Episode #79 – The Overlooked Importance of the Exit Interview for Employers

Samantha: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary employers hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about the overlooked importance of the exit interview for employers. Stacy, thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, Samantha. I’m glad to be here.

Samantha: Stacy, before we get into the specifics of the exit interview, can you talk briefly about why it’s an important topic and why we’re discussing it on the podcast?

Stacy: I certainly can. There is obviously a lot of emphasis on the face-to-face interview during the hiring process. A lot of people think that’s important, including the candidate and the hiring manager. Unfortunately, people do not place as much emphasis on the exit interview, and I think that’s a mistake. I’m not saying that the exit interview is every bit as important as the initial face-to-face interview, but it does carry some level of importance.

Samantha: What kind of importance?

Stacy: First of all, employer branding is critical in today’s marketplace. How an Animal Health company or veterinary practice is viewed is crucial to their efforts to hire effectively. Even if an employee leaves, that organization or that veterinary practice should want to make sure that the employee leaves on good terms. What they don’t want is for the employee to tell their friends and colleagues that their experience with the company or practice was an unpleasant one, all the way to the very end.

An exit interview is an opportunity for an employer to find out information that can help it become better in a number of areas, including in the area of employee retention. And as you can imagine, employee retention is also important in today’s marketplace.

Samantha: Stacy, I imagine there are only two ways that a person leaves an organization: either they’re laid off or fired or they leave of their own accord because they’ve found another job.

Stacy: That’s correct. When an employee is fired or laid off, there is no exit interview. After all, company officials already know why the employee is leaving. However, when the employee leaves of their own accord because they found what they believe to be a better opportunity, there is typically such an interview.

Samantha: There are a lot of employees who are leaving their job of their own accord these days, isn’t there?

Stacy: Yes, and that’s also the case in the Animal Health industry and veterinary profession.

In a perfect world, an organization would never conduct an exit interview. That’s because it would mean that organization never has an employee who leaves of their own accord. As we all know, though, we do not live in a perfect world and that is certainly not the case.

Samantha: Is one of the reasons for this the fact that we’re in a candidates’ job market right now?

Stacy: Absolutely. As we’ve stated before, in a candidates’ job market, all job seekers and candidates have more options and the best candidates have the most options and the best options. That also means their current employment is just one of many options available to them.

Not only that, but there is also a lack of qualified candidates in many areas within the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. That has created a situation in which workers have even more options from which to choose.

Samantha: It’s almost like it’s a “candidates’ job market within a candidates’ job market” for Animal Health and veterinary professionals.

Stacy: Yes, I never thought of it like that, but professionals working in this field have a lot of options for a lot of reasons.

In addition, it’s a well-documented fact that Millennials change jobs more often than members of other generations in the workforce. In fact, some of them change jobs as frequently as every 18 months to two years. Staying five years at the same organization would be considered long-term employment for this group.

So that is yet another reason why professionals are leaving their job on their own accord, and that also underscores the importance of the exit interview.

But it goes even beyond that.

Samantha: It does? What do you mean?

Stacy: Everyone who leaves their current employer of their own free will falls into certain categories.

Samantha: What categories are those?

Stacy: There are three main categories.

First, they’re leaving not necessarily for an opportunity that is clearly better than what they have, but because there is something about their employer they do not like and that has convinced them to leave.

Second, they’re leaving because even though they enjoy working for their employer, they have found an opportunity that is clearly better than their current situation.

Third, they are leaving both because there is something about their employer they do not like and that has convinced them to leave AND because they’ve found an opportunity that is clearly better than their current situation.

Samantha: Stacy, what if an employee leaves of their own accord and management isn’t really sorry to see them go. Does that mean there’s no reason to conduct an exit interview?

Stacy: I have to admit, it would be impossible for hiring managers and company officials to be heartbroken about every single employee that departs. In fact, company officials are sometimes glad when certain employees leave. That’s just a fact of life and business. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t put stock in what they have to say during the exit interview.

Organizations need to uncover the exact reasons why an employee is leaving. This information is vital. That’s because you can use it to address shortcomings within the organization, and doing so will perhaps prevent other employees from leaving in the future. And company officials might be sad about one of these other employees leaving, especially if that person is considered a superstar.

Samantha: Okay, so what are the best practices for an exit interview?

Stacy: That’s an excellent question.

First, an exit interview should be conducted in person and not online, via email, or any other way. In the majority of cases, the departing employee will meet with a representative of the Human Resources department on a one-on-one basis. This is done for confidentiality reasons.

From an employer’s perspective, you should start by identifying which type of situation you’re facing with the soon-to-be former employee.

In other words, you want to know why the employee is leaving and how much of the reason can be directly attributed to how they view your organization. Basically, you want to find out what they think about a variety of things.

Samantha: Specifically, what kind of things?

Stacy: Things like the work that they did on a daily basis; their manager, boss, or supervisor; the company culture; the organization’s HR practices; and their level of compensation, including salary, benefits, and perks. You can uncover this information using a number of different questions, as well as various questioning methods.

Samantha: What are the different questioning methods?

Stacy: There’s the open-ended questioning method and the specific questioning method. Examples of open-ended questions include:

  • Why have you decided to leave the company?
  • What did you enjoy about your employment tenure?
  • What did you not like about your employment tenure?

 

When it comes to specific questions, there are five main categories. They are questions about the job and the duties that the person performed, questions about their boss or management, questions about the company culture, questions about the organization’s HR practices; and questions about the person’s level of compensation, including salary, benefits, and perks.

Samantha: That makes sense. All of those things comprise the major components of a person’s employment. Do you have examples for all of these categories?

Stacy: I certainly do. Specific questions about a person’s job include:

  • Were the expectations for your job set properly at the start of your employment?
  • What did you like most specifically about your job and your responsibilities?
  • What did you like least specifically about your job and responsibilities?
  • Were you given all of the tools and resources you needed to do your job? If not, what were you lacking?
  • Did you receive adequate feedback regarding your work performance?

 

Questions about the person’s boss or management include:

  • How would you characterize the relationship you had with your immediate supervisor?
  • What would you say your supervisor could do to improve?
  • What are your thoughts about the management or leadership style of the organization overall?

 

Questions about the company culture include:

  • Was the company’s mission statement and core values clearly communicated to you?
  • Did you feel that the organization’s core values lined up with your own? If not, why not?
  • How would you describe your morale level while working here?
  • How could we create a better company culture and workplace?

 

Samantha: I would imagine that the answers to those questions would tell a company official a lot about how they can improve their organization and its ability to retain employees.

Stacy: Yes, that’s right. And that’s why it’s important to ask these questions, even if company officials are not all that sad to see the employee leave.

Samantha: What are the final two categories?

There are questions about the organization’s HR practices, which includes questions such as:

  • Did the organization’s policies create a fair workplace environment?
  • Did the HR department do a good job of communicating important information?
  • Did you have any situations or incidents that required the involvement of HR?

 

And finally, there are questions about the person’s level of compensation, including salary, benefits, and perks. Those include questions such as:

  • Were you satisfied with your compensation? If not, why not?
  • Do you believe you received enough recognition during your employment?
  • What suggestions do you have for us in the areas of compensation and recognition?

 

Samantha: Wow, that’s a lot of questions!

Stacy: It is, but that’s because an employer needs to find out a lot of information. While exit interviews are a reminder that turnover does exist, no matter how great an organization might be, it’s also an excellent opportunity to gain valuable information. This is information that an employer can use to improve in all areas so that the next time it hires a superstar candidate, it can successfully retain that candidate as a long-term employee.

Samantha: Stacy, thank you for addressing this topic today, and as always, thanks for providing so much great information.

Stacy: Thank you, Samantha. I look forward to our next podcast!