How good are your exit interviews?

exit interviewsEmployee turnover is an unfortunate side effect of a downturn in the economy, but I wonder how many people are using exit interviews to learn about how their company can improve?

New research into an American bank reveals how they used exit interviews to considerably reduce staff turnover.

"As this case study shows, a specially designed exit interview program has helped the bank dramatically reduce its turnover rate and implement strategies to recruit and retain the right people, driving more profit to the bottom line. Conducted by certified HR professionals outside the organization to ensure candor, the exit interviews are supplemented with techniques for collecting critical information from employees who choose to stay and those who turn down offers of employment as well."

5 reasons why should you conduct exit interviews?

  1. You can make peace with disgruntled employees
  2. You send a positive message to those still working for you
  3. You get reasonable knowledge transfer
  4. You get feedback on your company and what people think of it
  5. You improve employee retention 

How to conduct a good exit interview

So we've determined that they are a useful thing to do, here are a few tips on how you can conduct a good exit interview.

  1. Be consistent.  The impact of exit assessments can be diluted if different methodologies are adopted at business unit or even departmental level.
  2. Remain impartial.  It's important that people feel confident that being candid won't burn bridges or hamper their future career in any way.  The best way to do this is to use impartial personnel to conduct the interview.
  3. Timing is key.  Most people have a month long notice period.  The best time to do the exit interview is in the 2nd/3rd week of this period as the emotion of leaving has died down a bit but they're not in the frantic final week of handovers and leaving parties.
  4. Focus.  Most interviews focus on things such as compensation or working conditions.  If you are having an open and candid exchange however then you can explore many more topics.
  5. You want actionable items.  The whole point of an exit interview is to gain actionable insight from the leaver.
  6. Connect up.  If you're undertaking other strategies for improving employee engagement make sure the exit interview ties in with them.
  7. Don't just collect the data.  Should hopefully go without saying, but you must act on this.  No point doing it otherwise.
  8. Don't forget to be sensitive.  As well as getting great insight you're also ensuring that this person leaves with a good impression of you and the company.  It's an emotional time so treat things sensitively.

How does your company deal with leavers?


It's never really occurred to me to conduct an exit interview but, as a small business, I think I've usually known why people are leaving.  This is the key issue for me, along with learning from this with a view of course to staff retention.

Out of interest, what do you do if the person leaving doesn't wish to have an exit interview?  I'd have thought this could be fairly common, particularly amongst disgruntled employees.


Most of the ones I've experienced have been a waste of time as they are only given lip service.  The leaving party doesn't want to reveal the truth for fear of repurcussions, whilst the people conducting the interviews generally do them because they have to.  So there's not really a motive to improve things, hence things don't improve.

Employees who leave companies on bad terms have no qualms about trash-talking their former employers, with as many as 75% of departing workers saying they'd advise job candidates to avoid their former companies. That's up from 42% since 2008, suggesting that companies' recessionary tactics might have taken a toll on their workforce. "They created a sense that 'the company doesn't care about me,'" consultant Brian Kropp says.

Interesting statistic Adi. I have to say that I have a bad impression of an employee that trashes their previous company.

I tend to agree Vince, but it does suggest that many companies are still not doing enough to send employees on their way in the right way.  Redundancies are inevitable, but as Gary Hamel says, if we build companies for human beings it goes a long way.

Good point Adi. I've got some real stories on this but will keep my powder dry for another day!

I recently left a job in a Public Service and was given an exit interview. Unfortunately the person who was appointed to interview me was more interested in the job that I was leaving to do rather than listen to reasons for me leaving. I think if exits interviews are part of the company culture/policy they should be used effectively.

Yes Simon, the 80/20 rule should apply if not 90/10 by the person conducting the exit interview ie 80-90 % listening. In my experience it is done by someone in HR that has no direct link to the individual from a management/peer perspective. I have to say that most of the feedback from exit interviews that I have seen have been poor with very little learnt for the future.

For me exit interviews are a waste of time.  If the employee is leaving of their own volition their mind is on the future so they're probably not wanting to help you.  By contrast, if someone was made redundant then they certainly aren't likely to.

It's much better to get feedback from people all the time rather than waiting for someone to leave.