Since the mountains were young, HR managers have tried to get the real dish on company morale and conditions through exit interviews – formal de-briefings of departing employees. But many staffing experts believe it is time to let this practice fade away.

“The reason the company is asking you for this information is supposedly because they want to understand either why you decided to leave or, if they’ve let you go, they want to know what your thoughts are about your management, your work and so on. HR might argue that there is a benefit there – I would argue that there’s none,” said Nick Corcodilos, a Lebanon, N.J.-based recruiter and author of Ask The Headhunter: Reinventing The Interview to Win The Job.

As her IT career has moved from front-line software development into product management, Camille Collantes has had several exit interviews of the more personal type, one with her immediate manager and a second, to her surprise, with the president of her Toronto-based company. On both occasions she tried to be as candid as possible, and found that her concerns were met with interest, even penitence.

“The president said he was sorry that the company hadn’t been able to accommodate me, and meet my needs. He said ‘You’re a talented employee and we wanted to keep you, but if we haven’t been able to address your career objectives we’re not doing a great job.'” Although there was some satisfaction in this mea culpa, Collantes was left with the lingering feeling that had she known his door was open, she could have aired her concerns earlier and possibly even stayed with the company.

With replacement costs for high-tech employees sitting at one to one-and-a-half times the worker’s annual salary, Terry Szwec, the Toronto representative of Career Systems International, a Los Angeles-based employment consulting firm, said a better practice is asking employees what will keep them happy in their jobs.

“I think that organizations are trying to grasp at information superficially, but I am a strong advocate of investing with the current population. I’d rather poll people while they are there, instead of worrying so much about the data when they walk out the door,” Szwec said.