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An exit interview is the last meeting between a departing employee and employer. During an exit interview, the person leaving the business sits down with the person who either did the hiring or a member of the Human Resources team. This way, the business can learn about their reasons for departure.

What is the purpose of an exit interview?

All employees, whether they are leaving by choice or have been asked to leave, should participate in an exit interview. Employees should be able to provide honest feedback so that employers can use this candid information to their advantage. 

It’s important for a business to learn how to increase employee retention, create a better experience for current employees, and find out why an employee has chosen to move on. 

Some issues that may come up during this meeting may include any existing conflicts with colleagues. Employees may also ask about the continuation of their benefits, payment owed, and accrued vacation time. 

What makes them so important?

An exit interview is likely the most valuable place to get honest employee criticism as it comes from someone who is no longer afraid that it will affect their employment status. 

It provides businesses opportunities to receive constructive criticism about their work culture and work morale, an opportunity for growth, any inefficient processes and bad management, as well as general workplace happiness and improvement in problem areas.

By performing consistent exit interviews, employers will be able to notice trends and implement change to avoid high turnovers and improve employee retention. 

In addition to enhancing current company culture, exit interviews also offer opportunities to align new recruits’ expectations with actual job roles through feedback about job expectations versus reality. Employers should use this feedback as job posting tips, rewriting and restructuring roles to improve the future employee experience.

Addressing issues proactively

It's important to be proactive about any lawsuits or negative publicity that could come from disgruntled employee experience. This is the time to remind employees of any non-compete or confidentiality agreements and to return any company property.

If a Human Resources director is conducting the interview, it's important that copies of the interview feedback are given to the management doing the replacement hiring and the senior supervisors in the business who can implement cultural changes deemed necessary from the interview. 

The exit interview shouldn’t just sit in a drawer unused, although it's important to keep a copy in storage in case any backlash or legal issues arise.

Remember: exit interviews aren’t meant to be uncomfortable or to make a departing member of the team feel bad and guilt them into staying. Instead, it's an opportunity for a business to learn through open-ended questions on how they can improve the work environment for current and future employees. 

Sample Interview Questions:

Instead of asking an employee broadly what they did or didn’t like about their experience at a company, use more specific questions to guide the conversation and to get the most out of the exit interview. 

A company’s questions should be standardized as much as possible in order to ensure useful and successful results, with obvious additions and detractions for specific circumstances. Here are a few examples of helpful questions to ask in an exit interview:

  • Why are you leaving?

  • Why did you begin looking for a new job?

  • What was the biggest factor that led you to accept this new job?

  • What does your new employer offer you that made you decide to leave?

  • Did you feel that you were well-equipped to do your job?

  • Did your job and/or our business deliver what we promised when we hired you?

  • What was your relationship with the manager like?

  • What did you like most about your job? What did you like the least?

  • What was your best or worst day on the job?

  • What three things could your manager/our business do to improve?

  • What could have been done for you to remain employed here?

  • If you had a friend looking for a job, would you recommend us?

  • What skills and qualifications do you think we need to look for in your replacement?

  • Are there any other unresolved issues or additional comments?

Final Thoughts

If your employee was a valuable team member, don't forget to add a recommendation for them on Localwise. In doing so, you're not only helping your former employee, but you're strengthening your networking relationships. 

It’s important that the departing employee leaves an exit interview feeling appreciated and heard, and that they have encouragement going forward with their next career move. The interviewer should walk away with ideas about how to improve the role and the business to better the experience for the next hire.

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