A General Analysis of an Exit Interview
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A General Analysis of an Exit Interview

The overall purpose of an exit interview is to collect relevant information from the employee regarding his/her personal experience with the company, coworkers, and management team. The information can be used to determine what areas within the company need improvement. Exit interviews are done on a voluntarily basis, which means an employee is not obligated to participate if he/she chooses not to.

What is an exit interview?  An exit interview is a brief meeting (typically questionnaire style) with an employee who terminates his/her employment with the company, and it usually takes place within the human resources department. Whether the departure was due to a layoff, resignation, involuntary termination, or retirement, the employee is entitled to have an exit interview.  An HR representative conducts the interview, which last about 20 minutes or longer (depends upon quantity of employee feedback), to obtain valuable information from the employee.  Just as a job candidate interviews with the recruiter before he/she is made a job offer, likewise, some companies interview employees who leave the company as well. However, not all companies perform exit interviews, and companies that do have them, some employees opt not to attend an exit interview prior to leaving the company.

The overall purpose of the exit interview is to collect relevant information from the employee regarding his/her personal experience with the company, coworkers, and management team. The information can be used to determine what areas within the company need improvement.  Actually, the employer benefits from the exit interview, more so than the employee that is leaving the company. For example, one company experienced a high turnover in the accounting department, and found out that it was due to bad management after conducting several exit interviews with employees who worked in the department but quit.  This trend prompted upper management to do a thorough investigation in that department, which resulted in firing the manager and replacing her with a more suitable manager for the department. Needless to say, the company didn’t experience a high turnover in the accounting department under the new manager…thus, saved the company thousands of dollars in recruitment and advertising expenses.

Do I have to participate in an exit interview?

Exit interviews are done on a voluntarily basis, which means an employee is not obligated to participate if he/she chooses not to.  Aforementioned, some employees choose not to attend their exit interview for various reasons.  Some employees view it as a waste of time, some say they have nothing to gain, and some fear the consequences of telling the truth could risk getting a good reference later. Conversely, some employees look forward to an exit interview because they want to spew out negative comments about the company and reveal bad experiences they had with their managers and coworkers.

What does an exit interview involve?

The interview normally takes place one-on-one with an HR representative in a private area, like an office or conference room.  An HR representative will contact you to schedule a time for you to come in for your interview, at least one week before your last day with the company. Basically, the interviewer will ask you prepared questions and you can choose to answer only the ones you are most comfortable with.  At the completion of your interview, the representative may ask you to sign the document, after you’ve read it over, of course. The information will remain with the company and should be kept confidential.

What should I wear to an exit interview?

Keep in mind that you are technically still an employee until you officially leave the company. Therefore, you should dress to impress and conduct yourself in a professional manner during your interview.  Bottom line, you should leave a good last impression.

What are the pros of voluntary participation?

Your contributions could not doubt secure you a favorable reference for the future, provided you leave on good terms.  Also, you may want to seek employment with the company again later and your genuine feedback could help you get your foot back in the door.

What are the cons of voluntary participation?

Because employees are likely to tell the truth upon leaving the company, the information could be used against them if it’s unfavorable.  Again, you want to leave a good last impression.  And by all means, don’t burn down any bridges, especially if you want to be considered for rehire in the future. While some information can be very helpful to the company, some things are best left unsaid.  It’s best to give constructive feedback, if you just have to say something negative.

What type of questions can I expect?

Every company has prepared questions that they ask their employees during the exit interview. However, there are basic question that most employers ask their employees. Below, I have included sample questions for exit interviews, courtesy of online.cit.edu.com

Sample Questions

Image credit: online.cit.edu.com

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Comments (7)

I think your material is sincere, yet in all my years of exit interviews the places of employment did not use the material in a constructive manner as you mentioned. Certainly you are an exceptionally brilliant person and one I wished I could have worked for in the past.

A really excellent post and so very informative. I learnt a lot from your post, Donata. Thank you so much.

That would be bad if the employee has certain kind of grudge. :-)

A good article as well as a useful reference. In my own experience the company never had questions on exit.

I was not familiar with an exit interview Donata, thank-you for the information here.

The bosses I have worked for don't care, small business owners who do not want to hear anything negative about their place of work, they could have hundreds of people quit over many years and still think the problem was the people.. not them. 

An exit interview is something new to me. Thanks for that info.

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