Everything You Need to Know About the Exit Interview

The exit interview with a departing employee is an extremely valuable time to gather vital information that can help your business improve and gain insight from the employee’s viewpoint. For this reason, it is important to make sure you conduct the interview is the best possible way.  

The primary feedback you are interested in is the feedback from those employees who have voluntarily terminated their employment, rather than those who are merely dissatisfied with the company or leadership in general.


Hold the interview within the last day or two of employment – holding it too soon could cause unnecessary problems with remaining employees.  Also, be sure to prepare your questions or topics ahead of time to keep the conversation focused. A great way to do that is to give the employee a written exit questionnaire ahead of time.  This gives you both the chance to think about things in advance and give more prepared answers. This is especially helpful if the employee was terminated under negative terms, as some people tend to get angry quickly.

Ask the Right Questions

Next, be sure to ask the right questions.  The goal is to sound conversational, yet still, touch on the important topics.  You should have a standard set of questions you ask every exiting employee, that way you have a base to interpret the feedback.  Try to keep your employee’s answers brief to avoid letting the conversation spiral out of control.  It helps to limit answers to a specific number. A beneficial exit interview should focus on constructive feedback that you can use make improvements or provide insight into potential issues.

Below are some examples of good questions to ask:

  • Why did you start looking for a new job in the first place?
  • Is there a specific reason(s) you decided to leave the company? (Was there one specific reason or event responsible?)
  • If you were offered a position by another company, what persuaded you to accept their offer?
  • What do you think are the positive/negative aspects of the company?
  • How was your relationship with your supervisor/manager?  Is there some way management could improve?
  • What did you like/dislike most about your job?
  • Do you feel you were given the opportunity, resources, and support you needed in order to succeed at your job? If not, what was missing?
  • What do you think employee morale and motivation is like?
  • Was your job description defined correctly during the interview process and orientation?
  • How could we create a better workplace?
  • Are there ideas that you have that you wish you could have implemented while you were here?
  • What advice do you have for the next person in your position?

What not to ask

Be very careful not to discuss things that might encourage discontent or negativity.  Of course, it is important to know if there is a legitimate management or safety issue, but focusing on the wrong topics can make the exit interview go downhill fast.  To do so, avoid questions that may seem accusatory or about specific individuals or personal matters.  Also, keep in mind that that office gossip is rarely reliable or constructive.

The Actual Interview

To help your exiting employee feel more comfortable, try starting the interview with some light conversation and reassure them that their discussion will remain confidential. You want them to be as open and honest as possible. To the best of your ability, end the exit interview on a positive note.  Remember that the true purpose of the interview is to improve your business.

Using the Feedback

Look for similarities in feedback – it could help you pinpoint organizational, workplace, or management issues.  A helpful way to do this is to input the interview into a spreadsheet with common fields in order to quickly scan your information and notice similarities.  Focus on learning from the exit interview and it is a commonly overlooked and underutilized business growth tool.

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