positive goodbye

Use this exit interview to set a positive farewell to the employee. Thank them for their feedback and wish them all the best in the future.

In cases where the employee is leaving due to personal circumstances, it may be that they would consider employment with your Company in the future. By keeping the relationship amicable, you may benefit from reduced recruitment and training costs in the future.

9. Testimonials

If it’s appropriate to do so, ask the employee to leave a review on platforms such as Glassdoor and social media. Not only does this support your reputation but it’s an advantage for candidates actively searching for employee testimonials to learn about what you are like as a potential employer.

Is it a requirement for an employee to attend an exit interview?

Whilst it’s best practice to invite a departing employee to attend an interview, it’s not a legal requirement for them to accept and attend. However, if they agree to attend it suggests that they will be more inclined to be provide their comments to support continuous improvement.

Should an exit interview always take place?

No, there will be circumstances where an exit interview isn’t always appropriate. Be mindful of this and act sensitively in situations such as dismissal or redundancy.

Who should conduct the exit interview?

To get the most effective insight into the employees view, it’s recommended that your outsourced HR team conducts the exit interview. Whilst some Organisations may prefer the line manager to conduct the exit interview, it can put the employee in an uncomfortable position. They may also feel restricted in what they can say, especially if one of their reasons for leaving is directly linked to management.

If you are interested in support with either HR, exit interviews or attracting and retaining talent, please get in touch with the Norton Loxley team. We take an impartial view whilst managing your offboarding process and can provide recommendations to support employee retention moving forwards.