What is an Exit Interview?

It’s becoming increasingly common for people to leave a job in search of something new and a major part of this process is an exit interview.

Exit interviews are not mandatory but can offer a number of benefits for employees that take the time to work through the process with their employer.

In this article, we answer the question ‘What is an exit interview’ and explore why an exit interview is useful for both professionals and companies.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a formal interview held between an employer and an employee when they decide to leave a business. The exit interview establishes an opportunity for constructive feedback between both parties and is ideal for learning more about how you operate as an employee.

While an exit interview is usually much less formal than a traditional job interview, it’s still a professional setting and should be treated as such. The exit interview process is usually in a question-and-answer format with time at the end for summing up key points.

In most cases, the exit interview will be handled by a human resources employee or your line manager. If you’re not presented with the opportunity to have an exit interview, take the time to ask as it can be extremely beneficial. 

Why is an exit interview useful?

Exit interviews are useful for both employers and employees that want to learn more how they operate. The process can provide insights into company culture, work environments and individual working styles.

For employers, the exit interview is the opportunity to for an employee to provide constructive criticism about the role and its expectations. This can be a great way for a business to shape their company culture and create a more positive work experience for employees. In the long-term, this can also lead to policy changes around employee retention.

At the same time, the employee may also learn more about their own work style, which is feedback they can take into their next role. This is exceptionally useful for identifying strengths and weaknesses whilst improving career development.

How can an exit interview help you build a positive company culture?

At AD Finance, we understand the importance of building a thriving company culture that brings together like-minded people. Having this positive culture can help improve productivity, collaboration and reduce the potential for conflict.

Unfortunately, many businesses struggle to understand what makes a great company culture. It can be difficult to establish what your culture is and the changes that need to be made. Your employees are a great source for that information and you should take as many opportunities as possible to speak to them. 

Alongside processes such as one-to-one meetings and employee surveys, you may also use an exit interview to help build your company culture. Many businesses don’t consistently hold exit interviews and they’re missing out on the key insights from the people that directly benefit from a great company culture.

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How to perform an exit interview

The exit interview process follows a simple question and answer structure between the company representative and the employee. If you’re exploring how to perform an exit interview, you can follow the basic steps listed below: 

1. Organise the exit interview with the employee as soon as possible after the employee hands their notice in. If you’re an employee and the employer doesn’t start the process, go directly to your line manager and suggest setting up a meeting.

2. Take the time to plan any feedback you want to bring up. Think about questions you may be asked and specific scenarios you want to address.

3. Hold the meeting and ensure that it is a two-way street. Both parties should have ample space to expand on different ideas in a confidential setting.

4. Once its complete, make sure that you use the results in a positive, productive way. If you’re an employer, take this opportunity to start addressing any concerns, formulate new policies and improve the employee experience.

If you don’t currently offer exit interviews, it’s always a great time to launch a new scheme. Explain to your staff that you’ll be holding interviews as a way of measuring and improving the employee experience. You should always encourage honesty and confidentiality, as this will allow you to get the most out of the process.

Remember that there’s no point in conducting exit interviews if you’re not going to action the results. Likewise, you should be prepared to hear honest feedback about yourself or your company, which should not be met with a defensive attitude. 

What are common exit interview questions?

Below are some of the most common exit interview questions that you might experience as both an employee or an employer.

What made you want to leave this position?

If you leave your job for a new role, you’ll likely be asked this question so that a company can quickly understand major shortcomings or challenges and then use this information to improve the employee experience.

It’s important that you answer this question as honestly as possible so that you can improve the culture of the company and make the role better for people in the future.

Example answer: “Whilst I really enjoyed my role, I didn’t feel that I had any great opportunities for training or room for career development. During my job search, I found a similar role that offers regular training that allows me to expand my skillset.”

Do you think you were given the right tools to perform your job?

This is a common question an employer uses to gauge whether they have the right resources to deliver a positive employee experience. Remember, for a company, it’s much more cost-effective to replace old technology than replace a competent employee. If you’re answering this question, highlight any frustrations you had with the tools at your disposal in a constructive way and if you can, provide solutions.

Example answer: “While the hardware we have at our disposal is great, the software and apps are quite outdated and make simple tasks longer to perform”.

Can you describe your relationship with your peers?

During an exit interview, a company may use this question to better understand how their employees interact – both between themselves and with management. This helps them understand the positive and negative aspects of the company culture, whilst also providing the opportunity for the employee to leave good feedback about specific team members. 

Example answer: “I feel like I worked well with my manager and we had a good understanding of how we both liked to work. We didn’t have any issues during my time here and I always felt supported. If anything, I feel like my manager should have more confidence in their decision-making as they often turned to the team for guidance instead of trusting in their own knowledge, which is quite high.”

What did you like most about this role?

It’s important to remember that the exit interview shouldn’t be a negative experience and this question is designed to highlight the positive elements of the role. You may talk about the team, the specific responsibilities you had, the social experiences that you organised and any benefits surrounding the role.

It’s vital that the company understands the desirable aspects of the business so that they can improve these aspects to make the company more appealing and improve employee retention.

Example answer: “One of my favourite parts of the role was the team socials we had each month. I felt this was a great way for the team to bond and allowed us to unwind after all of our hard work.”

What do you like least about this role?

Once a company understands the best parts of a role, naturally they’ll want to understand the less desirable aspects. This question gives a company the opportunity to identify challenges and remove them for employees. 

As an employee, you may answer this question by mentioning unreasonable deadlines, frustrating tasks or other issues that led to your leaving.

Example answer: “One of my least favourite parts of the role was our reporting process being a manual task. While I understand the importance of it, having an automated process would be much more effective.”

Would you recommend this company to others?

Your employer may ask this question as a way of establishing how attractive a company is to key talent across the industry. 

If you’re answering this question, be concise and provide balanced feedback. You want to make sure that you’re offering both positive and negative feedback whilst highlighting specific benefits.

Example answer: “The salary that the company offers is great and the associated benefits package is unique to the industry. Unfortunately, I don’t think that you invest as much resource into career development as other businesses across the sector”.

Would you consider staying on in the role?

It’s rare but during your exit interview, you may receive a counter offer. While this tends to happen earlier, a business may take this opportunity to encourage you to stay. A counter offer is a package that an employer puts together to stop you leaving but research suggests this isn’t always a great idea. If you want to know more about handling a counter offer, we’ve broken down the pros and cons here.

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