Exit Interviews

Many organizations make one big mistake when their employees are laid off, fired, given notice, give notice, or otherwise leave abruptly. In so doing, they skip one very crucial element of the employee-employer lifecycle: the exit interview. Workforce managers can fail to recognize just how valuable a source of insider knowledge an outgoing employee can be. A properly conducted interview at the time of departure is crucial to your workforce management and employee retention efforts, which is what this blog discusses in detail.

Exit Interview Tips for Managers

You’re probably curious as to why a simple interview just prior to an employee’s departure can help your organization. While the answer depends on the specifics of the interview you conduct, a number of things hold true with nearly all exit interview questions. A good interview should be focused and the questions should be specific,  presented with a mind to add value to your workforce, culture, and remaining talent. If you use third parties to exit your personnel, you will need to ensure you’re in the loop when the staffing agency conducts the exit interview.

The Harvard Business Review published an extensive study that places the responsibility for conducting exit interviews squarely on the shoulders of Human Resources professionals. This is primarily because the interview’s core focus should be an actionable understanding as to why the employee wishes to leave your organization. When these questions are ignored, which can so easily be the case, you miss out on a significant opportunity to gain a fresh perspective into your organization, particularly from the employee’s point of view. Using the information you gather from with well-thought-out questions, you can make changes to your workplace environment, projects, and of course, how your employees perceive you.

All of these strategies contribute immensely to improving the employee turnover rate within your organization. But how do you construct a solid interview strategy? If you already have a sound strategy, how do you improve it? These four exit interview tips for employers are a good place to start:

  1. Make Anonymity the Norm
  2. Collect and Analyze Information
  3. Take Data-Driven Action
  4. Maintain a Network with Former Employees

Let’s examine these in more detail below.

Make Anonymity the Norm

The entire purpose of the interview is to make it as candid as possible, to make it easier and more comfortable for the outgoing employee to divulge information. One of the best ways you can do this is to encourage and ensure anonymity. Anonymity allows employees to speak more freely, knowing that management and leadership won’t be offered any specifics about the person commenting on them.

Unfortunately, many companies are naturally opposed to anonymity, in particular when it comes to employees working in sensitive functions. In such cases, the exit interview should be conducted by the second or third-line manager. This concept provides space to the outgoing employee, whereby he or she can speak honestly about the workplace dynamic. Since the secondary line managers usually have no direct involvement with the outgoing employee, they tend to elicit more candid comments. Additionally, since these managers have more flexibility to directly overhaul policy or company culture changes, they can take action promptly.

Collect and Analyze Information

It’s is not enough to reflect on each interview in a silo. Human Resource managers need to take a long look at the broader picture, using the information they collect to create reports and identify trends. This data will paint a clearer picture of how your employees perceive your company and what factors are inhibiting their continued stay at your organization. For example, you may notice that many of your employees leave because they were provided a better offer elsewhere. This may prompt you to look at the salaries of employees within the same paygrade and compare them to the marketplace or industry standards. You may also consider looking into whether you’re offering enough training and development opportunities as an incentive for employees to stay with your organization longterm.

Take Data-Driven Action

Accumulating and analyzing data serves a higher purpose; principally, to provide real-time guidance to leadership and management within your organization. How organizations use the data they gather varies from business to business, but there are several ways you can apply it to improve your employee retention. You can use it to update your job descriptions and make them more concrete. You might use it to make changes to your management style. You can even leverage it to revamp your workplace environment and make it more conducive to retaining employees. Just be sure that the actions you take correspond with the data  on which those actions are based

Maintain a Network with Former Employees

Don’t make the mistake of distancing yourself from former employees the moment they walk out the door. A network of company alumni is a useful means of staying in touch with your talented outgoing employees over the long term. One of the most obvious advantages of maintaining a network is that past employees can offer potential referrals; they may even rejoin your organization in the future. If you put in the effort into cultivating an alumni network, you’re likely to have a very real impact on employee perception.


While it’s important not to let the opportunity to interview outgoing employees go to waste, proactive employers also understand the importance of creating and distributing employee surveys within their active workforce. After all, you don’t have to wait for your workers to leave before soliciting their input. These surveys offer an insight into your team’s morale and outlook, both of which can help you improve your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Use all means at your disposal to increase employee satisfaction levels and head off employee turnover rates before they become a problem.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Exit interviews can have a positive impact on employee retention, but you’re still likely to have questions on the finer details. Below is a shortlist of the most commonly asked questions we get when it comes to exit interviews.

When are exit interviews conducted?

Primarily within the last two days of employment.

Who should conduct exit interviews?

Anyone other than the employee’s immediate supervisor or manager.

Are exit interviews worth it?

Yes, they offer insights into improving employee retention.

Is an exit interview confidential?

An interview can either be anonymous or with someone not directly involved with the employee.

What questions are typically asked during an exit interview?

Questions should focus on the employee’s experience and their reason for departure.

Can an employee refuse the exit interview?

Unless specified in the terms of employment, an employee can refuse an exit interview.

What HR should say in an exit interview?

The interview should reflect a positive tone and encourage employees to provide their candid and honest feedback.


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