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Exit interviews are important and here is why

Editorial Team
13/08/2020 7:04 AM

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

What is an exit

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

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

How to conduct exit

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

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

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

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

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
  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

  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

  • 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

  • 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

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

Date of interview:                 <insert exit interview


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


Conflict with managers


Family and/or personal reasons








Company instability







  • Comments

rank the following:

The Job












Job was challenging


























There were sufficient opportunities for advancement






























Workload was manageable


























Sufficient resources and staff were available


























Your colleagues listened and appreciated your






























Your skills were effectively used


























You had access to adequate training and development

















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

position and candidate’s name>

& Benefits












The salary was adequate in relation to






























Wages were paid on time


























Other benefits were good


























Work-life balance was promoted and practiced


























The company’s superannuation fund returned good

















  • What improvements, other benefits could the company













When you started, did the induction help and was it






























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

















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

<Insert position and candidate’s name>

/ Line Manager






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













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

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

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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