Handwritten Exit Interview planning in a spiral-bound notebook

Parting Ways is Hard to Do, but Everyone Benefits from Exit Interviews

When an employee leaves your organization, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, do you conduct an exit interview? Companies that do are able to gather crucial organizational feedback.

Lori Cole, Customer Success Manager at iHire, says, “Exit interviews are an opportunity to get a candid assessment of your company’s work environment and culture, identify problem areas, and improve staff retention.”

Losing a critical employee can destabilize your team and be costly for your organization. According to Gallup, costs associated with replacing an employee can be as much as two times the employee’s salary, and project setbacks add to the cost. However, evidence shows that exit interviews can help with employee retention and give insight on employee turnover. They can also identify a need for additional employee training, problems at the management level, and other unknown organizational issues.

The Harvard Business Review says that employers should make exit interviews count. “[C]ompanies must learn from them—why [employees] stay, why they leave, and how the organization needs to change.”


Woman conducting an interview with another woman


How to Conduct an Exit Interview

Here’s how to get the most out of an exit interview:


1. Schedule the Interview on the Employee’s Last Day

Ideally, exit interviews should be the last thing an employee does on their last day. This gives you the ability to influence their final impression of the company (brand management). But remember to schedule the interview well in advance so you and the employee have enough time to prepare. If your schedule is tight, try to hold an exit interview no earlier than two days before the employee’s last day.


2. Select the Right Interviewer

If your organization has an HR department, let someone from HR conduct the interview. If you don’t have an HR team, assign the interview to someone other than the employee’s direct supervisor. You might not get valuable management feedback if your employee is struggling with power dynamics. If you’re having a hard time deciding who should do the interview, consider hiring an outside consultant. An interview with a neutral party will result in more honest feedback from your departing employee.


Woman interviewing a man using videoconferencing/Zoom


3. Conduct Interviews Face-to-Face (or 1:1 Zoom Meetings)

The best way to conduct an exit interview is face-to-face in a setting that makes the employee feel comfortable. Being able to see the employee’s reaction to your exit interview questions allows you to determine when and how to ask follow-up questions.

Explain that you are conducting the interview because you value your employee’s feedback (you do!). “Employees who are moving on are generally more honest and forthcoming with information than those still in their jobs,” says Cole. Make sure to keep the conversation positive to ensure open and honest dialogue.

For remote employees, choosing to conduct one-on-one interviews through Zoom (or the videoconferencing tool of your choice) is a good option. There is no place more comfortable than home,  so make the most of it.


4. Ask the Right Questions

Make sure to ask questions that probe for employee feedback on organizational operations, such as management and HR. Don’t ask questions that make the employee feel challenged or threatened, and don’t let company loyalty stop you from acknowledging criticism. Again, keep the conversation positive. This is a fact-finding mission, not an inquisition. Also, pay attention to body language and let it inform your follow-up questions.

Important exit interview questions to ask include:

  • Did you feel like this position was a good fit for your qualities/skills?
  • What prompted you to start looking for another job?
  • How was your relationship with your supervisor/team?
  • Did you have the resources you needed to perform your job?
  • How can our organization improve so that we don’t lose other valuable employees?
  • Were salary or benefits a factor in your decision to leave?

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5. Be Consistent with Your Questions

Remember, your goal in an exit interview is to get feedback that will improve your organization. Ask the same questions to every employee who quits or resigns. You can vary the script on a case-by-case basis, but make sure core questions are answered in every exit interview.


6. Act on What You Learn

Information is only as good as the actions we take. Use the data you collect in exit interviews to improve relationships with your existing employees and strengthen your employer brand. In the knowledge economy, staff retention of specialized employees is key to organizational success.

Utilizing feedback from exit interviews can help you protect your employer brand, increase retention, and solve operational issues throughout your business. For more interview tips for hiring managers, check out The Official iHire Interview Guide for Employers.


by: Jason Harless
January 06, 2021