How to Perform an Exit Interview

How to Perform an Exit Interview

Good employees quit sometimes. When an employee quits, it’s important to conduct an exit interview to learn why. It can be difficult to hear criticism about your company, but you can learn from that employee and make changes to keep the rest of your employees.

Exit interviews are essential to increase your employee retention – it’s better financially to keep the employees you have than to hire and train new employees.

An exit interview shouldn’t be the first time you discover problems, so give your employees ample opportunities to voice their concerns. However, committed employees may withhold complaints and concerns to avoid problems, so an employee who’s leaving is a wealth of information.

Benefits of Exit Interviews

When you conduct an exit interview, you’ll have the opportunity to learn how well your business is doing, from an employee’s perspective.

  • You’ll learn how your managers are doing. There’s an old phrase, “People quit their boss, not their job.” During an exit interview, you may learn that you or your managers are too overbearing or have poor management styles that have crept into other areas of the business.
  • You’ll discover whether your employees are confident in your business. You might learn that your employees are losing confidence in your business.
  • You’ll learn whether there are employee growth opportunities. Employees often leave because they don’t feel like there are enough opportunities for growth, including promotions, raises, and continuing education.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to repair bridges. Exit interviews are an opportunity to make peace with the employee. By letting the employee air their grievances, you’re making sure the problems don’t escalate and that the employee doesn’t spread their negativity to other employees.
  • You’ll gather important information for changing your company. After the exit interview, you can make changes to address the concerns of the employee. The changes can include improving employee recruitment to ensure new employees are a good fit, changing the training and education programs, or working toward changing the workplace culture.

Ideally, employees will view an exit interview as an opportunity to be honest and open about their experiences. However, they may make unhelpful or hurtful remarks, so you’ll have to be careful how to respond. You should look at an exit interview as a learning opportunity for you and your company.

How to Perform an Exit Interview

Schedule the interview with enough time to review the employee’s file and for the employee to collect their thoughts and prepare any questions. Exit interviews typically happen a week or two before or after an employee has left. If the employee leaves on good terms, and is willing, consider holding the exit interview a few months after they’ve left – this gives them time to compare their experiences with your company to their new position.

Choose a non-threatening location that’s away from prying eyes and ears, and explain that the employee won’t face any negative consequences for speaking honestly.

You’ll want to keep the conversation friendly and casual – you’re there to learn, not criticize. Try not to interrupt or be defensive, no matter what the employee says. The only exception would be if the employee starts naming people; try to gently steer them away from those conversations.

Don’t trust your own memory – take extensive notes throughout the interview.

Be sure to ask follow-up questions, especially if you’re unsure what the employee meant. You’re there as an interpreter, so give them the chance to elaborate to uncover the real problems.

Start the interview with soft, open-ended questions so that the employee feels comfortable, and be prepared to discuss when they’ll receive their last paycheck and payment for any accrued benefits.

Sample Questions to Ask

You’ll also want to start and end the conversation on a positive note.

  • What did you enjoy most about working here?
  • What has been your overall experience with the company and your team?
  • Would you recommend a friend to work for us? Why or why not?
  • What could use improvement? How would you improve it?
  • Did you share your concerns with anyone in the company prior to this? What was the response?
  • Why did you start looking for a new job?
  • What does your new job offer that we don’t?
  • Did you feel that management gave you enough feedback and support?
  • Were you comfortable talking to management?
  • Did you feel like your ideas and opinions were valued?
  • Were there policies or requirements that made your job difficult to do?
  • Did you feel you were part of the company’s mission and goals?
  • Did you receive enough on-the-job training?
  • What are the key qualities and characteristics we should look for in your replacement?
  • Do you have any comments that could help us become a better company?

Next Steps

After the interview, you’ll have to decide what to do with the information you’ve gathered. The information is useless if you don’t follow up with action. Not all the information you gather will result in changes, so schedule meetings with your other employees to discuss the issues brought up to determine which areas need the most change.