‘Stay Interviews’ and ‘Exit Interviews’ Are Recruiting Tools

Many organizations, of all sizes, ask employees to participate in exit interviews as part of the out-processing checklist. There are a number of valid and legitimate reasons for doing so. These may range from hearing about deficiencies in training; staff/managerial issues not brought to HR previously; and, if better wages/growth opportunities/chances for promotion made the other organization more attractive.

The same logic should apply to employees who are still in your organization. You should be curious about your existing staff: what they like about the organization and why they stay. How they view leadership and growth opportunities. If or why they would consider a job or career change in the near future.

Every few days on LinkedIn or other media platforms I see articles about employee engagement, or lack of engagement, and how managers can pick up on cues that an employee may be planning to exit. But not enough organizations are using “stay interviews” as a retention technique, and even a recruiting technique.

This is a great time for you in talent acquisition to get your pulse on employee engagement and retention, and use that in recruiting.

The key to success for both “stay” and exit interviews is creating an environment where the employee feels safe to be candid with responses and assured the information will remain confidential. The response shouldn’t lead directly back to the person who said it. The person(s) conducting the interview needs to be a familiar face to the employee. An HR professional who never leaves the office to interact with the line staff is going to have much more difficulty building rapport and trust. When I conducted both stay and exit interviews at my last organization, I always gave the employee the opportunity to take their information with them at the conclusion of the conversation, and had a paper shredder outside my office door. Only one person took advantage of the option to not be included.

Most managers and leaders respond to data. It is hard to argue with figures in black and white. While compiling the data, aggregate it in a way that will not point to a particular person. I found that grouping the responses by longevity was an easy way to maintain the confidentiality of employees within the smaller departments. Of course, there are many other ways to show information relevant to particular departments, such as turnover percentage within the last quarter or other reporting period.

The open-ended questions must be structured in a way to give those being interviewed a chance to elaborate on both the positive elements of the job, as well as the opportunities for improvement or change. My first question always is, “What do you like about working here”? Not only does that set a certain tone for the remainder of the interview, but the responses are great recruiting tools. If I hear multiple responses about flexible schedules or outstanding coworkers, those phrases can be added to job postings and recruiting flyers.

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The same information can be obtained by asking a question such as “On a scale of 1-10, with one being not at all, rate your satisfaction with your job and the organization.” Another question I like to use: “If you could change anything about your job, or this organization, what would it I be?”

More money is rarely given as a response. Instead I hear things such as better communication, additional training, and more opportunities for advancement. All those things are specific and tangible and when strategic planning takes place, are parts of the conversation.

Questions such as “Where do you see yourself in six months?” are tired and predictable. An employee who is disengaging and possibly looking for other opportunities is not going to say “working someplace else.” The final question, for both stay and exit interviews, is always, “Is there anything else you would like us to know”?

Personal testimonials are becoming a recruiting tool used more and more. While having the conversation with your employees, particularly in those that hold hard-to-fill positions, you may just find your next “rock star” to give a testimonial for your next job posting or recruiting event.

Penny Fletcher has been a training professional across industries for almost 30 years.  She had 19 years’ experience as a teacher and administrator before transitioning to human resources, a field she has worked in for the last 14 years.  She holds both PHR and SHRM certifications and is also a certified Lean Leader in the Six Sigma program. Over the course of her human resources career, she has supported a school district, a government contractor, the Fort Worth, Texas Police Department, and a hotel/resort. She is very active in both the state and local SHRM affiliates, currently serving as president of Frontier Human Resources. She is also an industry champion for the Hospitality/Tourism Next Gen Sector Partnership in her area.

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