5 Tips on Conducting Exit Interviews

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 14, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Conducting exit interviews might be a quick formality at your company, but it’s actually a great opportunity to get candid constructive criticism from employees and reinforce post-employment expectations that could prevent a legal snafu further down the road.

The next time you have an exit interview, consider making it an “exit discussion,” with stronger two-way communication. Here are five points to add to your exit discussion checklist:

  1. How can the company make this (an even) better place to work? Since this is the last chance for the company to pick an employee's brain, it's a golden opportunity to find out what he or she observed to be the good, bad and the ugly at the company. Be careful, though. Don't let the conversation devolve into a heated gossip-mongering session. There's an art to being authentic and objective, but it's essential you set that house rule from the get-go. You'll especially want this frank feedback from valued employees who are quitting.
  2. Does the employee have post-employment obligations? If an employee's contract contains a restrictive covenant like a non-compete clause, you'll want to highlight these clauses during the exit interview and go over the time frame of how long each obligation lasts for. Similarly, let the employee ask you about the company's post-employment responsibilities.
  3. What is the employee's work product? If the company has legal ownership over the work a departing employee produced, clarify what exactly the employee can take or keep and what work is considered company property.
  4. Has the employee returned physical company property? The rule of returning company property also extends to physical property, such as company laptops. Be sure to give the employee an inventory checklist of property that was loaned to him or her. Have the employee return the checklist along with the items beforehand, so any loose ends can be quickly pointed out at the exit interview.
  5. What is the company's general policy on references and/or recommendations? Since employers can often be limited in terms of what they can and can't say about an individual's employment, it's worth going over the company's employment reference policy with the employee. Point out whether the company uses a third-party service which authorizes the disclosure of information, such as salary, which an employer wouldn't otherwise typically give out.

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