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Learning from the Employee Exit Interview

Highly motivated employees are the key to running a successful business, but when one of your star employees moves on to one of your competitors, too often the reasons for the departure are not properly understood.


The employee exit interview is an important tool for managers and business owners to identify strengths but more importantly weaknesses within the organisation when it comes to the employment and retention of staff members.

Only when managers understand what some common reasons for employee attrition are can they look at ways to address the issues. Like any HR process, there are correct and less-than-correct ways to conduct these, which we will explain in this article.

What They Can Identify:

  • Trends involving dissatisfaction with pay, processes or other frustrations or road blocks.
  • Problems with managers or other staff members in the team.
  • Steps that could have been taken in hindsight to prevent the employee leaving. Understanding these can reduce the likelihood of other staff following suit.

How To Conduct Exit Interviews The Right Way

  • Someone from HR or an external human resource consultant should conduct the exit interview where possible to allow the interviewer to be as objective as possible and encourage more open and honest feedback from the employee.   An external HR consultant is seen as more independent and trustworthy by an employee, and therefore will solicit the most honest and useful feedback.
  • Ask questions that illicit feedback including the things that the employee liked about working in the business.
  • Don’t act surprised or defensive with the information given. Even if the feedback is completely negative and possibly biased, the employer should listen and record and feedback, and later decide what they can take on board is within their scope to address.
  • There is conjecture about when to conduct the exit interview.  Some say soon after resignation.  Others say in their last week of employment – the positives this being you are more likely to have them attend, any traumatic situation around the resignation have hopefully settled down, and the employee has the opportunity to “vent” before departing.  The other popular belief is that the exit interview should be conducted after the employee has left the organisation and moved into a new role as this can help them provide constructive feedback and see the situation more clearly and objectively with the benefit of time passing. Our experience shows that even when time has passed staff are most often willing to participate since they like to be asked and feel their feedback is still valued by their former employer.

Some Questions To Ask In Exit Interviews

  • What do you like about the company and working here?
  • What would you improve if you had the chance?
  • What are you main reasons for leaving?

Other Points To Remember:

  • Always make the employee feel as comfortable as possible and assure them information is confidential and restricted to certain personnel only.  Explain that their feedback will be used to improve the organisation ,and that their honest feedback is valued.
  •  Listen and clarify information and feedback even if it’s hard to hear. Rarely will employees give such open feedback and risk giving such frank feedback while on the job.
  • Most importantly, do something about the feedback from exit interviews.  Record it, collate it, analyse it, report on it, develop strategies to address identified areas in need of development, action these strategies, monitor your progress in these areas.


Remember: If the information is not going to be assessed and a process developed for how to analyse and implement changes there is little point conducting interviews. Avoid being one of the businesses conducting them, and then failing to assess the finding or make changes.

Businesses who neglect to conduct exit interviews are missing a valuable final opportunity to gather valuable insights from the former staff member. Too often managers assume they know the reasons for the employee leaving, but are often surprised when they find out the reasons are different or more complex.

Especially if there has been a recent trend of high turnover , it is essential that the organisation understands why – only then can steps be taken to address the problem. Understanding the reasons why people leave the business is one of the biggest ways to improve staff retention and engagement because of this your business should use the exit interview to its full potential.

We also strongly encourage the use of Entry Interviews but we will leave that to another article.

Need Further Advice? Talk To Harrison Human Resources

With our HR Consulting service, we can provide practical advice and guidance on conducting employee exit interviews.

Simply click here to request an obligation-free 15 minute phone consult to get some initial advice on your HR needs.


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