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Mistakes not to make when conducting Exit Interviews

Businesswoman Interviewing Male Candidate For Job

Exit interviews are one of the most important tools in an HR professional’s toolbox. When an employee leaves the organization, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he or she could provide extremely candid and useful information regarding problematic employment practices that are not apparent or otherwise significant enough to draw the HR professional’s attention.

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.

When any employee resigns, or a decision is made for a person to leave for any reason, always ask: Should we spend some time thinking about how to enable some sort of knowledge transfer? Let’s discuss what should be done and few mistakes should be avoided while conducting such interviews:

Do’s and Don’ts of Exit Interview:

1. Circulate an exit interview policy to employees:

First measure can be taken at the timing of joining of new employee, so that employeeswill be aware about the separation process and policy.

(Sample of Employee Exit Policy to download:

2. Request the outgoing employees participate:

Always request the outgoing employee in participating in exit interviews. You cannot compel a departing employee to give you knowledge that is in their head, although the return of files, paperwork and material is normally something that an employer rightfully can insist happens.Give the interviewee time and space to answer. Coax and reassure where appropriate, rather than pressurise. Interpret, reflect and understand.

3. Select the right person to conduct the interview:

Do not allow an unqualified or unprepared individual to conduct the exit interview.The person who is taking interview should be aware of and understand the roles and responsibilities handled by the outgoing employee.Some organizations hand the responsibility to a skilled interviewer in the HR or Personnel department. Alternatively line-managers or even supervisors can conduct the interviews.

4. Ensure the interviewer prepares in advance:

Prepare your exit interview process, questions and topics in advance that you’d like to explore, especially when you believe that the interviewee has good experience, appreciation and understanding. Remember simple planning aspects such as arranging a suitable time and place, avoiding interruptions, taking notes, preparing questions, being aware of the body-language and feelings of the interviewee and adjusting your own approach accordingly, etc.

5. Ensure the interviewer is properly trained and capable of handling a hostile employee:

In terms of managing the interview, listen rather than talk. Give the interviewee time and space to answer. Keep calm, resist the urge to defend or argue – your aim is to elicit views, feedback, answers, not to lecture or admonish. Do not permit the interviewer to engage in debate with the employee or otherwise permit the interview to escalate beyond a fact-finding mission.

6. Consider whether a witness should be present for the interview:

The style of exit interview is different for someone who is being asked to leave, retiring, being made redundant, dismissed, or leaving under a cloud, compared to an employee leaving whom the organization would prefer to retain. A witness should be present to avoid any kind of ambiguity in case of exit interview ofa hostile employee.

7. Determine whether the information collected warrants further action by HR or legal counsel:

Don’t use the information obtained during the exit interview as motivation to retaliate against the reporting employee in any way, shape or form.

When the interview is complete say thanks and wish the interviewee well. If there is some specific checking or follow-up to do then ensure you do it and report back accordingly.

After the interview look at the answers and think properly – detached and objective – about what their meaning and implications.

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