Exit interviews: A gold mine  

When an employee chooses to leave your organisation, the most burning question is why? The exit interview is there to answer that and many other questions for you to get very valuable insight into your operations and culture. It’s a gold mine of data for you to analyse and action.


What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a meeting between an employee and organisation to discuss the employees’ reasons for leaving.


Some organisations hold multiple interviews, while others don’t hold any at all. The interviews range from formal to casual, depending on the organisation.


It’s important to understand that the employee leaving might say things that are not true and that they might be leaving because of their own mistakes but about 90% of the time there are some hard truths to learn from an exit interview.

These hard truths enable the organisation to make changes that ultimately increase employee retention. The greater goal for any company, of course, is to retain valued employees. Research has shown that high turnover predicts low performance and that an organisation with turnover lower than its competitors’ can be at a considerable advantage—particularly if it retains its top performers.


When should exit interviews be scheduled?


The moment an employee sends their resignation they should be notified that they will be doing an exit interview. The interview itself should take place just after the resignation was handed in and just before the last day of employment. For example, if it is 4 weeks from resignation to exit, then the interview should be conducted 2 weeks after resignation.


Who should conduct exit interviews?


This should preferably be done with HR (an objective party) and without their direct line manager present. 

Interviews with a second- or third-line manager present are also likely to lead to action. Second-line managers (direct supervisors’ managers) typically receive more-honest feedback because they’re one step removed from the employee. Also, these managers are in a position to follow up immediately and effectively. Their participation indicates that the company cares about the opinions of departing employees.



How should you conduct an exit interview?


Before you start the interview, thank the employee for agreeing to take part in the discussion as it is voluntary.


The setting should be informal and comfortable, not as a normal interview would be. The employee should feel free to speak and not have their guard up. The positioning of the exit interview to the employee is also very important. Tell the employee this is not a formal interview and just a chat to gather some information for the company to improve. Ensure the employee that nothing they say will be used against them and the feedback will stay anonymous. This will again create a safe space, because you want to get the most value out of that conversation and you don’t want to burn bridges, keeping good relationships is important. The last interaction with an employee is important as this is something the employee will remember and talk about to other people. This can have an influence on the employer brand.


Remember, your goal in the interview is to gather data that is as accurate and useful as possible. Let the employee take however long they need to answer questions.



What questions should be asked?

Companies should focus on six goals when asking questions in an exit interview:


  1. Uncover issues relating to HR (leave, salary, culture).
  2. Understand employees’ perceptions of the work itself (job design, working conditions, peers).
  3. Gain insight into managers’ leadership styles and effectiveness.
  4. Learn about HR benchmarks (salary, benefits) at competing organisations.
  5. Foster innovation by soliciting ideas for improving the organisation.
  6. Create lifelong advocates for the organisation.


Here are some examples of questions that could be asked:


  1. What prompted you to begin searching for another opportunity?
  2. Did you have all the tools you needed to succeed at your job?
  3. How would you describe our company culture?
  4. How would you improve employee morale?
  5. Were you comfortable talking to your manager?
  6. Did you feel your achievements were recognised throughout your employment?
  7. Do you feel your job description changed since you were hired?




Why should exit interviews take place?


Exit interviews help you to understand what you could do better as an organisation.  


You are not doing this for the sake of checking a box, you are gathering data to build and grow you organisation and to improve. Your goal is to reduce attrition and keep valuable employee and not lose talent to other companies.

Only a few companies actually collect, analyse, and share the data gained from the interview and follow up with action.

In today’s knowledge economy, skilled employees are the asset that drives organisational success. Thus, companies must learn from them—why they stay, why they leave, and how the organisation needs to change. A thought through exit-interview process can create a constant flow of feedback on all three fronts.

Get in touch


SelectONE specialises in high-tech, high-touch recruitment that is focused on achieving the organisation’s strategic goals and the employee’s personal career aspirations. We have in-depth knowledge of exit interviews and can assist you managing your talent to ensure high retention.

Contact us today.