What is An Exit Interview? The Employers Guide

exit interview data

In this guide we will explore the purpose and benefits of conducting exit interviews and best practices when analyzing the results of these interviews.

What is an exit interview?

An employee exit interview is a meeting between an employer or HR representative and a departing employee, typically conducted on the employee's last day or shortly after that. The exit interview aims to gather feedback from the departing employee about their experiences working for the company and identify any issues or concerns they may have had. The information gathered in an exit interview can help organizations identify areas for improvement and make necessary changes to retain top talent in the future.

During an exit interview, the employer or HR representative typically asks questions related to the employee's job satisfaction, reasons for leaving, and feedback on company policies and procedures. The interview can be in-person, over the phone, or via an online survey. The information gathered in the exit interview is often kept confidential and used to improve the organization's employee retention rates and identify trends or patterns in employee turnover.

Why are exit interviews and surveys important?

The hiring process can be expensive and take a long time. In the end, if you hire employees who will only stay with your own company's success for a short time, then:

  • It's a waste of time and recruitment money
  • Everyone leaves with a little bit of company knowledge
  • Detractors may also leave, hurting the reputation of your company

You can also gain valuable insight from departing employees by allowing them to give honest feedback.

The percentage of all employees leaving who complete an exit interview is typically about one-third. Employers would benefit from encouraging all leavers to participate in exit surveys, given the potential for rich information generated by exit and ex-employee surveys.

It is a means to an end to conduct an exit survey. The goal is not to keep the employee from leaving. It's also about learning how to use it to improve management practices, retain talent, and ultimately increase the company's organizational performance by preventing bad hires. Investing time, energy, and care into discovering why people leave is worthwhile to minimize future attrition.

What are the benefits of exit interviews?

Exit interviews can provide many benefits for organizations. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Identifying problems: Exit interviews can help employers identify issues within the company that may have contributed to an employee's decision to leave. This information can be used to improve the company's policies, procedures, and culture, which can help to retain future employees.

  • Gathering feedback: Exit interviews provide an opportunity for departing employees to provide honest feedback about their experiences with the company, including their job satisfaction, work environment, and management. This feedback can be used to identify improvement areas and address any issues causing a turnover.

  • Retaining top talent: By identifying and addressing issues that may be causing employees to leave, exit interviews can help organizations retain top talent. This can save the company time and money on recruiting, training, and onboarding new employees.

    Useful Read: What is Talent Management in HR? An in Depth Look

  • Improving employer branding: By showing that the company values its employees and is committed to making improvements based on feedback, exit interviews can help improve its employer branding. This can make the company more attractive to job seekers and help to attract top talent.

    Useful Read: The Great Place to Work Certification: The Employers Guide

  • Providing closure: Exit interviews can give departing employees a sense of closure and allow them to express any concerns or feedback before leaving the company. It can help to leave a positive final impression and maintain a positive relationship with the departing employee.

Three common mistakes made during exit interviews

Unposed group of creative business people in an open concept office brainstorming their next project.-3

We must avoid common mistakes when conducting an exit interview, as with everything else in life. As a rule, this is to avoid turning these sessions into box-ticking exercises. Here are some of the most common mistakes:

Confusion with other conversations

The exit interview should be set apart from other offboarding elements. Standard exit interview questions and interviews must not be included in the dismissal meeting, which should be held in a witness's presence and as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Moreover, they are not part of the handover process with colleagues and supervisors. Exit interviews lose their confidential, open character when incorporated into other discussions and objectives (the same characteristic that makes them useful for HR).

Involving supervisors

A direct or indirect supervisor should not be involved in an exit interview. An exit interview is anything but a final discussion with your co-worker or boss, even if it's described that way. Ideally, it would be a bit of small talk; at worst, a score-settling dispute.

Ideally, you should conduct exit interviews with someone from HR. Otherwise, you will receive anything but honest and constructive feedback.

Violating confidentiality

The HR department should evaluate the findings. It is important that supervisors and management only receive anonymized, summarized information.

It might be hard to anonymize meeting notes in smaller companies, where it is rare for employees to leave, so emailing meeting notes might seem logical. It's best to avoid this at all costs!

The best course of action is to deal with the anger of the former employee rather than releasing confidential criticism through exit interviews, which may cause them to never speak honestly with you again.

Why do companies conduct exit interviews?

Companies conduct exit interviews for several reasons, including:

To gain insight into the reasons for employee turnover: Exit interviews provide an opportunity for companies to understand the reasons why employees are leaving.

This information can help companies identify patterns and trends in turnover and take steps to address any underlying issues.

To improve retention rates: By understanding why employees are leaving, companies can take steps to improve their workplace culture, policies, and benefits to help retain their best employees.

To identify areas for improvement: Exit interviews can provide valuable feedback on the company's leadership, management, and overall workplace culture.

This feedback can be used to identify areas for improvement and implement changes that benefit current and future employees.

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How to use exit interviews to improve performance?

Exit interviews can also provide performance feedback, an unexpected benefit. You can identify potential flaws in your processes and revamp your system by interviewing exiting employees and discovering personal reasons why they quit.

Additionally, exit interviews provide your human resources department with valuable feedback and insight into ways to improve performance management in the future.

The following ways can help exit interviews pinpoint improvement areas:


New hires should experience a positive onboarding experience during their first week at the job opportunity at the company.

When you ask colleagues about their exit interview, you can discover if they feel they were left to their own devices or were not supported adequately in their early days at their new job.

Getting the work-life balance right

A post-pandemic work environment is more hybrid, which makes exit interviews a valuable tool for gauging whether your company is flexible (or not) and supporting a healthy work-life balance.

When departing employees claim inflexibility negatively impacted their job morale or decreased employee engagement, it's time to consider evolving into a modern organization's culture.

Company culture

You can uncover patterns in the data by analyzing company culture in exit interviews. Does the workplace have toxic behavior? Is the work schedule to demanding at your company? Do teams have enough cohesion? Is there a personal reason for the employee choosing departure?

Management quality

'People don't quit jobs. They quit managers,' so goes the saying. Through exit interviews, managers can reveal how they interacted with their employees, communicated with them, supported them, and trained them.

Then you can develop your managers using 360-degree programs, making them more likely to stay with employees who leave your company.

Exit interview tips and best practices

Here are some tips and best practices for simplifying your exit interview process.

What to say at an exit interview

Correct phrasing of questions and responses is crucial for obtaining the results you seek from an exit interview.

It is essential to ask open-ended questions since they allow for more personal responses that are impossible to get with closed-ended questions.

Let the candidate know that you are seeking honest answers and receive constructive feedback and that their responses will not affect future references at the company.

The interviewer should respond to targeted questions and be allowed to lead the conversation if they feel comfortable.

Let's not let the questionnaire rule us.

It is necessary to keep a list of questions for the exit interview. However, you can gain valuable information and insights even if your questionnaire doesn't specifically address them.

It would help to let the interviewee lead the discussion with the questions but not cut them off when the response leads to other relevant topics.

The organic conversation may reveal some of the most unexpected (and valuable) information for you.

Following up on the interview

You don't have to end the conversation after the employee leaves the initial exit interview. It's best to interview near the employee's last day, but you can still follow up afterward.

Some people might be unable to answer so close to their last day or change their answers when they move on to a new position.

You can also follow up with a call or email if management finds some of the answers helpful.

Keep the pressure off.

Tell your current employees that this is a feedback interview so you can get honest feedback and valuable insights.

Please clarify that their negative feedback wouldn't have repercussions. Your soon-to-be former employee will be able to answer all questions truthfully and fully by maintaining a relaxed, casual atmosphere.

In addition to providing a relaxed work environment, ensure the employee does not feel outnumbered.

How to conduct a successful exit interview

Two  colleages discussing ideas using a tablet and computer

Conducting a successful exit interview is an important part of the employee offboarding process. Here are some best practices to follow when conducting an effective exit interview:

Prepare in advance

Before conducting an exit interview, it's essential to prepare in advance. It includes creating a list of questions to ask during the exit interview template and reviewing the employee's personnel file and job description to ensure you clearly understand their role and responsibilities. Preparing in advance will ensure that the interview is structured and efficient.

Choose the right interviewer.

It's important to choose the right interviewer for the exit interview. Select someone skilled at active listening, empathetic, and able to remain neutral and non-judgmental throughout the interview.

The interviewer should be someone the current position departing employee trusts and feels comfortable speaking with.

Create a comfortable setting.

Choose a quiet and private location for the interview. This can be an office or meeting room. Create a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere to encourage open and honest communication. Offer the employee a drink or snack and ensure they feel at ease before the interview.

Ask open-ended questions

Ask open-ended questions that encourage the other employee's answer and to which other employees share their thoughts and feelings in their own words.

Avoid asking leading questions that could bias the employee's responses. Examples of open-ended questions include:

  • What did you enjoy most about working here?
  • What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your time here?
  • What suggestions do you have for improving the company?

Listen carefully

Listen carefully to the employee's responses and ask follow-up questions to understand their experiences and concerns better.

Use active listening techniques, such as summarizing and clarifying, to ensure you know what the employee says. Avoid interrupting or arguing with the employee, and remain neutral and non-judgmental throughout the interview.

Thank the employee for their feedback

Thank the employee for their time and feedback, and let them know that their input is valued and will be considered.

Provide the employee with information on how to stay in touch with the company, and wish them well in their career change or path and future endeavors.

Analyze the results

After conducting the exit interview:

  • Analyze the results to identify common themes and areas for improvement.
  • Share the findings with management and use the information to change a corporate culture that benefits current and former team members and future employees.
  • Consider keeping the employee's feedback anonymous to encourage more honest responses in future exit interviews.


In conclusion, exit interviews are essential for organizations to gather feedback and insights from departing employees.

By conducting exit interviews in a thoughtful and empathetic manner, organizations can gain valuable information on areas for improvement and make changes that benefit current and future employees.

Organizations can improve retention rates, boost employee satisfaction, and create a more positive and productive work environment by prioritizing employee feedback and taking action based on their insights.

Topic: Interview
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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