Employment Law Tip: What’s the Purpose of Exit Interviews?

Exit interviews are normally held with employees who have decided to terminate their employment or who have been discharged for cause. One purpose of conducting these interviews is to give departing workers the chance to express their thoughts, whether positive or negative, about the resignation or termination decision, as well as to offer their suggestions for improvement with respect to the job and work environment.

To get the most out of your exit interviews, and to ensure that the individuals conducting them understand the purpose, it’s a good idea to prepare a policy statement on exit interviews. Here are five points to consider: 

  1. The reason. State what you see as the purpose for exit interviews, whether it is to discover the real reasons for an employee’s decision to leave, or to get an employee to reconsider his or her decision.
  2. The interviewer. Who normally conducts the exit interview? It may be the immediate supervisor or department head, someone from the personnel office, or even a member of top management. Should two members of management be present?
  3. The timing. Most exit interviews are scheduled as close to the time of the employee’s actual departure as possible. But if the termination is voluntary, it may be held a day or two in advance.
  4. The format. Consider outlining the approach you want the interviewer to take and the points to be covered. Some employers include tips for interviewers on, for example, how to avoid defensiveness, how to encourage the employee to open up, how to remain objective when the employee criticizes the company or a supervisor.
  5. The questionnaire. Many employers require either the interviewer or the departing employee (or sometimes both) to fill out an exit interview form. Although a form can replace the interview itself, it obviously won’t elicit the same kind of useful information as a face-to-face discussion.


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