HR Management & Compliance

Exit Interviews 101

Does your company conduct exit interviews? What questions do you ask? What benefits do you gain? These Q&A sessions with an employee who is leaving the company can be done in person, but they can also be done in writing—via e-mail, online forms, or even mailed questionnaires.

Benefits of Conducting Exit Interviews for All Departing Employees

The main goal when conducting exit interviews is typically to get information that can help the employer understand why the employee is leaving or what could have been done differently. This knowledge can help the company avoid the same mistakes in the future and hopefully retain more employees in the long term. Exit interviews can also be used to gain further insight into how to improve the company.

Here are some other benefits of conducting exit interviews:

  • They can serve as a way to gather critical project information to help transfer job duties to the next person.
  • They can be a way to tie up any loose ends in terms of questions regarding projects or customers.
  • The exit interview can be a good time to simply collect company-owned belongings like keys, badges, or electronics.
  • They can allow the employer to better understand the employee’s perspective on the work culture, the company processes, and even individual staff members, managers, and supervisors.
  • They can be a way to uncover potential problems, such as harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. (Be sure to always follow up on any claims. It does not matter that the person is leaving; the employer still has an obligation to provide a safe environment for everyone and must investigate.)
  • Exit interviews can help assess what changes could be made to the company’s processes, tools, and even culture to help employees be more effective and productive.
  • They can help the employer understand how to best position the role going forward to avoid misunderstandings.
  • They can help the employer more clearly define the skills needed to perform the role effectively.
  • They can be a way for employers and employees to end the employment relationship on better terms. This can be a benefit for everyone. The employee may want to come back later, for example, or he or she may be willing to refer another employee to the organization. The company may even work with him or her in a future role, perhaps as a client or supplier.
  • In some cases, the employee might be persuaded to stay in the course of an exit interview (if the employer wishes to pursue this option).
  • They can be a source of information on how to better train employees to help them succeed.

Sample Exit Interview Questions to Ask

Employees are naturally wary of exit interviews. At this point in the employment relationship, they often (understandably) just want to move on … and they probably don’t want to jeopardize any chance for a good reference, either. It’s possible—even likely—that many employees will not give full (or completely honest) answers to your questions. But that doesn’t mean the exit interview process is without merit. It can still help discover trends and get information that would otherwise stay unknown. Some employees will be more honest than at any other time because there is nothing to lose. This information can help the employer in making better decisions and prevent undesirable separations in the future.

For employers considering exit interviews, it’s often tough to know what to ask. The key is to think through what you’re trying to gain from the exit interview and shape your questions accordingly. We’ve compiled a few examples of exit interview questions that help garner information to improve the organization in the future:

  • How did the job match up with your expectations?
  • How did this role fit with your personal career goals?
  • What was satisfying about the job? What could be improved?
  • What could have been changed to give you the best tools and processes to do the job effectively?
  • What prompted your decision to leave? Did you try to change the situation before deciding to leave? What actions were taken and what were the results?
  • How was your working relationship with your manager? What about with your team, or other teams or individuals you interacted with?
  • Were there any problems, such as harassment, discrimination, or retaliation?
  • What would you change about the organization overall?
  • How would you describe your satisfaction with the pay and benefits available? What changes would you suggest?
  • Did you get enough feedback about your work performance? How much feedback do you think is ideal?
  • What policies could be changed, added, or improved to make the job easier?
  • Did you receive the training needed to do the job well? What training could be added?
  • What did you like and dislike about working here?
  • What attracted you to the job you’re moving on to?
  • What should we tell your replacement to help him or her do the job well?
  • What changes would have made you stay?
  • What else would you like us to know?

Naturally, this list is not comprehensive and is only to be used as a thought-starter. What questions do you ask in your exit interviews? What would you add to the list?

This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.


About Bridget Miller:

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.

1 thought on “Exit Interviews 101”

  1. What about doing a survey instead of an actual interview? I sometimes feel employees are more likely to be honest in writing, when they don’t have to look someone in the eye.

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