Are you making the most of an exit interview?

There are a myriad of reasons why an individual might be preparing to leave the team and it can be a difficult time – but the exit interview doesn’t always have to be shrouded in negativity. It can actually be a great opportunity to gain some insights into your team and organisation from someone who has spent a great deal of time under your leadership. Ask yourself:

What do you want out of the interview?

There is a lot of ground to cover in an exit interview but it’s a good idea to start out with a clear idea of what kind of information you want to uncover. You may have had an inkling that there has been restlessness in the team’s culture or some friction between the team and management – it is unfortunate that the issues should result in an individual leaving, but the exit interview can be critical in getting to the bottom of the issue and retaining the rest of the team.

If your exit interview goes well, you should walk away with useful information, especially when it comes to improving retention rates within your team, understanding your team and identifying areas of development. If the exit interviews you’ve been conducting in the past have failed to produce this kind of information, it might be time to reconsider your methods.

What kinds of questions should you avoid?

Asking standardised questions – your questions will always naturally revolve around the same kinds of themes, but ensure that you spend some time before the interview shifting the questions to be appropriate to the individual. The information you receive may not be accurate or helpful if the individual doesn’t think you care about their personal experience.

Asking about specific people – if the individual mentions a name, that is their choice. Never ask them to talk about someone in particular. Discussing their relationships with ‘management’ or the ‘sales team’ etc. is a safer bet to avoid any name-calling or finger-pointing.

Asking about office gossip – not only is this unprofessional, these kinds of questions are unlikely to reveal any helpful information and will only leave you distracted from the heart of the issue by rumours and petty arguments.

What should you do next?

Keep accurate records and share them with relevant personnel, not the whole team. It’s important to keep records so you can track retention over time. The individual you just interviewed may be the first to bring up a certain issue or they may be the latest in a long string of exiting employees – either way, without records, you might miss a recurring problem or overlook an important remark.

Most importantly, leaders need to be acting on the information they receive in an exit interview. Exit interviews should not be the only time you listen to the concerns of an employee but they certainly are a great opportunity to stretch those listening skills. No one likes to feel as though their input doesn’t matter, so if there’s any information you receive that you can act upon immediately, do it!

Those things that might take a little longer to act on? Start putting together an action plan. If there are any other individuals within the team with similar feelings to the individual exiting, it will speak volumes if you go to lengths to fix any problems as soon as possible.

At the end of the day, your team will change regularly, regardless of how positive and engaging your organisation is – use the opportunities you get wisely, so that you can keep improving and making your organisation a great place to work.

If you’re ready to make the most of every opportunity, People Make the Difference can help you with training workshops, one-on-one coaching and Coach On Call services. To find out more, call 0412 333 415 or visit where you can access online leadership training videos from $99 for the year.