Exit interviews can provide employers with a valuable opportunity to gather information about their company as most departing employees do tend to be particularly candid about their workplace experiences. Exit interviews also tick the box of a responsible employer and may be useful if at a later date if the employee raises any post-employment claims.

They are best conducted on a face-to-face basis because this enables better communication and offers the employer the opportunity to probe further on open ended questions. However electronic or postal questionnaires are better than nothing if face-to-face exit interviews are not possible. Some exiting employees may be shy or reluctant to open up in a face to face interview therefore they will find a form submitted by post / on-line a far easier experience.

Benefits of exit interviews

  • Departing employees are more likely to be forthcoming about the company and their position than those still in employment
  • The exit interview offers the employee an opportunity to provide constructive feedback and leave on a positive note
  • The feedback will help the company identify any areas that can help improve staff retention
  • It will enhance your recruitment process
  • It provides closure
  • It could prevent legal issues

Tips for conducting exit interviews

One-on-one – Make sure you conduct the exit interview in a private setting one-on-one just you and the departing employee.

Comfortable atmosphere – Create a comfortable atmosphere for the departing employee to feel relaxed in order to open up about their time and experience with the company.

The purpose – Explain the purpose and structure of the interview.

Prepare – Prepare your interview questions and topics you would like to cover beforehand.

Notes – Always take notes or complete a pre-prepared form.

Listen – Once you have asked a question, sit back and listen to the departing employees’ response and take notes. Always give the departing employee time and space to answer the question.

Coax – Coax and reassure rather than pressurise the departing employee for information.

Resist – Resist the urge to argue or defend the company’s position. Your aim is to elicit views, feedback and answers.

Questions – Always ask open-ended what/how/why questions rather than closed yes/no questions unless you have require specific question that requires this. Typical questions could be:

  • What made you decide to start looking for another job?
  • How was your relationship with your immediate manager?
  • What do you think of the company?
  • Did you feel like you were fairly rewarded financially for your position?
  • Did you enjoy your job?
  • Were the aspects of the job you found difficult/struggled with?
  • Did you receive help/support/training?
  • Did your job match the original job description or did it change?
  • Did you have all of the necessary resources to succeed in your role?
  • What was the best part of working for us?
  • What was the worst part of working for us?
  • What do you think we could do better?
  • How do you feel about the feedback you received from your manager?
  • Do you have any recommendations for the company for the future?
  • Would you work for the company in the future?
  • Would you recommend this company to prospective employees?
  • What advice would you give your replacement if you could?
  • Are you happy to say where you are going (if you have decided)?
  • What particularly is it about them that makes you want to join them?
  • What, importantly, are they offering that we are not?
  • Do you have any questions or comments?

Remember the style of exit interview needs to be adapted depending on the circumstances of the exit i.e. someone who is being asked to leave, dismissed, leaving under a cloud, compared to someone who is retiring, being made redundant or an employee leaving who the company would prefer to retain.

Everyone who leaves the company should be given the opportunity of an exit interview, and as a business you can learn something from this. It also provides you with potentially a last opportunity to change the employees mind if you so wish.

When the interview is complete it is important to thank the employee for their time and sharing their experiences, which you will look at and wish them well for the future.

After the interview look at the answers and think properly – detached and objective – about what their meaning and implications are. You then need to take appropriate action and feed the information back to your management team.