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Are Exit Interviews a Waste of Time?

An article on Ask The Headhunter website by Nick Corcodilos condemns the practice of conducting exit interviews on the basis of A) the info could be used against the employee later and B) there's no point in asking the employee when they are leaving as it is too late to make things right for that employee. I disagree with the writer wholeheartedly.

My response to the author is as follows:

It is clear that the author is a headhunter and has not worked the other side of the fence in HR. From the recruiter's perspective, once the employee gives their notice, the less communication with the boss the better. The recruiter lives in fear of counter offers and every recruiter suffers through "fall-outs" when the candidate feels guilty or nostalgic or afraid and decides that, "gee, whiz, they'll stay with their company after all...." HR on the other hand has a genuine need for feedback on what the company is doing right and where they need to improve. Getting the feedback via employee surveys is difficult as employees are loathe to provide constructive criticism of a current employer. (who would feel otherwise?).

Exiting employees offer the most valuable source of honest opinions and when tracked over time, can provide trends of both problem and success areas within a company. That is why 9 out of 10 employers reported in a recent SHRM survey that they conduct exit interviews. As those in HR know, the information is not used as Nick suggests to have something against the employee in court or to give the employee a lousy reference later. SHRM's point about exit interviews helping a company avoid costly legal action refers to the opportunity that exit interviews provide to determine areas of the company that may require investigation for treating employees unfairly or illegally. How can one investigate and or fix a problem if they don't know it exists? The information is used to make the company a better workplace. Additionally, most departing employees appreciate the opportunity to let the management know where problems exist. Even if an employee is leaving, they still have a lot emotionally invested in the prior company. Being able to provide feedback is a way the employee can feel like they are making a final contribution or getting certain issues off their chest. These days, new technology such as email and internet allows companies to make their exit interview process more efficient and effective than ever before. A web based exit interview system, such as Nobscot's WebExit, can provide a self-service method for employees to provide feedback while the software automatically compiles, tracks and analyzes the results.

So, get with the program, Nick. Exit interviews are not a threat to recruiters. They are an effective way for an employee to transition from one company to another and provide constructive feedback in the process.

© Copyright B. Carvin, 2000. Reprint with permission, email

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