June 9, 2022

Human Resources conduct exit interviews when an employee leaves the company. Some employers limit these interviews to employees who are resigning or retiring voluntarily, but some conduct them for terminated or laid-off employees as well.

Typically, an exit interview can take two forms: face-to-face or a written questionnaire. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. A face-to-face conversation offers an opportunity to delve deeper into topics allowing for follow-up questions. Conversely, a written questionnaire may make the employee feel more comfortable and expressive but can be limiting due to its inflexible format.

The value of an exit interview

Exit interviews can be a valuable resource for a company to improve employee satisfaction and retention. There may have been issues with company policies, culture, personnel, management or ethics that caused the employee to leave the company; this is valuable information in deciding how to improve the company to avoid turnover.

  • Departing employees may suggest process improvements or training tips to help the position function more smoothly in the future.
  • Employees leaving the company are often more likely to be candid in their responses because they no longer fear repercussions.
  • Exit interviews can also uncover harassment or other legal concerns and allow the employer to act before the former employee turns to litigation.

Exit interviews are only as valuable as the company makes them. Many employers conduct exit interviews but then do nothing with the potentially beneficial information they gathered. For them to be effective, employers must take action to correct or improve problem areas that have been brought to their attention. Analyze exit interviews easier by viewing responses as an aggregate rather than individually to identify common areas of discontent.

Documenting the interview and any steps taken after may save the company if the former employee does sue for any reason. The information gathered in the interview may protect the company against the former employee’s claims.

Ask the right questions.

Having a structured set of questions is essential to compare different people’s answers against each other. But if the interview is face-to-face, remember to allow for flexibility and ask follow-up questions to ensure thorough answers.

Here are just a few ideas for relevant and appropriate questions to ask:

  • Why have you decided to leave the company? (Only if they left voluntarily)
  • What did you like and dislike about this company?
  • What did you like and dislike about your position?
  • How was your relationship with your manager/supervisor?
  • Did you receive adequate training to do your job properly?
  • Would you consider working for this company again in the future?
  • Do you have any other suggestions or recommendations for areas we could improve?

Ask questions about their perception of company culture, values, ethics, management styles, benefits, and other relevant topics. Don’t forget to explore their answers and ask follow-ups—make it a conversation, not an interrogation.

Benefits of feedback

Although the exit interview process can be valuable to employers, it should not be the only time employees provide feedback. The best way to retain employees is to make sure they are currently satisfied and attempt to remedy any dissatisfaction before leaving the company. Offer frequent opportunities for feedback through surveys, department meetings or suggestion forms. and consider how your organization can establish dialogue with current and outgoing employees.