Exit Interviews

Don’t treat it like a box-ticker

Never bothered with exit interviews? You could be making a big mistake.

First and foremost, they are an ideal opportunity for you to learn where improvements can be made within your organisation. Don’t pass it up.

Although not everyone you’re involved in is likely to change the face of your company dramatically, finding out how soon-to-depart staff really feel about your organisation could help improve company culture, working environment, and even internal systems. And it could contribute to staff retention along the way.

 Don’t be defensive

To get the most out of an exit interview, you need to be open to criticism.

Exit interviews give you the opportunity to uncover real feedback (as opposed to the prompted answers you might see in internal surveys, for example).

Real feedback can often come with a not-unhealthy dose of criticisms, which, if not fully embraced, should at least be carefully heard and taken on board.

Getting defensive or contradicting your leaver’s concerns will only make things more uncomfortable for everyone involved.


No matter how shy or retiring the exiting employee is, try and encourage them to take the lead.

Resist the temptation to over-prompt or second-guess their answers.

The best exit interviews are like confidential conversations, and the more you loosen the reigns and let the other party speak, the more it will benefit your business in the long run.

Listen to every word they have to say and make notes where possible. Trust us, it’ll be worth it.

Have a clear idea of your questions

Always ensure that you’ve thoroughly prepared for proceedings as much as possible. Getting your questions ready in advance will help everything run smoothly.

Try and ask open questions, wherever possible, to allow for flowing discussing and avoid a reliance on the ‘who’. The ‘why’ is far more important.

Good questions to ask at an exit interview include:

  • What is your main reason for leaving?
  • What are the positives of your new role?
  • What could we have done that may have convinced you to stay?
  • How did you find communication within your team?
  • Would you consider coming back to work with us, if the situation were right?

Have the right people there

Always ensure you pick the right personnel to help carry out proceedings.

Having an HR representative or Head of Personnel present, for example, is definitely a wise move.

However, if you’re considering bringing anyone who worked closely with the leaving party into proceedings, approach with caution.

Not only could they have a difficult or fractured relationship you’re unaware of, they also have current links to a former team member. If confidentiality being compromised is even remotely in jeopardy, it’s probably best to keep the numbers down.

Use their knowledge

Never underestimate the importance of an outgoing employee. The knowledge they have of the industry, the personal connections they’ve made and the challenges they’ve faced doing the job day in, day out could be invaluable when it comes to making sure their replacement settles in.

Encourage staff members to talk through their hangovers in more depth, covering everything off so you can monitor its effectiveness.

Most soon-to-be-ex-employees are more than happy to share their infinite wisdom, and it can often lead to a more positive and relaxed environment for the interview as a whole.

 Think about how they affect your current employees

People leaving in acrimonious circumstances is never a good look, especially if they still have friends left on your payroll.

The more compassionate and empathetic you are, the more likely it is that your current staff will view the process favorably. The more favorably everyone views the process, the more likely it is that subsequent interviews will provide you with proper feedback. It’s a win-win situation.

Learn from them

Finally, whatever the outcome of an exit interview, don’t bury your head in the sand.

It’s all very well letting your staff members say their piece as they walk out the door, but without properly acting on the feedback you receive, you’re missing out on a vital opportunity to make your organisation better.

Perhaps more importantly, don’t be satisfied with restricting your learnings to exit interviews. Try and position your company as approachable and open to feedback as possible in everyday working life, whether it’s with regular surveys and questionnaires, or even informal forums to get issues out in the open.

Remember: if you’re only asking someone’s reasons for leaving as they walk out the door, then it’s already too late. Don’t lose good members of staff by treating their opinions as an afterthought.