What is an exit interview?
An exit interview (also known as termination or separation interview) is an interview conducted with an employee who is leaving a company.
Conducting a structured interview with a departing employee is an important, but often overlooked part of offboarding process.
Conducting a structured interview with a departing employee will help you understand why your employees are leaving and what can you do to improve your retention rate and company culture.
Exit interviews are a great method for gaining valuable, actionable insights which will help you attract and retain top talent.
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Exit interviews should be conducted with all employees who leave the company, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
In other words, you should conduct exit interviews with employees who voluntarily terminate their employment with your company, as well as with employees that you fire.
Why should you conduct exit interviews?
A well planned and executed exit interviews are a very powerful HR tool, used by an overwhelming majority of top companies.
Research conducted by Burke Incorporated shows that:
91% of the Fortune 500 companies conduct exit interviews.
If done right, exit interviews will help you assess the overall experience an employee has had with your company.
Hence, you will be able to discover bottlenecks and identify opportunities to improve your retention rates and company culture.
Here are the top 4 benefits of conducting exit interviews:
Benefit #1: Cut turnover costs
Exit interviews are an employer’s unique chance to find out why their employees are leaving.
During exit interviews, employers can obtain valuable data regarding the employee's working experience and identify factors that could enhance retention rates.
By enhancing their company’s retention rates, employers will save a significant amount of money associated with high employee turnover.
Benefit #2: Enhance recruiting
Exit interviews are extremely useful not only for retaining but also for attracting employees.
They provide employers with a unique opportunity to find out what swayed their employees to accept a job offer from another company.
By using the obtained information, employers can adjust and improve their employee value proposition and use it as a magnet for attracting new talent.
Benefit #3: Provide closure
Exit interviews are important because they provide closure both for employer and employees.
An exit interview allows leaving employees and employer a chance to properly close their existing relationship, without leaving any loose ties.
An ideal exit interview will leave both employee and the employer feeling good about their working experience together and allow them to end their relationship on a positive note.
Benefit #4: Prevent legal issues
Exit interviews are also important because they provide an opportunity to arrange all legal issues before an employee leaves a company.
By reminding employees about their obligations with the company, such as a covenant not to compete, invention and patent policies and maintaining trade secrets, an employer can minimize the likelihood of potential legal problems and lawsuits.
How to conduct exit interviews?
Here are my top 5 tips for conducting effective employee exit interviews:
Tip #1: Conduct exit interviews in person
Although exit interviews can be conducted via written or online surveys, over the phone, through chat or email, the best practice is to conduct them in person.
Exit interviews conducted in person are more effective because they allow for a direct, two-way conversation.
In other words, the interviewer will be able to read an employee’s body language and ask follow up questions in order to get the most out of these interviews.
Tip #2: Make the exit interview one-on-one
Make sure you conduct an exit interview in a private setting, one-on-one - just an interviewer and a departing employee.
Conducting an exit interview in a public setting or in a panel style interview with multiple interviewers can be intimidating for your departing employees.
As a result, they might close up and restrain from answering your questions in a direct and honest way.
Tip #3: Create a comfortable atmosphere
The key to a successful exit interview is to ensure all the required conditions for an open, honest conversation.
Assure your leaving employee that everything they say will be confidential and anonymous.
That way, you will create an atmosphere in which employees who are leaving will feel comfortable and safe to state their opinions and share their feelings freely.
Tip #4: Explain the purpose of the exit interview
Explain the purpose of the exit interview to the leaving employee right at the beginning of the interview.
State clearly that you conduct these interviews in order to make positive changes and improve your company culture.
Ask for their help and highlight how much you’d value their honesty and constructive feedback.
Tip #5: Be consistent
My final tip for conducting exit interviews is to be consistent. What do I mean by that?
Ask all your leaving employees the same set of predetermined exit interview questions.
That way, you will be able to compare the answers you get much easier, notice recurring topics and detect trends.
Who should conduct exit interviews?
The best practice is to have your Human Resources specialist conducting the exit interviews. Human Resources professionals are usually trained in conducting interviews and have the right skills and appropriate experience.
However, small companies usually don’t have a dedicated HR professional who could conduct an exit interview. In this case, the company should appoint someone other than the leaving employee’s direct supervisor to conduct the exit interview.
The supervisor's relationship with the employee often influences the leaving employee’s willingness to give honest feedback.
For example, a bad relationship with a supervisor might be the reason why an employee decided to leave the company.
In the case when a supervisor and employee have a great relationship, a leaving employee can restrain from providing honest feedback in order to ensure that their relationship with their supervisor will end on a positive note.
Finally, here is my most important tip for choosing the right person to conduct an exit interview in your company:
Make sure that the person you choose to conduct an exit interview is perceived by a leaving employee as fair, objective and interested to hear what the employee has to say.
Exit interview questions examples
Here is my selection of the best and most commonly used exit interview question examples:
What did you like most about your job?
What did you dislike the most about your job?
How would you describe your relationship with your supervisor?
How enjoyable was to work with your colleagues?
Were you happy with your pay, benefits and other incentives?
What prompted you to start looking for another job?
What made you accept another job offer?
Would you recommend our company to your friend as a great place to work?
What could be done to make this company a better place to work?
What skills and qualifications do you think we should look for in your replacement?
➡️ If you’re looking for more great exit interview question examples, check out our Complete list of the best exit interview questions.
What to do after the exit interviews?
After you've successfully conducted an exit interview, it is time to go through your notes, summarize the results and scrutinize the collected data.
A careful examination of your leaving employee’s answers will give you insights into what your company is doing well and what needs to change if you want to keep your best employees.
Use the gathered data in order to make your company a better place to work.
When you identify recurring problematic issues and bottlenecks, devise an action plan to address and improve your retention strategies.
Conducting exit interviews is a total waste of time if it isn’t followed by implementing a concrete, actionable plan for improvement!
Final thoughts on exit interviews
Exit interviews are a very useful HR tool for gaining valuable insights into a company’s ability to attract and retain the best employees.
However, you shouldn’t rely on exit interviews as the only source of information about employee experience in your company.
You should conduct recurring employee interviews, check-ins and surveys in order to get feedback and obtain data on employee experience, job satisfaction, employee engagement and employee retention in your company.
Here are some useful resources to help you get started with these useful HR practices:
- Employee attitude survey questions
- Employee engagement survey questions
- Employee retention survey questions
- Employee satisfaction survey questions.
Conducting these surveys on regular basis will ensure that you obtain all the relevant information on time to act upon it.
That way, you’ll have enough time to intervene and fix the relationships and working condition at your company in order to keep your employees happy and engaged - and far away from exit interviews in the first place!