Why you should take Exit Interviews seriously?

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What’s the point? 

It never ceases to amaze us how many clients still don’t carry out exit interviews with their outgoing employees. You may think “why bother?” but the reality is an exit interview is one of the very few times you can glean a really honest opinion from someone who has first-hand experience of your organisation from the inside.

Maybe you have this idea that if someone’s leaving your team, they’re gone anyway and nothing that they or you say now is going to change that. Perhaps you don’t want to hear all the bad stuff you’re convinced they’re going to say? I mean let’s face it, as long as you follow through with any conversation as you should, it’s likely to cause you even more headaches than you already have. 

Think about it another way though. Consider it your opportunity to learn more about how your business can improve and what behaviours need to be assessed to help your company grow and become the workplace people want to be part of. Outgoing employees will value a well delivered exit interview more than you know – you may find it’s the difference between them working for you again in the future…or not!

What Questions should I ask?

This is a difficult one to advise because each company has its own culture and set of motives for conducting exit interviews. That’s said, as a very basic framework you can use any of these:

  • Why did you decide to start looking for a new role?
  • What was the biggest factor that led you to accept your new role?
  • Do you feel you have been adequately equipped to do your job well?
  • What has your relationship with your line manager been like? 
  • What have you enjoyed most about working here?
  • What have you disliked most about working here?
  • What would you change about the company?

There are lots more depending on what you’d like to achieve from the session. It’s really important that you don’t take any responses personally, after all, it was you who asked the question in the first place. Remember that sometimes the truth hurts and whilst you might disagree with the points being made, keep you counsel, write everything down and give yourself time to reflect.

What advice can we give the outgoing employee?

We’re often asked our advice on how to handle exit interviews and what to expect during the process. Exit interviews can be more daunting than Employers think, after all, most people want to leave quietly and there can be a lack of trust as to the motives behind the questions. Don’t forget that EI’s are voluntary so it’s up to you, however our advice is to take one if it’s offered, it’s a great way to leave the right lasting impression if you follow these simple rules:

  • Don’t forget everything is recorded – you can’t unwrite what you say
  • Vent any frustrations you may have prior to your formal interview
  • Plan and prepare – think about the questions you’re likely to be asked 
  • Exit with grace and dignity – try not to burn any bridges
  • Offer some constructive advice on how things could be improved
  • Be memorable for all the right reasons

Done well, an exit interview can leave a door wide open for a return. You may not think you want to at the moment however companies evolve constantly and a few years down the line you might wish you never left!

Follow through

At the beginning of this blog we asked what the point is of EI’s. Well the truth is there is no point at all if there’s no follow through from the client. It’s too easy to dismiss comments made as “just bitter” or “unfounded criticism”. We say again – you asked the questions. There isn’t a great deal of point asking if you don’t want to hear the answers, and there’s definitely no point if you’re not prepared to use those answers to improve your organisation. There’s lots to be gained from the information you’ve gathered:

  • Identify worrying trends by re-visiting previous interviews
  • Avoid people leaving on bad terms
  • Gain a first-hand perception of your management team and their style
  • Take on board any constructive suggestions made – you never know they might be useful

Our Opinion?

Start to take these interviews seriously. Look back on any previous interviews you may have carried and ask yourself, “what’s changed?” If the answer is “not a lot” then why? Maybe you didn’t ask the right questions in the first place or maybe you just didn’t act on the answers. If you really want to take the further step, try calling up ex-employees and ask them the questions again if they’ll permit it. You’ll be surprised how appreciative they are that someone is taking them seriously and you never know, you might win back some of the people you didn’t want to lose in the first place!

Heard about Exit Interviews? How about Intro Interviews?…

We’ve talked before about the importance of Exit Interviews but what about Intro Interviews? These are entirely voluntary and very rarely in our experience are they conducted but take a step back and consider the value an Intro Interview might achieve.

What’s the point?

You’ve just spend between 3 and 6 months hiring a new employee after you’ve waited for a long drawn out recruitment process and a 3 month waiting period for them to work their notice. You’re now super keen for them to get started and make an impact on your organisation as soon as possible – and so are they. So why would you want them to take valuable time out of their day to spend half an hour with you? After all, they’re already hired – right? 

Consider these benefits and you might change your mind:

Gain valuable insight into the hiring process your new employee experienced

Whilst you may feel  you have a slick recruitment machine and every new employee arrives motivated and ready to go, maybe it hasn’t been quite that experience for them? 

Ask them how they found the pre-boarding process. Did they feel valued in the time between accepting your offer and arriving on day one? Has anyone been in touch to advise them what to do when they arrive? Have they been invited out for informal drinks to relax them prior to arrival? 

Or did they arrive mildly terrified having forgotten what their new role is all about and what their new line manager even looks like?

There are lessons to be learned here.

Ask if they know of any former colleagues of friends you ought to be talking to

There’s no better time than when a new employee has just joined your organisation to find out if they can recommend a friend. You took a long time finding them and if you rate their experience, it’s true that birds of a feather flock together. Ask them directly who they know. Be careful how you word the question though. Consider a direct question such as:

“Are you able to name the best Digital Media Planner (insert job title here) you’ve ever worked with in London (insert location)?”

That way you’re not asking them to simply suggest friends, you’re asking them for insight into their industry – people they truly rate, not just someone they know is looking for a role.

Ask them what their very first impressions have been

Make sure you watch as well as listen to their response to this. Invariably they will be nice but try and dig a little deeper. Ask them if they can see the improvements they can already make, as this will give you an insight into what they are potentially less impressed with. Ask how much time they’ve had with their line manager in the first few days, or if they’ve been introduced to the wider business? If not – consider why.

Ask them again why they left their previous company and joined you

As interested as you are in how good or bad their previous employer was you’re gaining knowledge on your employer branding. They chose you – that’s amazing – but why? And now they’re here, is your external perception living up to the reality? It may be too early to tell but it’s amazing how accurate first impressions can be. You’re getting raw, untarnished opinion which can be extremely powerful

Our Opinion

Intro interviews are a hugely under-utilised opportunity to improve your recruitment journey, gain intel on your market and understand why people chose to join you. It also helps to build rapport and gives new employees a sense of belonging. You’re giving them a voice and valuing their opinions – don’t underestimate how important that is.

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