Exit Interview Dos and Don'ts

Author: Michael C. Jacobson, XpertHR Legal Editor

Exit interviews are one of the most important yet underutilized tools in an HR professional's toolbox. When an employee leaves the organization, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he or she could provide extremely candid and useful information regarding problematic employment practices that are not apparent or otherwise significant enough to draw the HR professional's attention.

An employer that does not conduct exit interviews may be missing out on this information, together with the opportunity to identify post-employment legal risks. For example, some outgoing employees may sue the company for wrongful termination while others may breach restrictive covenants and bring valuable company information with them to a competitor.

Do Don't
Circulate an exit interview policy to employees. Be overly forceful or threatening in attempting to convince an employee to participate in an exit interview.
Request that outgoing employees participate. Choose the outgoing employee's direct supervisor to conduct the interview.
Select the right person to conduct the interview. Allow an unqualified or unprepared individual to conduct the exit interview.
Ensure the interviewer prepares in advance. Leave the interviewer alone with a potentially dangerous or volatile outgoing employee.
Ensure the interviewer is properly trained, has prepared a list of questions and is capable of handling a hostile employee. Permit the interviewer to engage in debate with the employee or otherwise permit the interview to escalate beyond a fact-finding mission.
Consider whether a witness should be present for the interview. Sit on the information obtained during the interview or otherwise fail to take necessary corrective action.
Determine whether the information collected warrants further action by HR or legal counsel. Use the information obtained during the exit interview as motivation to retaliate against the reporting employee in any way, shape or form.

Additional Resources

Exit Interview Policy

How to Conduct an Exit Interview

Organizational Exit > Process of Termination > Exit Interviews