Monthly Archives: January 2008

Exit Interviews

I had some interesting inputs from one of the earlier blogs about reference calls. Most of them – including people from HR department – seem to think that the standard process of checking references (asking the candidate for referees) is probably not very effective. Emboldened by that, I thought I would like to put forward one more question I had. This time it is around when an employee leaves. There is this thing called exit interview that happens. I myself had to give a couple in my life.

This has made even less sense to me than reference calls. For one thing, I doubt that an employee is very unbiased in giving opinions before leaving. Either he/she left under duress – in which case, all inputs are going to be overly negative. Or he/she found a great opportunity in which case, most likely, responses are going to be – by and large positive so as not to burn any bridges.

In any case, even if the opinions are on the mark, I would rather get inputs from people who have decided to duke it out in the company than somebody who has decided to part ways. There is nothing wrong in parting ways (you have to look after quite a few things in your life including your career, family etc) but seeking organizational inputs from such a person is less interesting to me.

There was an article I read about a month back in the Wall Street journal. I forgot the name of the company – or what they even called the process they had adopted. But the essence of the process was instead of interviewing candidates “why are you leaving?”, they regularly interview existing employees “why are you staying”. Jarring at first as a concept – it gets to the heart of what we as organizational leaders need to understand. What are the careabouts of an employee and where do stand on them?

I say jarring because I think it is easy for us to say why we are leaving (we have gone thru a thorough process in our minds and with our families before we made the decision – and also chose what will be the public explanation of the decision 🙂 ) but if somebody walked up and asked “why do you stay” – answering it would be interesting, to say the least. I am sure the usual ones “great work” “great team” will roll out of our tongues almost immediately. In reality, we do not regularly sit back and debate with ourselves “why do we stay”. Most of the days in my career, I stayed because I was too busy to even think about not staying. And it was comfortable not to keep questioning why am I doing what I am doing 🙂

But I think regular introspection lets us understand who we are and what really gets us going. Then we can really help ourselves and our managers and our organization to see how to create opportunities where we will be self-actualized. It forces us to realize that keeping ourselves motivated and challenged is more of our individual responsibility than the manager’s or the company’s.

In any case, anybody care to throw some light on what could be some upside of doing exit interview? As always, looking to learn from your experiences.

Rajib