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How to decipher exit interview answers

Melissa Allen|

First off, if you’re company has incorporated exit interviews into its employee lifecycle process, then congratulations! Exit interviews are a way for companies to gather important information on why an employee is leaving and how they feel about their overall experience in that company. Ideally, this information will help the senior leaders at the company continually improve the employee experience, corporate culture, management, development, and processes, thereby increasing employee retention. This of course assumes that the employees interviewed are 100% honest, but sometimes they’re not. After all, since the day we accepted our job, we’ve had it drilled into us to never, ever burn bridges.

Is your exit interviewee staying mum? Here are some simple ways to decipher vague interview answers:

They say: “I’m ready to take on new challenges.”
They mean: “I’m not getting the career advancement here.”
If it’s documented that the employee has expressed interest in progressing in the company, and they’ve actively worked towards promotion on their own, whether by taking on extra projects or pursuing further training, they are most likely going to leave if their efforts are fruitless or go unrecognized.

They say: “I’m ready for a change.”
They mean: “I’m bored, not learning anything new, and my career has flatlined.”
Whether they’ve actively sought out new challenges within the company or not, if they mention “change” they this could be their final solution at climbing out of the rut they may feel they’re in.

They say: “I love my colleagues with and I’m going to miss them so much, it’s really hard to leave.”
They mean: “There are some difficult personalities that have made my life a nightmare.”
They were really laying it on thick with the compliments, weren’t they? This could indicate overcompensating in an effort to hide the truth.

Or they mean: “I hate my boss.”
Listen carefully, have they made no mention of their boss? Have they mentioned every other person they’ve come into contact with at work except their boss? If so, this was a deliberate method of saying everything without saying anything at all. Because everyone knows that saying anything negative about anyone, no matter how true, is a big no-no.

They say: “I received an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
They mean: “I could have refused it…if I was compensated better here.”
Everyone has the choice to accept another job offer or not, sometimes what it simply comes down to money, a better title and position, or both.

Listening carefully to not just what exit interviewees say, but how they say it, can provide loads of information that may have been missed if taken at face value only


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