Exit Interviews – Common Mistakes

When an employee resigns or leave the organization, most companies do give them an opportunity to appear for an exit interview. And believe me many a time conducting exit interview becomes a much complex task then recruitment interviews.

Conducting an exit interview is tricky as there are chances to meet a sulking employee, not so happy ones and yes not to forget some happy ones as well. These interviews are by and large optional as there may be some employees who might feel discomfort appearing for one and sharing the thoughts while leaving the organization. The human resources professionals and managers play an imperative role in ensuring that the interview remains as productive and as educational as possible.

But even then we make few mistakes and then the purpose of conducting such interviews dissipates, what are these mistakes?? Let us discuss here:

Preparing an Agenda: A good number of HR professionals do not prepare the specific agenda while conducting exit interviews, which takes the discussion to a totally different level and makes it haywire. One needs to be specific in terms of the agenda and try and stick to it to get the best out of the interview. Even the employee who is leaving will appreciate your professionalism if things are put in a formatted and structured manner.

Maintain confidentiality: Win the faith of the employee that the organization cares and values employee opinions and experiences. Interact with the employee as honestly as possible. Clarify that all the details discussed and shared will remain confidential. Also when discussing the issues with senior management it is always better to discuss the specific concerns in general rather than discussing employee specific issues and concerns.
Besides potential bridge burning, risks for departing employees include the information falling into the wrong hands and ruining references.

Being defensive: When conducting exit interviews there are chances that an employee reveals and shares certain information about a colleague, a superior or subordinate that as an HR professional or Line Manager we may not appreciate. But getting defensive will not solve the purpose as the employee then may not disclose the details which can be rectified. Best policy here is to be all ears to the resigning employee as there are still chances that you may retain the person so it is best to hear him/her out.

Person specific question: It is always better to avoid asking direct questions about specific person as the employee may like to continue having professional relationship with that person and providing answers for any such specific questions may not let him open up during the exit interview.

Analyzing the Exit interview: Here most organization does not actually take an action on the data and information collected through exit interviews as well as they don’t analyze the information provided by one employee with others to seek out certain valuable inputs, henceforth dissolving the entire purpose of conducting an exit interview.
Analyzing may give a better opportunity to look for issues which are repeatedly mentioned over a period of time by different employees.

Conducting interview on last working day: If we do that it looks more of a formality then the requirement. Last day en employee would have to take clearance, deposit certain things at various departments, meeting peers and final handing over so organizing exit interview may be too clumsy and might not solve the rationale . The employee will also not take the exit interview as an opportunity to contribute something to the organization and would not discuss important things.

Do not judge: Do not put words in the mouth of the employee just for the sake of it, do not perceive the information made available from your point of view, leave the space open for a convenient and comfortable talk. Criticizing the issues or employee who has already resigned will also not suffice the objective of an exit interview.

Personally, having a discussion along with a structured format where all the information can be written down is the best way of conducting an exit interview, but companies should provide an availability of questionnaire if some employees are not comfortable sharing the information in person. Now a days many organizations have tools where the questionnaire is available on computers through ERP or other softwares to make the process more convenient.

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