exit interview
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Conducting Effective Employee Exit Interviews

Employee turnover is an inevitability all organizations face. While some degree of attrition is healthy, losing top talent can significantly impact productivity, morale, and operational costs. Estimates show replacing an employee can cost upwards of twice their annual salary when accounting for recruitment, training, and lost productivity during role transition. Therefore, retaining the best team members should be a strategic priority.

Conducting insightful exit interviews upon an employee’s resignation offers an invaluable opportunity to uncover underlying retention issues, survey organizational culture, and sustain engagement with departing staff post-separation. This guide delves into best practices for performing productive exit interviews.

Defining Goals and Strategy

Approaching exit interviews with clarity of purpose streamlines the development of effective procedures aligned to desired outcomes. Common goals include:

Retention Diagnostics

Learn reasons valued employees leave to inform improvements, minimizing future turnover in talent.

Join Our Small Business Community

Get the latest news, resources and tips to help you and your small business succeed.

Risk Assessment

Detect potential liabilities from dissatisfied departing staff.

Reputation Management

Sustain a positive employer brand as viewed by exiting personnel, even post-separation.

Compliance Adherence

Fulfill legal obligations for reporting or record-keeping related to voluntary terminations.

Relationship Building

Strengthen employer-employee trust and communication channels for future networking/referral opportunities.

With core intentions defined, standardized protocols ensure consistency while allowing personalization adjusting to each situation. Now, examine helpful frameworks to guide productive discussions.

Crafting Interview Frameworks

Established structures with flexible parameters guide positive, constructive dialogues, maximizing exit interview value for both parties. Useful frameworks explore:

Reason(s) for Resignation

Delve into the motivations behind the decision to leave. Allow open feedback covering anything from compensation to growth opportunities, management relations, work conditions, commute changes, personal circumstances, etc.

Experience at Company

Encourage candid perspectives on cultural and operational strengths/weaknesses—query which aspects they would proactively improve.

Future Plans

Discuss personal development goals and new role alignment. If suitable options exist internally, be open to addressing unmet needs.


Solicit suggestions to enhance organizational processes, leadership, and team retention based on their tenure.

Final Impressions

Gauge overall sentiment and invite any other constructive critiques. End positively, emphasizing continued rapport.

This base structure stays consistent while customizing conversations based on the employee’s background. For example, queries to a top sales professional would focus heavily on territory issues, pipeline metrics, and commission structures affecting performance. At the same time, an engineer’s feedback would spotlight resourcing, project selection protocols, technical training support, etc. Now, examine helpful guidelines for productive legal interviews.

Administering Interviews

Proper interview administration and follow-up sustains engagement while achieving intended exit interview benefits:

Scheduling Logistics

Allow flexibility in accommodating departing employee’s schedules. Remote video interviews can maximize accessibility and comfort in sharing feedback.

Setting Neutral Tone

Establish openness to all perspectives in a friendly, non-adversarial manner. Avoid defensiveness about critiques.

Active Listening

Ask probing questions without interrupting. Paraphrase responses to confirm understanding.

Confidentiality Assurances

Specify any feedback will remain anonymous in written summaries distributed internally.

Transition Support

Offer assistance by conveying positive references or introductions within the network to aid their career transitions.

Extending Appreciation

Thank them sincerely for their service, honesty, and collegiality. Share contact information for future networking.

Explore these resources for more examples of specific exit interview questions to ask departing employees.

Data Analysis and Reporting

To move exit interview insights into actionable plans, improving retention involves careful analysis of trends and targeted reporting strategies.

Aggregate Statistics

Collect resignation motivations, experience ratings, and improvement ideas into digital databases parsing trends.

Anonymize Data

Delete any personal identifiers before broader distribution to encourage candid feedback.

Spot Trends

Note frequent themes in ratings, repetitive grievances, and shared change recommendations to prioritize addressing.

Custom Reporting

Format reports appropriate for various internal teams – summaries, data visualizations, bullet point briefings, etc.

Develop Action Plans

Map quantified trouble areas to retention solutions enacting employee-suggested changes.

Ongoing aggregation into living documents compounds perspectives, further guiding enhancements over time. Now, examine best practices sustaining engagement post-exit.

Post-Separation Relationship Management

Maintaining positive connections with talent post-separation, regardless of reasons for leaving, benefits both former employees and the organization through continued idea exchange and future affiliations. Practical engagement tactics include:

Departure Announcements

Have leaders share team members’ news alongside accomplishments achieved and future aspirations wished, reinforcing pride on both sides.

External Referrals

Proactively connect former staff to professional contacts that align with opportunities they pursue.

Continuing Education

If interested, invite former employees to participate in existing development initiatives they participated in or led.

Alumni Networks

Sustain relationships by including former staff in alumni channels such as newsletters, get-togethers, and early information on job openings if interested.

Milestone Tracking

Follow former staff’s career moves through digital channels and congratulate wins.

Return Boomerangs

Given positive experiences, employees leave and eventually “boomerang’ back, so keep that door open!

The reality is top talent maintains contacts and refers others to desired employers. Dedicate equivalent resources internally, managing external relationships as you do for customers.

Selecting Interviewers

Choosing appropriate interviewers influences openness of feedback and actionability of insights uncovered:

Avoid Direct Managers

Employees may filter criticism about an immediate boss who still influences them.

Leverage HR or Senior Leaders

Functions like HR, Operations, and Executives perceived as neutral parties typically draw more candid responses on management-related issues.

Incorporate Peers

Trusted team members may better relate to specific grievances around roles, workflows, or collaborative processes, providing context leaders lack.

Consider External Consultants

Unbiased third-party interviewers allow respondents to be utterly transparent without political concerns.

The key is selecting interviewers the departing employee trusts and feels comfortable being vulnerable with. Combining cross-functional internal peers with optional external consultants often provides the best balance.

Response Action Planning

Simply collecting feedback without visible actions risks damaging morale and trust in the long term, so closing the loop is vital:

Proposed Solution Mapping

Chart resignation drivers and suggested improvements to corresponding potential responses demonstrating change.

Investment Planning

Determine the budget, staffing, and operational impacts required to fund the uncovered priority initiatives.

Leadership Alignment

Ensure executive-level support and necessary participation in activating proposed responses.

Progress Tracking

Set measurable markers and dashboards monitoring action plan outcomes over time.

While specific insights may be limited in feasibility, visibly responding to even smaller “quick win” suggestions builds confidence in acting upon exit interview findings.


Well-orchestrated exit interviews, backed by supportive administrative procedures before, during, and after employee departures, are no longer optional talent management strategies. Comprehensive programs unlock pipelines of retention insights directly from the source, strengthen employer brand associations, and sustain valuable talent connections beyond an employee’s tenure. Dedicate sufficient strategic importance towards maximizing this closing window of opportunity.

Join Our Small Business Community

Get the latest news, resources and tips to help you and your small business succeed.


Female job applicant interviewed by two HR managers reading her resume, employee talking about experience, sharing thoughts during recruitment process. Concept of hiring, employment, cooperation

Top Employee Benefits for Startups

It’s challenging for startups to find and retain top talent in the current job market. Established brands can rely on their history, brand recognition, and