A survey that is conducted with an employee who is about to leave an organization
Purpose and benefit
The purpose of the exit interview is twofold: on the one hand the organization wishes to get some information about why the employee decided to leave; on the other hand it is also used to collect the explicit knowledge of the employee, for knowledge retention purposes. Although this is not the best way of capturing the implicit or tacit knowledge of the leaving employee, but it can deliver indications that there are important implicit or tacit knowledge that should be captured by more suitable methods. Exit interviews are one of the best ways to get honest feedback from the employees. An organization can use the information gained from an exit interview to assess what should be improved, changed, or remain intact. This way it can better align its HR strategy, reduce the employee turnover, and in some cases can also shorten the recruiting and hiring process.
The information from each exit interview is used to provide feedback on why employees are leaving, what they liked about their employment and what areas of the organization need improvement. Exit interviews are also used as part of knowledge harvesting to glean knowledge from the departing employee so that it is retained within the organization.
Exit interviews can be of different forms:
- Voice per telephone or other voice communication means
- Face to face in person with the interviewer
- Fill out feedback questionnaire on paper
- Web based, using Exit Interview Management Systems
Each type has its benefits and drawbacks. The first two is not assuring anonymity, therefore the interviewee can be influenced by personal concerns. The questionnaires can be filled out in privacy without indicating the name, but this form obviously limits the number of questions and also the elaboration of the answers cannot be deep enough in writing. The drawback of the first three methods is that the information and the knowledge captured by them should be written down manually for further analysis in the organization. The last one has the drawback that only those employees can preform it who are at a place with Internet access, but it has the benefit that the information are recorded directly in electronic form, and usually the exit interview management software performs some preliminary analysis and statistics of the entered data.
If capturing of the employee's technical knowledge is also an important goal of the exit interview, then the exit interview must be tailored according to the actual knowledge domain to be captured. In this case face to face interviews are the best option, possibly involving other experts from the relevant field.
Any type of exit interview is chosen, it must be prepared well in advance.
Usually there is some general part which is relevant to nearly all interviewees and which aims to assess the reason why he/she is leaving. Typical questions can be: "What are the main reasons for leaving?", "What, if improved, would have caused you to stay at the organization?" etc.
For implementing the knowledge capturing part of the exit interview see knowledge elicitation interview.
- According to the type of the leaving employee the appropriate type of exit interview should be chosen. For experts several face to face interview could be necessary, whereas for an administrator probably filling out a questionnaire can be sufficient.
- The privacy issue should be considered carefully. For some sensitive questions privacy should be assured, if you want to get honest answers. For other type of questions privacy is not necessary. Therefore sometimes the exit interview should contain several parts performed with different means.
- There should be a mechanism in the organization to handle with the leaving procedures. The employees should know the person in the HR department who should be informed first about the decision of leaving. That person's task is to organize the whole administrative procedure of the leaving, including the the exit interviews.
- The information from the exit interview should be carefully analyzed and the lessons learned should be implemented to improve the organization's HR management and policy.
- For the knowledge capture part of the exit interview see the success factors at knowledge elicitation interview.
- Low participation rate at the exit interview. The leaving employee can deny the participation in the exit interview. There can be several reasons for that, which should be avoided :
- The exit interview is too long
- The exit interview questions are confusing or personally invasive
- The employee doesn’t believe that it will be read or make a difference
- The employee is afraid of repercussions
- The employee is angry at the company
- The process is difficult or uncomfortable
- The exit interview is not well prepared. The questions are irrelevant or not well formulated
- The privacy issue is not considered, therefore the interviewee does not give honest answers because of personal concerns
- The information of the exit interview is not analyzed and the lessons learned are not implemented in the organization's HR system
- For the knowledge capturing part of the exit interview see also the common pitfalls at knowledge elicitation interview
 How to improve your exit interview participation rates (http://www.nobscot.com/library/how_to_improve_participation.cfm)