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The complete guide to making exit interviews work for you
Employee Engagement

The complete guide to making exit interviews work for you

Palak Jamuar
April 3, 2024

People always say “don’t burn bridges”, a piece of advice that holds even more weight in the professional realm. But when an employee is leaving, for an organization it’s more than just “not burning bridges and ending things on a happy note”. Exit interviews, often underestimated, provide a chance to understand why employees leave and how to enhance the workplace for those who stay.

In this guide, we'll delve into how to make exit interviews a productive tool for your organization. From setting the right tone to effectively analyzing feedback, discover how you can leverage exit interviews to positively impact your organization's future.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a meeting between a departing employee and their employer, usually conducted by a member of the HR team. The purpose of this conversation is to reflect on the employee's time with the company, providing a platform for them to share insights about their experience. This feedback is crucial for the employer, as it sheds light on aspects of the workplace environment, culture, and operational processes from the unique perspective of someone who is leaving. . This feedback can be invaluable for making improvements and reducing future turnover.

During the exit interview, topics might range from the reasons behind the employee’s decision to leave, their thoughts  on the company culture, their relationships with management, and any suggestions for improvement. While it can be a bit daunting, it's a great opportunity for the employee to offer constructive feedback and leave on a positive note, potentially influencing positive changes even after they've moved on.

How to conduct an exit interview?

Conducting an effective exit interview involves a thoughtful and open conversation to gather valuable feedback from departing employees. Here's a step-by-step guide:

1. Prepare in advance

Before the exit interview, get to know how the employee worked and check their feedback. Look at performance reviews to understand how they've been doing. This helps you be ready for the talk, making it easier to discuss their experience and concerns.

2. Create a comfortable environment

Select a quiet, private spot for confidentiality in the exit interview. Create a comfy setting to encourage open talk. This helps maintain professionalism while making the departing employee feel at ease to share their thoughts openly.

3. Build rapport

Building rapport in an exit interview is vital. It helps departing employees feel comfortable sharing honest feedback and also helps build positive connections that influence future relationships and the company's reputation.

4. Assure confidentiality

Reassure them that their feedback is crucial, and confidentiality is a priority. This commitment encourages employees to share candidly, fostering an environment for genuine insights that contribute to positive organizational enhancements.

5. Express gratitude

Express sincere appreciation for the departing employee's candor and valuable insights during the exit interview. Emphasize that their feedback holds significant importance and will actively contribute to fostering positive changes within the organization.

6. Follow-up and action

Following the exit interview, share a summary of the feedback with relevant stakeholders.

Why are exit interviews important?

Exit interviews are a crucial step in the employee departure process, offering a unique opportunity for both the employer and the departing employee to share and gain valuable insights. They serve as a bridge for communication that can lead to meaningful changes within the company, benefiting both current and future employees. Understanding the significance of these meetings can help both parties make the most out of this experience.

For the employer:

  • Insights for improvement: Employers get a candid look at their company's culture, environment, and processes from an outgoing employee's viewpoint, providing a clear path for making necessary adjustments and improvements.
  • Reducing turnover: By understanding the reasons behind an employee's departure, a company can address underlying issues, ultimately helping to lower turnover rates and retain talent.
  • Strengthen company culture: Insights into the company culture from an exiting employee's perspective can guide adjustments to create a more inclusive and engaging workplace. This can lead to increased employee morale and a stronger, more cohesive team dynamic.

For the employee:

  • Opportunity for constructive feedback: Exiting employees can offer honest feedback about their experience, suggest improvements, and share positive aspects of their tenure, contributing to the company's growth and helping to shape a better workplace for their peers.
  • Professional growth: Reflecting on their time at the company allows employees to articulate their achievements and areas of growth, which can be valuable for future roles.
  • Leave on a positive note: By expressing gratitude for the opportunity and offering constructive criticism, employees can maintain positive relationships and a professional network with their former employer.

Top 10 questions to ask in an exit interview

  1. What prompted you to start looking for a new job?
  2. What was your relationship like with your manager?
  3. What did you like most about your job?
  4. Did you feel recognized for your contributions?
  5. Did you feel equipped to do your job well?
  6. How would you like to describe the culture of your company?
  7. Did you feel recognized for your contributions?
  8. What could have been done for you to stay with the company?
  9. What would you like to change about your job or company?
  10. Do you have any suggestions for improving the team dynamics and morale?

What are some tips to answer exit interview questions?

  1. Express gratitude for the opportunity and highlight positive aspects of your experience.
  2. Provide constructive feedback focusing on specific instances rather than general criticism.
  3. Be honest about your reasons for leaving, but offer suggestions for improvement
  4. Avoid speaking negatively about colleagues or management to maintain professionalism
  5. Highlight any challenges faced and offer solutions or recommendations for addressing them.
  6. Remember the purpose of the exit interview is to provide valuable feedback for company improvement.
  7. End on a positive note by expressing appreciation and well wishes for the company's success.

What are the different types of exit interviews?

Each type has its pros and cons, so choosing the right one depends on company culture, resources, and goals. Regardless of the method, exit interviews play a crucial role in understanding employee experiences and improving retention strategies.

1. Standard exit interviews

In standard exit interviews, departing employees complete structured questionnaires to gauge job satisfaction, reasons for leaving, and suggestions for improvement. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, 70% of companies use this method to gather valuable feedback and enhance employee retention strategies, such as offering better benefits or addressing workplace concerns.

2. Informal conversations

Informal conversations create a laid-back setting for employees to openly share feedback without pressure. For instance, according to a survey by Glassdoor, 80% of employees feel more comfortable discussing concerns in informal settings, fostering honest communication and valuable insights to improve workplace dynamics.

3. Focus group sessions

In focus group sessions, departing employees convene to delve into their experiences, fostering deeper insights and shared perspectives. For example, a study by SHRM found that 90% of organizations use focus groups to gather qualitative data, enabling a comprehensive understanding of employee sentiments and organizational strengths and weaknesses.

4. Stay interviews

Stay interviews are conducted proactively before employees depart, aiming to uncover potential issues early and motivate them to remain with the company. Research by Gallup reveals that organizations conducting stay interviews experience a 20% increase in employee retention, showcasing the effectiveness of this proactive approach in retaining talent.

5. Third-party interviews

Third-party interviews involve external professionals conducting interviews to guarantee impartial feedback and uphold confidentiality standards. For instance, a survey by SHRM indicates that 65% of organizations use third-party interviews to gather unbiased insights, ensuring a fair assessment of employee experiences and concerns.


To sum up, exit interviews can be a valuable tool for both employers and employees alike. By approaching them with openness and honesty, companies can gather valuable feedback to improve their workplace culture and retention strategies. For departing employees, it's a chance to provide constructive criticism and leave on a positive note. In essence, communication is key. By actively listening and addressing concerns, companies can foster a culture of trust and continuous improvement. So, whether you're on the giving or receiving end of an exit interview, embrace the opportunity for growth and collaboration. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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