Exit Interviews: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Exit Interviews

Employees who leave your company—whether they resign or are discharged—often know a lot about your business and your workplace. A final sit-down with these employees can prove useful to your company going forward so you may want to consider conducting exit interviews.     

The Purpose of Exit Interviews

While there are a variety of reasons to conduct exit interviews, each can contribute to the improvement of your business. In that way, the interviews can play an extremely valuable role in the growth of a company.

The following are some of the benefits of exit interviews:
  • Gain a better understanding about what works well at your company, and what needs improvement
  • Learn how to increase productivity out of the departing employee’s position
  • Solicit feedback on your competitive standing in the marketplace, including salary, benefits packages, and rewards programs
  • Identify problem areas and ways to minimize workplace conflict
  • Allow a discharged employee to “let off steam” and potentially lower the likelihood of a lawsuit
  • Reduce turnover

Some companies don’t conduct exit interviews of involuntarily terminated employees. Although the emotions associated with an involuntary termination can make an exit interview difficult, these meetings may also shed light on ways to prevent a termination in the future.

Who Should Conduct the Exit Interview?

The personnel in charge of the exit interview can depend on many factors like your size, the nature of the termination, and the skills of your various employees. Typically, however, a manager, supervisor, or HR personnel conduct the interview.

  • Employers with set procedures and less interest in a conversational meeting with the employee (e.g. limiting employee feedback to a questionnaire) may only have their human resources representative conduct the exit meeting.
  • Employers interested in structural feedback, such as ways to improve the productivity of the position, may want a manager or direct supervisor to conduct the interview.
  • Unique circumstances may call for a different game plan. Management knows the makeup of its workforce better than any one set of rules so if you have a manager or supervisor who is particularly skilled in defusing conflict or making a positive connection with staff, selecting this person to conduct the exit interview may achieve better results.  
When and Where to Conduct the Exit Interview

You’ll want to schedule the exit interviews close to the end of an employee’s time with your company, ideally on the last day or two of employment. If possible, you should conduct the exit interview in person, which will most likely be in the workplace. However, the meeting should take place in a private space where the departing employee can feel comfortable that the conversation will be, and remain, confidential. 

What Questions to Ask

To get the most value out of exit interviews, prepare questions in advance that will give you the insight you’re looking for. Topics to cover during the interviews include:

  • The reasons for the employee’s departure
  • The departing employee’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with corporate compensation, benefits, and working conditions
  • Problems an employee may have had balancing personal and work life
  • Problems an employee may have had with co-workers or managers
  • Whether the employee feels he or she was treated fairly
  • Changes employees would choose to make to their jobs
  • Whether employees feel the supervision and training they received were satisfactory
  • Whether employees feel they had adequate opportunities for career development and advancement

Be careful to avoid questions that encourage negativity, such as asking about other people or workplace gossip. For help preparing your questions, download a checklist of questions to ask for voluntary or involuntary terminations.

How to Use the Feedback

Once you have the results from an exit interview, share relevant feedback with the departing employee’s supervisor and look for trends that could signal an issue in the organization that should be addressed before they impact the workplace culture.

For assistance with terminations or other challenging HR issues, contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 888.909.6596.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

HR Cast