The Exit Interview and Why it Matters

When an employee resigns it is becoming more and more common to conduct an exit interview. How is it conducted? What do you gain from it? We spoke to Émilie Pelletier, CHRP and HR marketing and communication strategist at HRM Group.

Less known than the hiring interview, the exit interview is gaining popularity among organizations since it has benefits for both the departing employee and the employer. “Provided it is conducted well!” says Émilie Pelletier.

The How

According to Ms. Pelletier, a good exit interview is done in person, in a quiet place, “and lasts at least one hour, to show the importance given to the process and to the employee.” Then, a neutral person must lead it, not the employer, to avoid self-censoring by the employee. Finally, the use of a standardized questionnaire is recommended, “to collect a pool of similar data which, once analyzed, will provide valuable information about the organization”. For this purpose, the specialist suggests the following interview outline:

  • the reasons that attracted the employee to the organization
  • the reasons for leaving
  • skills transfer
  • the organization’s positive elements
  • areas for improvement
  • possibility for a return in the future

The Why

A non-obligatory exercise, employee and employer both win by having an exit interview, because it is the time for one to give constructive feedback and for the other to receive it. It is also the opportunity for the employer to thank the employee for their work and to learn about their career goals. “Who knows if he won’t have an interesting offer to make him?”, asks Émilie Pelletier. “I have seen an employer sign a “return contract” with an employee whose skills exceeded those required for an existing position, but who, five years later, perfectly matched those of a specific position. Not only did the employee come back… but he returned with new knowledge that proved beneficial to the company!”

So by allowing the two parties concerned to separate on a positive note, the exit interview reduces the risk that a frustrated employee becomes a poor ambassador for the organization. That said, many employees do not leave from frustration but to respond to a need for change or development, or an offer they cannot refuse. Hence the importance for employers to not consider departures as personal affronts and to leave their door open to good candidates… especially in the current context of labour shortages!

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