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What is an exit interview and why do one?

The increasing norm for most corporations these days is to have an exit interview before an employee leaves for good. In most cases, these are conducted where the employee has resigned of his or her own will, but in many bigger conglomerates the HR department also has a semi-counseling/exit interview for those who have been handed the pink slips or have opted for a voluntary retirement. As far as companies are concerned, what started merely as a passing trend has quickly become one of the most effective ways to get honest feedback, and use these to improve on organizational environment and culture. An exit interview is the perfect tool to gauge what kind of changes an organization might need to retain employees better.

A common problem for most companies is bad blood between departing employees and them. While it is not true of all their ex-employees it takes a few disgruntled ones to make noise or tarnish the brand image. A case in example was this eLearning firm I can across a few years back. They were quite the pioneers in starting out with a specialized content focus even before eLearning became so important. But after a while anyone applying to that firm would often be advised not to because the ‘work atmosphere’ there was horrible. It must have been their ex-employees who spread the word later. They surely suffered heavy losses due to this reputation since many good candidates stayed away. With an exit interview and a candid session with the employees most of these sabotages can be contained.

At the same time, it is not always with an ulterior motive that one should conduct the exit interview. It can be genuine way to connect with those who have been an integral part of the company and their feedback could bring about a positive and 360 degree change in the way you work in future. At the end of the day business is about communications and networking. An employee who interned and grew with you could well become one of the top CEOs of the nation tomorrow, albeit through another firm. But what you have here is a bond with that promising person which is definitely a strong corporate network.

This network and bond is equally important for the departing employee as well. An exit interview is the perfect opportunity to mend your fences and stop yourself from burning bridges altogether. No matter what the reason is for your leaving – politics, slow growth, better opportunity elsewhere, you can always stand apart and above all these to leave behind good relations. In future this company will occupy a space in your resume as experience and the people in it valuable contacts.

Networking is a key term to keep in mind and the more contacts you collect, the better connected you will be which in turn will lead to better facilitation for all your future endeavors. What needs to be kept in mind is that while honesty is welcome here one should not use the exit interview as a tool for revenge and spew venom. The feedback should be impartial yet effective so that both parties can benefit from it.

Gary Takacs is the founder of The CEO University is a US-based, CEO and Executive Peer Group Organization that creates opportunities for accelerated business growth and personal development  through CEO Peer Group Meetings that are CEO-led, one-to-one mentoring focused on unique business and personal challenges, and purposeful  learning events.

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