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Exit interviews are important and here is why

Editorial Team
Last Updated: 30-09-2021 12:57 PM

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a considerable number of employees are leaving your organization and you have always wondered what could be the reasons behind this departure? When the employee turnover becomes a cause for concern, exit interviews become more crucial. This article will give insight into what exit interviews are, and how best you can utilize them to ensure a healthy organization.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a meeting between management representatives and someone who is leaving an organization, either voluntarily or through termination. Exit interviews are common in business, education, and government environments. The purpose of the interview is to gather useful feedback that can help guide future practices and improve recruiting and retention.  In a corporate environment, exit interviews are usually conducted by human resources personnel. Alternatively, depending on the size of the company and other factors, interviews may be conducted by management or outsourced to an HR service provider.

The interview may be conducted in person, over the phone, through email, or in an online survey. In general, interactive methods are considered more useful than surveys because they allow interviewers to respond to the employee and develop follow-up questions that can yield more in-depth information.

The specific questions asked in an exit interview vary for terminated employees and those leaving voluntarily. For an employee leaving voluntarily, the most important question is ""Why?"" If they repeatedly hear particular reasons for leaving, the business may be motivated to review practices, pay scales, and benefits, among other things.

Whether an employee quits or is fired, it may be profitable to ask what they liked most about the job and what they liked least. If several employees mention problems working with a particular manager, for example, that is an issue that should be explored. When an employee is fired for inadequate performance, it can be useful to ask if they believe business practices or other corporate issues contributed to the problem.

How to conduct exit interviews

Conducting exit interviews can generate positive changes within your organization. You get an insight into the reasons for your employees’ resignations. Then, by analyzing your findings after an effective exit interview, you can reduce your employee turnover rate. Seeing top-performers leave feeling unmotivated is a sign you should adopt retention programs and offer your employees more opportunities to develop. Exit interviews can also give you a sneak peek of competition benchmarks. Employees who leave you for competitors could help you learn where you stand with salaries and other benefits. Here are some tips on how to conduct an effective exit interview that offers you deeper insight into your organization’s problems.

1. Choose your interview format

Giving your departing employees a questionnaire to fill out could be less time-consuming and help avoid some uncomfortable discussions. However, conducting a face-to-face exit interview has some of the following benefits:

  • You show that you care about your employees’ opinions by dedicating time to listen to what they have to say.
  • You get the chance to have a less structured conversation that could result in unexpected feedback. (Feedback that a standardized questionnaire wouldn’t be able to provide.)
  • You can end things on a personal, positive note.

2. Choose your interviewer

The person who’s most familiar with your employee’s work is their direct supervisor, but, it’s best if someone else conducts the exit interview. If people are leaving because of their manager, they probably won’t say so if their manager does their exit interview. They may also keep quiet to get a good reference. An HR team member usually is the best option, because they can focus on role-specific issues and complaints or suggestions for the organization as a whole. Some companies choose to have external consultants perform exit interviews. Former employees might feel more comfortable talking to an unbiased third party but this tactic could also seem impersonal and cold.

3. Decide what to ask

Prepare your interview questions. Although you don’t want to make the exit interview look scripted, make sure you cover important topics before your employee leaves. Don’t forget to promise confidentiality and try to keep a casual and friendly tone to let the conversation flow.

Exit interview questions

While you never want the conversation to appear scripted, there are key questions you want to touch on when you conduct exit interviews. You should also ask some of the same questions across the board in every exit interview. This way you can compare answers and look for common responses. Here are some effective exit interview questions to consider:

  1. Please describe your general feelings about working here. If possible, please tell us what caused you to leave.
  2. What did you enjoy most about working here?
  3. If you could change three things, what would they be?
  4. How do you feel you were treated by your supervisor and your co-workers?
  5. How well do you believe your work was recognized and appreciated?
  6. Do you feel you were given adequate training and assistance?
  7. Are there things you wish you had known earlier?
  8. Do you think your work was aligned with your personal goals?
  9. What could be done to make this company a better place to work?

While it’s important to be on alert for harassment or discrimination complaints or just bad management that your exiting employee may point out, you do not want to fuel the fire. Exit Interviews should focus on the company, and the information you gather should be helpful, constructive feedback that you can use to move the company, employees, and processes forward. These conversations also allow employees to provide their opinions and share what led to their decision to leave. However, you need to be careful not to encourage negativity by avoiding the following questions:

  1. Do not ask targeted questions about specific people or issues. While it is alright to ask for general feedback about a supervisor, you should not insert your opinions into the conversation.

  • Do not say anything that could be construed as slander. The conversation should focus on the employee’s experience. Although he or she may have negative things to say about certain people, you should listen without agreeing or disagreeing with his or her point.

  • Do not lay the groundwork that could look like you are setting someone up for termination. Any employee’s performance and status within the company should not be shared – especially with a departing employee.

  • Do not get into personal issues. Keep the conversation professional and work-related.

  • Do not try to convince the employee to stay with your company. If you want an employee to stay, this conversation should have happened at the time of the resignation.

Format for exit interviews

Exit interviews provide a rare and valuable opportunity for honest feedback. Other types of feedback for example employee surveys, year-end reviews—are essential, but they can often be tempered by the expectations or influence of co-workers, supervisors, and managers. Employees want to provide an honest accounting of their experiences and challenges, but competing priorities, like making a positive impression or maintaining workplace relationships, can influence the type of information they share.  By using a variety of approaches when conducting the exit interview, you can be assured of receiving adequate feedback on your organization and this will guide you on the best interventions to make. Below is a template on a format for conducting an exit interview:

▌Exit Interview - <insert company’s name>

Employee Name:                   <insert  name>

Position:                                 <insert position>

Date of interview:                 <insert exit interview date>


What are the reasons for leaving?

Select one or more:

  Higher pay                           Better benefits   Better career opportunity
  Improved work-life balance   Career change   Closer to home
  Conflict with other employees   Conflict with managers   Family and/or personal reasons
  Company instability   Other    

  • Comments

Please rank the following:

The Job itself

Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Job was challenging                        
There were sufficient opportunities for advancement                        
Workload was manageable                        
Sufficient resources and staff were available                        
Your colleagues listened and appreciated your suggestions                        
Your skills were effectively used                        
You had access to adequate training and development programs                        

  • What do you think can be improved about the job?

 <Insert position and candidate’s name>

Remuneration & Benefits

Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
The salary was adequate in relation to responsibilities                        
Wages were paid on time                        
Other benefits were good                        
Work-life balance was promoted and practiced                        
The company’s superannuation fund returned good results                        

  • What improvements, other benefits could the company offer?

The Company

Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
When you started, did the induction help and was it accurate                        
Was a good and positive environment to work in                        
Had adequate equipment to do the work                        
Got on well with other staff within the company                        
There were sufficient staff to cover the work                        
The company was efficient in its dealings                        
Internal communication worked well                        
There was no bullying or harassment                        
There are adequate parking facilities                        
The business did not discriminate against any employee                        

  • What do you think can be improved about the Department and Company?

<Insert position and candidate’s name>

Supervisor / Line Manager

Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Had sufficient knowledge of the job                        
Is experienced in supervision                        
Was open to suggestions                        
Recognize and acknowledged achievements                        
Acknowledged employees contributions                        
Offered and promoted ways to develop                        
Provided constructive feedback                        
Clearly communicated management decisions and how they would affect your work                        
Maintained a professional relationship with you                        

  • What are your suggestions or improvements to your Supervisor?


Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Gave fair and equal treatment                        
Was available to discuss job-related issues                        
Encouraged feedback and suggestions                        
Maintained consistent policies and practices                        
Provided recognition for achievements                        
Gave opportunities to develop                        
Provided constructive feedback                        
Clearly communicated decisions and how they would affect your work                        

  • What are your suggestions or improvements to Management?

Exit interviews best practice

It can be tough to know exactly how to conduct an exit interview. Each organization and each employee is different, however, there are some exit interview best practices that can apply across the board to ensure a successful interview:

  • Schedule the meeting and communicate the purpose

An employee's last day is typically the best time to conduct an exit interview. It might even be a good idea to have it be the very last thing they do before heading on to their next adventure. It should be scheduled well ahead of the last day so your employee can be prepared. You should also provide an explanation or agenda of exactly what you'll be discussing so that departing employees know you understand the importance of exit interviews. You'll also enable them to provide more thoughtful answers to your questions by giving them time to think through what you'll be talking about.

  • Encourage openness by reinforcing confidentiality

Even though they’re leaving, your employee will likely find comfort in confidentiality. Of course, they’ll want you to address their feedback, but you must find a way to do so without outing them. After all, employees occasionally return, often work with past colleagues in future opportunities, and may even ask for a recommendation from a supervisor at your organization. They should feel confident in providing feedback without jeopardizing anything in the future.

  • Express excitement and support for their new opportunity

It is not always the best scenario when top performers leave, but if you genuinely care about employees, you should be excited that they’re taking on new challenges. Where appropriate, express how much you and the company appreciate their contributions and how excited you are for their new journey.

  • Implement the feedback

This is perhaps the most important tip of all. The information you gather in exit interviews will not do you any good if you don’t do anything with it. Take advantage of the full value of exit interviews by carefully recording and implementing the feedback. Of course, not all feedback will require action, sometimes situations are isolated or departing employees simply vent frustrations, but when you notice patterns or large issues, create a plan to start taking action immediately.

Lindah Mavengere is a Business Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindah-mavengere-552b32b2/

Phone: +263 242 481946-48/481950

Mobile: +263 717 988 319

Email: lindah@ipcconsultants.com

Main Website: www.ipcconsultants.com

Editorial Team

This article was written by one of the consultants at IPC

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