About The Exit Interview

An exit interview is generally conducted between a neutral member of the human resources department and a departing employee.  This usually only takes place with an employee who has resigned, rather than one who is laid off or fired.  

The purpose of these interviews is to determine any problems in the working environment so as to improve conditions and retain employees in the future. It also helps employers minimize legal issues in the future. You should be aware that details from your exit interview could be used against you in court if you decide to press charges later on.

Exit interviews are not mandatory, so you can choose not to participate. Most employers will respect that decision, but some may create problems in the future. They can file a “would not rehire” notation in your personnel file or give a negative report about you during a background check. Whether or not an employee should participate in an exit interview is debated. From one perspective, it can be very helpful to the employer to find out where working conditions need to be improved. On the other hand, it doesn’t help the exiting employer very much and there are some risks. If you decide to participate, then career experts suggest that answers should be thought through and generic because past employers can use it against you in a lawsuit or a background check. Before you decide, it is helpful to discern whether the company truly wants to make improvements or whether they just want to know the real reason why you are leaving. Some questionnaires are anonymous too, so this could influence the decision.

There are a number of different types of exit interviews. Most companies choose to perform exit interviews in person. However, some larger companies do not have the time, so they can hire an outside third-party consultant to conduct the interview over the phone. The in-person interview adds a friendly personal touch, which may calm disgruntled employees and prevent future lawsuits. Some departing employees may not feel comfortable sharing information candidly though, so anonymous surveys may be preferred. Pen and paper interviews are either mailed to the employee or given to him or her on the last day. This takes much less time and could prompt a more honest reply, but the return rates for paper interview forms average around 30-35%. Online interview survey participation rates are double those for paper interviews and are also easier to keep track of. This is becoming more popular since it is the least time consuming and potentially most honest option.

Typical questions probe at the reason for leaving. They may ask why you are leaving and if anything in particular triggered your decision to leave. In addition, interviewers want to know if training was adequate, if pay was sufficient, if supervision was appropriate. They may ask for your suggestions on how to improve and what you liked least about the experience. Exit interviews are generally used to improve a workplace, but decisions to participate should be made on a case-by-case basis since some employers use it to harm a former employee in the future.


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