The exit interview is sometimes as important as the entry interview

We all tend to think that the only interview that really matters is the job interview. It is, for sure. There is also another kind of interview that should be counted as nearly as important as this –the exit interview. We all know that the exit interview is the one done to the employee who has left the organization. Just like how a job interview, or the entry interview has a set of questions that candidates are usually asked; many in HR prepare a standard set of questions to even the employee who is on the way out.

Not universal

First of all, many organizations do not consider it necessary to conduct the exit interview. This could be because of many factors. One, their HR could have convinced them that it is a waste of time interacting with someone who has already left. Second, it may have convinced itself that there is no better employer than itself and that the employee who left the organization has lost the opportunity of a lifetime. Worse still, a few employer develop a kind of vengeful attitude toward the leaving employee, being even intimidating it its approach to the departing employee. This could be especially the case in smaller companies when the leaving employee has plans of starting on his own and becoming a likely competitor. No matter how cheap and dirty this approach is; it is a reality in many places.

No place for complacency

All of these approaches are plain wrong. Of these, let us see where HR could be faltering in terms of the exit interview and what it could do to correct itself.  If the HR believes that there is no need to conduct an exit interview; it is skewed in its thinking about the perception the organization carries in the minds of employees who worked with them till recently. If an employee is leaving, he must have done so for a number of reasons. If the resignation is because of personal reasons like higher education or to change the profession into doing something more satisfying; that is fine and understandable. But if the resignation is due to lack of job satisfaction; then HR has lost an invaluable opportunity to see things in the right perspective by being smug in its attitude.

HR’s role and assessment are all-important

If an employee is leaving disgruntled and disappointed; that is where HR has to really act. This is because at the time of the entry interview, there is hope that the candidate could be a long-term prospect who could deliver for the company in the years ahead; whereas when an employee has actually quit, it could mean that there is something brewing within the organization that needs remedying.

The exit interview is the best means to understanding what the resignation means to the organization. By being gently prodding; HR can elicit information about what behavior or actions on the part of the organization made him take this step. It should then analyze in a very objective manner if the problem is rooted in the organization. If it is; it is squarely on HR’s shoulders to take action on this. This is a great way to understanding how to take the organization forward vis-à-vis its most important resource –the people.

Understand the reasons

A good employee’s resignation due to dissatisfaction should sound the alarm bell. The organization has to introspect on what could be the likely future situation. Is this a case of isolated disenchantment? Or is it the first of what could be a trend in the near future? If it is the second of these; it could bode terrible things for the organization. This is when HR has to take the top management into consultation and press the emergency button.

Other reasons for leaving

There are occasions when an employee leaves not for any disrespect or problem with the organization per se, but because of a general disagreement with his immediate manager. This too, can be sorted out, if HR and top management could sit with the two parties together and listen to both of them patiently and fairly.

There is also a scenario when it is for insufficient pay that the employee is leaving; it is an easy problem to fix. HR should have a talk about what the employee’s expectation is. It should then see if it is realistic and in tune with market conditions. If the employee is being unreasonable in his expectation; then HR can talk it out with him and make him understand that this is not realistic.

The exit interview is where all these are discovered

If HR has to zero in on the reasons for which an employee has left; the quality of the exit interview has to be very high. It has to be structured to not just understand inane aspects like working hours and facilities or the dress code, but should lead to the heart of the matter in a rather unobtrusive and nonintrusive manner.

It is certainly a challenge to elicit all these from the quitting employee for a number of reasons. First, since he has already made up his mind to leave; the exit interview may not make any great impact on the employee himself. He may answer many questions without any seriousness. Unless answering it is for his own benefit, he is unlikely to be truthful.

HR has to convince the employee into giving the right answers. After all, he is not going to be held into account for giving answers that are not to the management’s liking. If HR could insist on the usefulness of this exercise, it is likely to get the desired answers. This is all the more true of situations where the employee has had a grouse with the management which could be set right with an open and fair discussion. It all eventually boils down to how much that resource is respected and important within the organization. That should be the deciding factor in making exit interviews useful, meaningful and pertinent.


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