Nothing can quite prepare a leader for the first time they receive a resignation letter. Whether it's a senior manager or an entry-level position, it's impossible not to take it personal.

After the third, fourth, or twentieth employee leaving, it's hard not to feel deflated. Typically it's not until the exit interview that you're given perspective on what went wrong, and by then it's too late to change the person's mind.

Enter the stay interview. When executed correctly, stay interviews can completely change an employee's perspective. They provide an inside look at your employee's day-to-day challenges and goals, drive retention within your workforce, and help build genuine trusting relationships. Giving employees a platform to not only have their concerns heard, but also to discuss personal career goals, will keep your team engaged and loyal.

Hiring employees is easy -- it's keeping them that's hard. Stay interviews give you an incredible opportunity to spot minor issues before they transform into problems that have your employees running for the door.

Thinking about adding it to your retention strategy? Here are five things you should do to ensure it's successful:

1. Set the date.

Schedule a date with your employee for his or her stay interview, giving them enough time to reflect on what they'd like to discuss. For new hires, schedule three to four meetings over the year, and for existing employees, schedule at least twice per year.

Setting these dates in advance gives everyone time to prepare. It also communicates that there is a time and place to discuss any concerns they may have.

Leaders should be ready with targeted questions that are drawn to elicit more specific answers that you can action against. Instead of "How are you doing?" try "How are you doing with your workload now that you've taken on project X?"

These types of questions demand a more pointed response, resulting in a clearer picture of your employee's current role and happiness.

2. Leave judgment at the door.

Stay interviews are different than performance reviews, so you need to make that distinction is clear to the staff. Since the goal of the stay interview is to receive genuine, honest feedback about your organization, your employee needs to feel comfortable expressing their feelings.

Listen, take notes, and repeat a summary of what they had to say. Don't get defensive or penalize them. If employees are playing it safe, the process is ineffective and pointless.

Set the tone by speaking in a more relaxed, candid way. Explain how you hope this interview will be able to help the employee, as well as bring out positive outcome for the entire organization.

3. Nothing's off limits.

Be prepared to discuss just about anything. From personal issues to salary demands, no topic may be off limits. Even your leadership abilities may be a concern, so mentally brace yourself. Before you give an answer, step away from the interview and think about what they had to say.

If a request cannot be met, provide an explanation. Explain your rationale and offer an alternative solution, or at the very least a measurable goal system that they can work towards. For example, if salary can't be increased due to budget restrictions, offer more vacation days.

4. Zip it.

This isn't a performance review, so don't feel the need to drive the conversation. Stay interviews work best if the employee is leading the discussion. After all, they know their situation best. Your prepared questions can guide the dialogue, but the employee should do most of the talking.

Listen to what is being said and carefully match potential solutions to each concern raised. This is your chance to learn what your employees want, which is an invaluable tool for retention.

5. Follow through.

Only conduct a stay interview if you're ready to take action. You'll only aggravate the situation if you never follow-up. It's important not to over-promise and under-deliver, and following through in an open and timely fashion will build trust between you and your employees.

Be transparent with the progress, sharing regular updates as you move towards the agreed upon outcomes. Once executed, set up a follow-up meeting to check in with your team and see if the changes made are having their desired effect.