Exit interviews aren’t a new concept, nor are they uncommon. It is estimated that as many as 90% of Fortune 500 companies use them.

The data employers can gather from a well-conducted exit interview is invaluable.  The much-discussed candidate shortage means that retaining your team is more important than ever.  A thorough and diligent conversation about why your A Player is leaving could help you hold onto your employees in the future; it gives you a chance to address areas that may be a source of dissatisfaction.

Of course, sometimes staff leave for greater opportunity or to pursue a different path, but often employees chose to go over things you could change.

Just holding an exit interview isn’t enough. Business leaders need to make sure these conversations are conducted in a way that welcomes honesty…even if it’s difficult to hear.  With the cost of replacing an employee thought to range between 50%-200% of their salary, can you really afford not to listen to your departing staff?

Here are some tips on how you can make sure your exit interviews are conducted in a way that helps you retain your team.

How to conduct an effective exit interview.

1. Insightful questioning.

The quality of the feedback you get will only be as good as the questions you ask.  Effective interview questions may include topics that assess the employee’s reasons for leaving, how engaged they were in their work, and if they would recommend you as an employer.

You may like to try to glean how the employee feels about the company, and if they raise negative points, ask for their insight on how things could be done differently or better.

Part of knowing where you could improve is to know what you are already doing well.  You should also ask about areas of the business, their role, and the company culture they liked. These are areas you could build upon and develop further.

2. Easy and convenient.

Departing employees are far less likely to participate in an exit interview. According to one survey, onboarding questionnaires have a response rate of 80% while exit interview surveys fall between 30%-70%.

Exit interviews need to be easy to access and convenient to complete. Luckily, there are some ways to improve your exit interview response rate.

Be quick.

In the weeks and months after they have resigned, employees become less and less invested in the organisation.  Ask your leaver to attend an exit interview as soon as possible after they have resigned, and you will get far more from the conversation.

Respect your leaver’s time.

Completing handover documents and signing off assigned tasks make the last few weeks of a leaver’s employment very busy.  A large document over multiple pages will not be well received. The likelihood of it being completed in full, and with care, are small.  Keep the document succinct and ask only the questions you NEED to get the information you can use to improve your employee experience.

Consider remote workers.

The employment model has changed, with many employees working remotely or at home.  A good exit interview strategy should have a comprehensive solution for remote workers.  Experts recommend that the best practice be to conduct a video call interview so that you can read body language and facial expressions while you talk. Email and digital questionnaires don’t allow you to use your emotional intelligence.

3. Provide a safe space.

Departing employees need to feel that they are talking in a space that allows them to be honest and that any negative feedback won’t be used against them.

By making the process as comfortable as possible, you are demonstrating a genuine desire that you want to learn from your leaver.

Be transparent.

To incite honesty, your leaver should be made aware of how their exit interview feedback will be used and that you want to use it to make improvements to the organisation.   They should also be told who will see, or have access, to their responses.

If you can, offering employees some level of anonymity will increase the chances they’ll be honest.

Choose the right interviewer.

You may like to give the leaver a choice of who will conduct their exit interview.  If employees are comfortable with who is interviewing them, the responses are far more likely to accurately represent their views.

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4. Share the feedback and act on it.

Undeniably, the most important part of the exit interview is the information you get from it, and how you use it to implement meaningful change.

Look at the data with a wide lens.

Exit interview information on its own is useful, but to get real insight, you could also integrate the feedback with other data. For example, ongoing feedback is crucial. Do you conduct an annual or bi-annual employee survey? If so, why not combine the two data sets to discover other areas where your company may not meet employee expectations?

Share the data.

Once you have the exit interview information, can you use it to influence decision-makers or leaders?  Come up with a plan to share the leaving data at board meetings or at quarterly reviews.


As an employer, you have more to gain through conducting an effective exit interview than your leaver does.

To make the most of the exit interview you need to:

  • Offer a space in which the leaver can be honest and open.
  • Offer a choice of interviewer.
  • Be transparent on how you will use the information, and who will have access to the responses.
  • Use the responses in conjunction with other data to gather a true picture about employee satisfaction and engagement.
  • Decide how you will share the exit interview data with business leaders.
  • Don’t just go through the motions; act on the feedback.

The last few weeks of a leaver’s time are heavily burdened with off-boarding responsibilities.

You can increase the chances of a complete and accurate exit interview by:

  • Arranging the appointment as quickly as possible after the leaver has handed in their resignation.
  • If the exit data is collected by questionnaire or survey, make sure it’s easy and convenient to complete and not too long.
  • Planning how you will conduct the exit process for remote staff or those who work from home.

Exit interviews done well, have the potential to help you dramatically reduce employee turnover at a time when candidates are most valuable.

Make sure you follow best practices and act responsively to fully leverage the value of the exit interview data.

If you enjoyed this article, head over to the Employer Advice section of our blog. We have masses of advice and guidance on best hiring practices, how to get the most out of your team, and so much more!

About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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