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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Exit Interview

Many organizations conduct exit interviews with people who have resigned. This is an excellent way of gathering information about problems in the organization. People leaving the organization are more likely to be frank than people who are staying, especially if the issue is about someone like a boss.

It's important that you leave on good terms with an employer in order to be able to use them as a reference for the future, so here are some tips on how to conduct yourself in the interview:

  1. As an employee you should:

    • Spend most of the time answering specific questions rather than volunteering information not asked for.

    • Avoid using this as a venting session. Don't try to get back at people who upset you, but do be truthful.

    • Confirm that the discussion is in confidence. Ask how the organization deals with the information. Based on that response, you can decide how important it is for you to disclose your information. The more serious the company is about changing things, the more forthcoming you might be.

    • Deliver your message professionally. This means that you should:

      • Avoid foul language.

      • Avoid exaggerating. Don't use words such as "never" or "always." Rather than "My boss never says good morning," say, "My boss isn't at her best in the mornings and doesn't greet me on some occasions."

      • Give examples to back up your opinions. Say, "I'm not sure how committed the organization is to employee input, since neither one of my suggestions, submitted in writing, has been responded to." This is better than "Everyone knows that employees' opinions don't count around here."

    • End on a positive note. Tell the interviewer about the positive things you found in the company. Let him know how you personally benefited from your experience.

  2. If you are in a position of authority and are conducting an exit interview, the process will be more effective if you:

    • Inform the exiting employee of your desire to collect information that could help improve working conditions.

    • Ask if the associate prefers talking with you or someone else, such as a human-resources person.

    • Ask the associate to discuss any issues that would be useful to you as a manager. Confirm that you will treat all information as confidential.

    • Schedule the meeting during the last week of the person's employment.

  3. During the interview you should:

    • Meet in a neutral place. Your office may be intimidating. Consider having an exit luncheon for someone who has been a valued employee.

    • Arrange the physical layout to promote a problem-solving discussion rather than a boss-subordinate interview. Sit next to the person rather than on the opposite side of a desk.

    • Prepare to listen without being defensive. Bring a notebook to record details.

    • Get as much information as possible by covering

      • your perception of your own leadership and interaction with others in the department;

      • details about the job held, especially any difficulties you were not aware of; what the person enjoyed about the job;

      • any corporate policies and procedures that prevented the person from doing the job effectively or caused annoyance;

      • anything else the person feels you should know.

    • If the associate is vague, prod with specific, open-ended questions. For example, you could ask questions such as:

      • Could you give me an example of that?

      • Could you be more specific?

      • Tell me more about that!

    • Find out about the associate's new job. This information could give you ideas about what is wrong now. You might ask

      • what attracted the individual to the job;

      • what aspects of the job were appealing;

      • how the new work environment will differ;

      • how salary and benefits compare.

  4. After the interview you should:

    • Collate your information. Pass on important data to those who can take corrective action. Reflect on and then fix those things over which you have control.

    • If the information gathered has been contentious, consider conducting a follow-up interview by phone or in person. Better still, consider having someone other than you do the interview, if you feel that this will enhance the objectivity of information-gathering. You may find that the person's perspective has changed once she is outside the organization.

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