how to master an exit iterview

Employee Exit interview – How to master it!

Even though an employee exit interview will be the last stage of your relationship with some of your employees, it may be the beginning of a good onboarding process and the perfect way to correct your mistake after receiving lots of constructive criticism from your future former employees. Terminating the relationship with your employee on good terms is always a good idea. For that reason, we have dedicated this post to give you some clues on how to master your employees’ exit interviews.

Exit interview Definition:

An exit interview is the meeting that employer and employee have during the notice period of the last one. The purpose of it is to have as honest feedback as possible in regards to the reasons for leaving, how everything works in the company and their department.

Employees tend to hold information and feedback as they might have fear about the repercussions of it in their own career or day to day routine. However, it is usual for them, if they leave the company in good terms, that they might want to help with some real and honest feedback about aspects of the business that managers or HR might not be aware.

For those reasons, it is extremely important to manage an exit interview perfectly and master it.

Why do I need to do an EXIT INTERVIEW?

The reason of conducting exit interviews with employees who have decided to leave, rather than while they are employed, is because they feel more comfortable speaking. They speak about the company culture and their former colleagues while these constructive feedback can not affect their salary or daily work. In the end, it is understandable that an existing employee wouldn’t like to speak about their colleagues or line managers as this could create a bad atmosphere.

Note that even though, employees tend to be more sincere, it has been seen (Brooks, B, 2007) that exit interviews are not 100% accurate and that some employees will cover with a plain version of the reality so they don’t affect other colleagues, or because they consider the situation confidential, as Taylor. S, 2014 explains.

However, having in place a good employee exit policy and procedure will be one of the best chances you can have to improve the knowledge you have about what really happens in your company.

How do you master an exit interview?

From our point of view is one of the key HR processes in a company even when most companies don’t really implement it. You will only master an exit interview by practicing. Below you have some guidelines to create your own exit interview template with some exit interview questions. Of course, this is only a guideline, so feel free to adapt it to the needs of your company and make sure you leave some space to make free notes for each employee, as they will all have specific comments very differents one from the other.

You will also need to adapt it with the time, but also for each situation. It is not the same to do an exit interview for those that you have dismissed during a redundancy process that those that have resigned because they can not stand their manager.

Please note that is important that you introduce the conversation by letting the employee know that the interviews conducted will be confidential, only the human resources person or the managing director will know about it. The sole purpose of the meeting is for you to understand what you can improve as a company, not for you to critizise any existing employee. Only to improve the employee experience of the people who are staying. For this sole purpose, you would like them to be as honest as they can be, so things can improve in the future.

You will be surprise of the amount of feedback you can receive during an exit interview.It could be an important source of information that could feed into your employee relation metrics. Obviously, it is not the same if they leave due to a bad relationship with their managers as if they leave because they need to move to another city and you can not provide remote work for them.

Something to remember, it is extremely important that their line manager don’t do the exit interview as it could eliminate the honesty factor if the reasons are related to their line manager.


Before you start the exit interview:

if you haven’t had a conversation prior to this,

  1. What is the reason for you leaving the company? This question should lead to a broader conversation. If the employee starts answering some of the questions below, of course, don’t ask them again 🙂 and just complete with those that you feel necessary. In the end, this is about your business.

During your time with us…

  1. Do you feel that at the job interviews we reflected properly the job? This might not be relevant for the employee that is leaving, but it could be a point to avoid for future recruitments. An interview where the facts are not clear, or you misslead the candidate to get them to accept it will be an issue for future employees. If the role is not what you promised, that could be the first problem.
  2. Do you think your job description matched the role you were doing? Same as above, we understand that recruitment is the first part of your relationship with the employee, and it is extremely important to get their honest feedback about how do they feel you did it. Exit interviews are great to get honest information, so use them!!
  3. How would you describe the culture of the company? As HR, or as the CEO, you might think that the culture is one, but employees might feel something completely different. This is a great question to get what they feel. One of them might be bias, and feel that the culture was , as an example, toxic. However, when all of them start defining something similar, it might be the time to start looking into it. Don’t you think?
  4. Do you feel aligned with that definition? You might think this is an obvious question, but it will give you a lot of key points about your recruitment and how the culture is handled, in case it is handled in some way :). You might have an “achiever” culture, and you might think that your recruitment is really well focussed on that. However, if you have people who feel that your culture is too much for them, or your culture is something else, or you are not recruiting the right people for your business.
  5. What would you say that has been the best part of working for us? This is also very related to your culture, and it is a way of finding key points for your recruitment tactics (again). FInd what is great about your company, and recruit people who are looking for that, they will stay for a long time. SIMPLE!
  6. How was your relationship with your line manager? You might think that you know the answer, but you would be surprised on how many insights you didn’t know. Apparent good relationships might be mortal enemies. On the contrary, people who tend to complain a lot, may recognise that their manager was really good to them and was really professional. So it is a question
  7. How would you describe the relationship with your team? Same as above, don’t take anything for granted. Sometimes, most of the times, the issue is with the career progression, salary, manager or team…. so, don’t hesitate to ask this question.
  8. What has been the worst part of working for this company? This is essential. There will be tones of small things that are wrong, but the answer to this question is usually fixable. It is a powerful tool, and you need to use it.
  9. Did you feel that we care and/or worried about your professional development? As mentioned before, one thing is you version of what happened, and something else is what the employee sees. You might disagree, so you respectfully take notes and say that you are sorry they felt that way. However, if you see that everyone that leaves your company agree on this aspect, you might have to reconsider your point of view.
  10. What made you decide to start looking for another role? (if they were not head hunted) People have a tendency to accumulate some time not being comfortable and it is usually one drop of water that fills the glass. This is not essential, but it gives you an idea of what happens in the company and how employees take your actions. Again, you may think that it was not that big and that they are exagerating. We are not here to judge. The exit interview is an information tool, whatever you do with the information received, it is up to you!
  11. Will you recommend this company to your friends? This question is key. Some employees will leave just because they were headhunted for a great role, or because they are looking to move to another country, or you are just not able to offer the next step in their career, and they are really aware it is impossible (sometimes the next step is the CEO role, and you might want to hold to that one 😉 ) If they are leaving on good terms, it is a fantastic opportunity to get people refered, and to use their knowledge to improve your company for the future.

About your next company…

  1. Which company are you leaving for? Not essential ,but it will tell you if is a competitor, or someone in another industry
  2. What will be your next salary package at the new company? Extremely important, specially in times of the great resignation.
  3. What kind of salary package do they give you? This not just about the money, but also the insurance, holidays, etc… Get as much information as possible so you can evaluate if you are competitive in the market or not.
  4. Any other thing that it would be important for us to know?

Closing paperwork

The exit interview is a fantastic opportunity for you to speak about paperwork, accrued holidays that will be paid, equipment and how to be returned, etc…

If by any chance you didn’t have the opportunity to do an exit interview before they leave, or they are concerned about the confidentiality, you can send them the questions and do an exit survey. This option is colder, but it works fine if the relationship doesn’t end well. A written exit interview, it also gives the opportunity to the exiting employee to be able to write everything they wanted to say and think about it before they press send. It may not be that spontaneous, but it may be deeper.

How can I use the information from the exit interview?

There are plenty of platforms for online surveys where you can put the questions and collect all your leaver’s information in one report so you are able to compare in the long term. If you recorded the responses by hand in a one to one conversation, please make sure you put the information into an spreadsheet that will allow you to make a good report in the future.

Main columns that we would recommend to include

  • Name & Surname
  • Job Title
  • Direct line manager
  • Job Title direct line manager
  • Department
  • Starting date
  • Leaving date
  • Reason to leave
  • Job title in the next role
  • Salary in the next role (if they mention it)

Suggestions around transparency on your exit interviews

To avoid lack of transparency, try to do them yourself or someone that you really trust. Having the Manager to do it could cause lack of transparency for obvious reasons.

  • The manager might hide certain information if they did something wrong or if the complaints are about them.
  • People might not want to talk to avoid problems with their references.

If you were lucky and the conversation went well, you will be able to implement a lot of changes in your culture and on the onboarding process for your new employees. Make sure that the replacement of the person who is leaving doesn’t go through the same bad experiences, if there were any.

We hope this post will help you to master exit interviews!

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