TouchPoint Recruiting Group

Interviewing Your Employees – Both Coming and Going

Most employers would never dream of hiring someone without first interviewing them for the position to which they have applied. But what about interviewing that person once they’ve decided to leave the company? The fact is, while many companies conduct exit interviews, the majority of employers don’t take the time to perform an effective exit interview, thus losing the opportunity to gather critical feedback and, in many cases, brutally honest constructive criticism that could be used to better the organization as a whole.

The reasons vary. “I have no time.” “They’re not going to tell us anything anyway.” “I don’t care what that person has to say anyway; they left us!” But the facts are irrefutable. The exit interview can arm you with the information you need to keep other top performers from leaving, and to continue to improve your company culture for the better. 

The exit interview, if done properly, is not simply a time for the employee to cast stones; rather, it’s a chance for the employer to gain information (good and bad) about that individual’s time with the organization. In order for this to work effectively, you must provide an environment that allows for honest, comfortable feedback. If your culture is one where employees don’t feel comfortable sharing their ideas and thoughts openly, or they aren’t encouraged to offer suggestions for improvements, your odds of a successful exit interview will be very low. However, if you cultivate an open environment where your employees are encouraged to participate and generate ideas, where they are valued for their opinions, then you will find the data provided through an effective exit interview to be invaluable.

Just as some companies give excuses for not wanting to do exit interviews, some candidates fear the exit interview as well, stating that they don’t want to appear negative or say something about their former employer that might cause them to “burn a bridge” either.

Ensure your employees that the feedback they provide will be used to better the company. Of course, this is easier if you are currently showing a track record of honestly listening to your employees and striving to address concerns or suggestions.

Erin Thomas-Higgins, HR manager at Molex, a 75-year-old global electronics connector company, believes that the fear of burning a bridge is a two-way street. “I think the thing to remember is we never want to chastise someone for leaving our company. I always make a point of letting them know that we (the company) respect their decision and hope they are successful in their new endeavor. Burning bridges work both ways, and I want their last interaction with me to be a positive one.”

Erin says that unfortunately some employees and HR professionals simply use the exit interview as a check box activity and move on. “I do believe that exit interviews are one of the most powerful tools we have in our arsenal, but we have to be willing to spearhead change. … It is our obligation to step up and do something about our culture (with the information gained in the exit interview).”

Ideally, you will want the exit interview to be conducted by a member of your Human Resources team or by someone other than that individual’s direct manager. This will allow for a more honest and open discussion, and will allow the individual the opportunity to raise any concerns without feeling threatened. If you’re in a small company and don’t have the luxury of an HR department, or you are the only manager, you may want to seek the help of an outside firm to assist you with the exit interview process.

Regardless of who conducts the exit interview, don’t waste this opportunity to gather important insight from your departing employees. Using this candid feedback can help you identify and fix cracks in your corporate culture, find weak links in your management team, and even improve processes and procedures before they become a major problem. 

Now that you’ve done the exit interview, don’t just file it away with the departing employee’s file. Use the data that you collect and track the answers for any trends. Take action where necessary. In doing so, you will improve your company, improve morale, and hopefully improve retention rates so that ultimately you will be conducting more entrance interviews than exit interviews.