Exit Interviews and Why You Should Be Doing Them

A Google search of “exit interviews” will yield no shortage of articles questioning their value … not to mention some hard core detractors advocating that employees refuse to participate in them, such as this blog from tech industry commentator Alex Holderness.  While it is true that the concept of the exit interview carries some unavoidable flaws, the procedure is far from useless!  When performed consistently and competently, and analyzed effectively, exit interview data has the potential to help your business maintain a competitive edge, despite some inherent pitfalls.

The most common dilemma is whether outbound employees are willing to be sufficiently candid.  Notice I did not say “100% candid,” because that really would be getting into rainbow and unicorn territory.  But it is another thing to seek a meaningful degree of veracity, to be trained to interpret subtle diplomacy, and to maintain exit interview data compiled from multiple employees over time.  It is important to maintain the highest possible level of confidentiality, and ideally to implement a third-party filter to maximize the distance between specific interview content and any resulting corrective actions.  If interview reports must be kept on-site, always maintain them separately from personnel files.

Another challenging aspect of exit interviews is the question of objectivity.  On the opposite end of the spectrum from reticent employees are the occasional fearless bridge-burners, who can’t wait to unload – in massive detail – a history of atrocities suffered upon them by a hopeless assembly of incompetent managers, toxic colleagues, devious subordinates, unproductive policies, useless training, and inadequate facilities.  It’s not that their feedback might not contain one or more grains of truth, but how do you distill constructive criticism from a tirade that seems beyond all reasonable frames of reference?  Here it helps to have a skilled interviewer who can maintain a calm demeanor, and press for details to help identify complaints that can be substantiated, while gently exposing possible bias in others.  And of course, if any of the complaints involve potentially criminal accusations, it is essential to properly document any specific claims and perceptions expressed at the time of separation, and to take appropriate investigatory or legal actions.

Overall, the number one valid complaint about exit interviews is that companies don’t do anything about employee feedback.  Unfortunately, this is frequently true … and it explains why many consider them to be useless.  Please don’t be one of those companies!   Take the time to analyze the data on both an individual and compiled basis, and make it a task to validate, correct, and/or mitigate aspects of employee dissatisfaction.  Also consider teaming exit interviews with employee engagement surveys, which will be addressed in a subsequent blog, to maximize your opportunity to keep employees from leaving in the first place!  With wages and hiring trending upward over the past year, 2019 will be a great year to focus on the employment experience your company offers.

Feel free to contact us at ConsultStu LLC for assistance with the exit interview process, or download our Exit Interview form.




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