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How Can I Maximize the Use of Exit Interviews?

Find a comfortable place for the meeting. If you like, take the employee out to lunch, even breakfast. Discuss the employee’s new plans, and let the person know that you are happy for him or her. Now is the time to let the employee know how much you’ve appreciated his or her work efforts.

Ask the employee if there is anything he or she would do differently had the employee been manager. Avoid discussing coworkers but allow the employee to make suggestions for the future, beyond how to best fill his or her now vacant position.

Just as it is important for an employee to leave a job amicably, so, too, should the manager feel that the employee harbors no ill feeling.

Although some exit interviews are not more than a formal parting, you can learn some surprising things from others. Just remember to keep your ears open and your defenses down.

Tell Me More

Here are some sample questions to trigger discussion:

  • How would the departing employee describe your company’s culture? Will his new employer’s culture be similar?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement with his new employer? How does this compare with your company, in the departing employee’s opinion?
  • What did the employee like most about his former job? What is it about the new job that interests him?
  • Are there opportunities for training with the new employer? How could your company offer similar learning experiences?

Ask, too, about how the work could be done more efficiently or effectively, in the opinion of the departing employee. The employee may have been reluctant to raise some of these issues if he or she thought they were a threat to continued employment or might lead to a significant increase in workload. Use the departing employee’s experience in the position to gain insights into how to facilitate the work in the future. Here are some sample questions along these lines:

  • Are their redundancies in the current job that we should consider eliminating?
  • Are there operating obstacles that we should investigate to smooth the flow of work?
  • What skills are most critical to the departing employee’s past job?

How has the job changed since the employee first took on the work? Show the departing employee his job description and ask him how he might suggest it be rewritten—not only in terms of job responsibilities but also qualifications.