Andraya Carson: Conducting Effective Employee Exit Interviews

Posted by G&A Partners:

The only constant about an organization’s workforce is that it is ever changing. And although losing employees is inevitable, an employee’s last few days also present a critical opportunity for business owners, managers and the HR team to learn how employees really feel about their employer.

While people are currently employed by an organization, they are often afraid to fully voice their opinions. After the decision to leave is made, however, they are often more willing to offer honest feedback about their experiences. This period, an employee’s last few days or weeks, is the perfect time for your HR team to conduct an exit interview.

Conducting effective exit interviews is not always a skill every manager or HR team member is born with, but the feedback received during exit interviews is a critical part of managing a workforce. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind during your next employee exit interview:

  • Treat exit interviews like traditional hiring interviews.
    Structure and plan for exit interviews just like you would any hiring interview during the recruitment process. Many of the same best practices for interviewing a potential candidate apply to interviewing an employee leaving your organization. Set up a meeting time and place, try not to interrupt, take notes, etc.
  • Come prepared with a list of exit interview questions.
    Just like any hiring interview, you should prepare a list of questions to use during your exit interview process. Sample exit interview questions might include:

    • What made you start looking for a new job?
    • Was there any singular event that caused you to decide to leave the company?
    • What aspects did you enjoy about your job?
    • What did you dislike about your job?
    • Is there anything you would change about your position?
    • Do you have any suggestions for improving our company’s work environment?
    • Why did you value most about the company?
    • Do you feel that you had all the resources and support necessary to perform your job?
    • How did you feel about your relationship with your manager?
    • Did you feel that your supervisor valued your work?
    • Did the reality of your position fit with the job description you were given?
    • Did you receive feedback about your day-to-day performance from your supervisor?
    • Did you have a clear understanding of how the goals of your position fit within the overall goals of the company?
    • What skills and abilities should we look for in your replacement?
    • Would you recommend this company as a place to work to your friends or colleagues?

A word of advice: Don’t limit yourself to the sample exit interview questions above or use the list like a script. Instead, allow the interview to evolve organically as a conversation. This will better help you garner valuable feedback and make the employee feel more comfortable speaking with you.

  • Avoid having multiple interviewers.
    While panel interviews are considered a standard part of the hiring process, a panel exit interview may cause some employees to feel like they are on trial. Instead, exit interviews should be conducted one-on-one, preferably by a senior member of your HR staff.
  • Set the tone.
    Exit interviews don’t necessarily have to be formal affairs. Depending on the manner of departure, it may be more appropriate to have a more conversational or informal approach. Making an exit interview feel too formal can make an employee feel intimidated, and you definitely won’t get the kind of honest feedback you’re looking for.
  • Don’t ask people to play the blame game.
    No matter how much effort you put into trying to make employees feel comfortable during exit interviews, asking them to name names or assign blame will quickly put them on edge. Instead, ask about specific instances or situations that may have led to their departure, rather than asking someone to rat out their colleagues.
  • Let them vent.
    Listening to an employee vent about their frustrations can sometimes make you feel uncomfortable, especially if the employee isn’t leaving voluntarily. And while some of the feedback received may not seem particularly useful, it allows employees those leaving on bad terms to feel heard and possibly make peace with your organization. The key in these situations is to allow the person to fully finish their list of grievances and then try to identify the root of their issues, as they may be indicative of a more wide-spread problem.
  • If you’re not sure why someone is leaving, ask.
    It’s an unfortunate reality that sometimes organizations lose great, high-performing employees. Most of the time, the reasons are readily apparent: new job, retirement, relocation, family issue, etc. But occasionally some star employees seem to leave for no apparent reason. When a hard-working, previously loyal employee decides to leave, use the exit interview as an opportunity to (respectfully) probe into their reasoning. There may be an underlying problem within your organization that needs to be dealt with.
  • Don’t want someone to leave? Ask them to stay.
    Although it’s uncommon, some organizations may use the exit interview as a last-ditch effort to convince someone to stay. If an employee who is integral to your organization decides to leave, it may be worth it to see if there’s anything your organization can do change their mind. A great way to get to the heart of an employee’s decision to leave is to ask: Are there any conditions, if changed or improved, under which you would decide to stay with the organization? If your organization is able to change or improve these conditions, the employee may be willing to stay.
  • Can’t meet in person? Send an online exit interview survey.
    For whatever reason, sometimes it’s impossible to set up a face-to-face interview with a departing employee, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose out on that valuable feedback. Try sending the employee an online exit interview survey. This strategy is especially helpful for businesses with multiple remote offices that may not all have a full HR team on staff. Alternatively, you could conduct your exit interviews with remote employees via video chat or Skype.
  • Follow up on feedback.
    If you’re not going to follow up on the feedback you receive from former employees during exit interviews, you might as well not even conduct them. Come up with a process to evaluate and act on the answers you receive to the questions you ask, and make sure you discuss opportunities for change with managers and executives.


Exit interviews, if conducted effectively, can prove to be a key resource in understanding how your employees perceive your organization. By incorporating exit interviews into their termination processes, employers can then take steps to capitalize on the feedback received during exit interviews by addressing any frequently mentioned problems or areas of concern.

Written policies and procedures, like the ones employers have regarding termination processes and exit interviews, serve as guidelines for managers and employees alike. Without these guidelines in place, misunderstandings and misdirection can lead to troubling errors, employee injuries and even costly lawsuits and litigation. Some employers find, however, that they lack the human resources expertise to develop and create proper policies and procedures.

That’s where professional employer organizations (PEOs) come in. PEOs employ experienced HR professionals that help businesses avoid costly missteps and mistakes by working to develop compliant policies and tailor HR procedures to fit and promote the values of each client.

G&A Partners, a leading national PEO and HR outsourcing provider, has been helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, take better care of their employees and enjoy a higher quality of life for more than 20 years. G&A alleviates the burden of tedious, employment-related tasks by delivering proven human resources processes and technology, allowing business owners and executives to focus their time, talent and energy on their company’s core products and services.

Learn more about how G&A Partners helps businesses grow by calling 1-800-253-8562 to speak with an expert or visiting G&A Partners‘ website to schedule a business consultation.

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