Exit Interview Process

The exit interview process presents an opportunity for organizations to learn about their culture and practices.  The opening section of Personnel section cites a survey which found that 63 percent of African Americans, as opposed to 26 percent of whites said that race was a moderate to great source of tension in their workplace. Thus, white managers may sometimes perceive that their organizations are addressing racial tensions when, in fact, from the point of view of some of the people of color within these organizations, they are not. If you follow the other recommendations provided in this section, you will hopefully find out this information before someone decides to quit. But, if all else fails, the exit interview can be a useful tool for discovering unresolved racial tensions in the workplace.

Many organizations make the mistake of undervaluing the exit interview process. Instead of interviewing outgoing staff people, they simply ask them to fill out a questionnaire. Note that some people may be more comfortable offering feedback in written format, so it might be best to provide both written and verbal opportunities for feedback. However, if someone leaves an organization, at least in part as a result of unresolved racial/ethnic tensions, he/she may not be willing to share reasons for leaving in a questionnaire. Additionally, there are often subtle nuances related to an individual's decision to leave about which you might want to know.

For example, a staff person may decide to leave because he/she "received a better opportunity with another organization." Underneath this stated reason, there could be an issue related to inclusiveness that you might be able to discover by asking probing questions, such as that the new opportunity is seen as a "better opportunity" because the new organization is better at addressing inclusiveness.

Exit interviews should be conducted by staff and/or board members sensitive to these issues who will ask insightful questions to elicit more information about the reasons behind an individual's decision to quit.  Staff members responsible for doing the interviews should be trained to conduct effective exit interviews. It is also wise to have someone who did not directly supervise the exiting staff member act as the interviewer, to prevent concerns that opinions expressed in the interview will affect future references for the departing employee. Consider having two people conduct the exit interview.

And, perhaps most importantly, there need to be procedures for reviewing the information obtained in the interview process. In general, it is not valuable for a staff person to complete an exit interview and place the responses into the departing employee's personnel file without any broader analysis of why people leave the organization. Results from exit interviews can be very illuminating and should be taken seriously by the organization's management.


Overview: Personnel 

Benefits of Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Staff 

Costs of Unsuccessful Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Staff 

Setting Goals for Staff Composition 

Position Descriptions/Job Qualifications 

Announcing and Advertising Personnel Openings 

Interviewing and Selecting Candidates 

Retaining Personnel of Color 

Performance Reviews 

Professional Development 

Employment Policies