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Jan 10, 2012

"Stay Interview" tips for the Interviewee

Have you ever sat in your Exit Interview, with a member of HR you never met before, and thought, "Maybe you should have asked this 4 years ago"?  Let us know if you have encountered the latest "employee engagement"  tool awkwardly known as The Stay Interview -- as in, not "why are you leaving," but rather "what motivates you to stay?"

Jon Younger, of the RBL Institute, offered a strong summary of the tool's purpose, along with guidelines for its use a few years ago in The Huffington Post.  At the Finishing School, where some of our best friends are Managers, we are strongly in favor of employee engagement in general.  It used to be a fundamental component of staff development, and was known in our day as ... Management.
American business is less about forming long-term relationships these days.

There is plenty to read on Stay Interview technique -- much of it strangely similar, and nearly all of written for the Manager.

Your faculty would like to complement Mr Younger's  advice (and other postings of similar verbiage)  with advice and encouragement for those being interviewed -- as well as a healthy dose of skepticism.  Like performance reviews and promotions, these techniques can range from discovering hidden capacity  to Exhibit A for moving you down the stacked-ranking list.

The sample questions we have seen for this exercise tend to be more "on the money" than you may be ready for.  The Company goals may be to determine who will stay more than who wants  to stay.  Your answer may be the catalyst for new opportunities, but nearly all in the form of action items for you.  It may be the source of new openness between you and Management; it may also force a response like... "that will probably never change."   So consider your answers carefully. 

Take your time - If you are not offered the time to take away the questions and answer them on your own, ask for it.  Your gut response is probably honest, but needs to be refined (even professionally spun, if you will) in order to be useful feedback.

Use "I" messages:  Still helpful advice in most interpersonal situations.  By answering in terms of yourself, you a) own the experience, however subjective, and  b) avoid putting management on the defensive, which never works in your favor.

Be professional:  Putting the first twp tips together helps you achieve this one.  When the Question is "What do you like about your job?"  and the answer is "nothing," you need to find a non-threatening way to tell the truth.   The same embroidery you put to your resume might be what you draw on now.
needlework by mwashin

"Pays the bills" = financially rewarding
"Close to home" = flexibility
"Good teammates" = "Good teammates"  Management loves this feedback, actually.  It says that they made many good hiring decisions, and that you are a team player

Don't oversell: at the same time, though, don't feel obligated to write a college admissions essay.  Bullet points are fine.  They  are going to force you to talk it out anyway, and with minimal talking points, you can adjust your response to best suit the tone of the meeting, without having to commit to something you wrote last night over a gin and tonic.

Don't ask for the impossible:  A 20% raise would make all of us like our jobs more,  but that is unlikely.  Now you have given your manager an impossible goal.
Don't ask for the undeliverable: That is, if you say you'd like to learn the budgeting process, be prepared to be delegated to.

In both cases, you can open yourself to an easy win, such as getting a mentor, or leading a small workgroup, that solves problems other people have expressed in their stay interviews.

According to  much of the Manager-focused information on this engagement tool, your being asked to participate in a Stay Interview is to be taken a compliment.  Most of this information identifies "top performers" as the first people to interview about why they stay.  So take it in the spirit it is intended, and try not to pine for the days when Management knew why you stayed, because that was their goal all along.

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