What is an exit interview?

Sometimes they can be the most important conversations that you'll have with an employee...

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jun 07, 2024

You can conduct exit interviews when an employee is leaving the business. With this process, you can aim to get an understanding about their reasons for leaving.

They also provide you with the opportunity to explore their experience of working at your business.

And that includes sharing insights into where they think you can improve on a daily basis. That might be with better HR software to make clocking in and out easier—or simply by looking to improve the work-life balance.

Little things like that can really make a big difference.

In this guide, we take a look at how to introduce this process into your business—plus, the type of questions you should ask.

Why conduct exit interviews?

They provide your business with insights into why an employee is leaving, which can offer important details on any issues within your organisation.

Staff who take part in these interviews are generally much more honest and open to offering suggestions for improvements than those who remain in your organisation.

So it’s good business practice to use this process to get an understanding of why a member of staff is departing.

After all, it’ll provide you with a vital opportunity to leave the relationship with their employee on a positive note.

How to bring HR exit interviews into your business

The key to success in exit interviews is to allow the employee to meet with a manager and discuss across a set of questions their experience.

They’re easy to introduce to your business—all you need to do is:

You can also use the occasion to wish the employee the best of luck in their new role.

It’s good business practice to end on an amicable note, as the employee may one day return to the business.

But are leaving interviews a legal requirement? Do you have to do an exit interview? No, it’s not—that’s important to remember. However, you should think of the benefits of using the process for your business.

First off, you should allow the employee to make the decision as to who’ll conduct their interview.

If the business dictates that the line manager holds the meeting, you must identify the pros and cons of this arrangement.

The benefits will surely be the employee has a good history of speaking on a personal level to their line manager and will feel comfortable in speaking with them about the good and the bad of their employee experience.

The key to success in exit interviews is to allow the employee to meet with someone who is seen to be impartial within your organisation: the director of the department the employs works in, the chief executive, or a HR representative.

Each of these individuals can offer the employee an opportunity to speak their mind without the risk of offending anyone.

In addition, you must make exit interviews mandatory if you are to get an accurate picture of how it feels to be employed by your organisation in each and every department.

The exit interview process

It’s quite a simple process, really. All you need to do is create your questions and then make sure you hold the employee exit interview when they’re set to leave.

You can follow the below set structure of common exit survey examples:

  • Organise your exit interview process and where you’ll hold them.
  • Allow for a two-way conversation.
  • Remind employees the process is confidential.
  • Analyse the feedback you receive once the interview is over.
  • Take into consideration opportunities to improve your business infrastructure if you find consistent reasons for employees’ departure.

When launching the process to all staff, explain you’ll use it to measure employee experience. You should also ensure all employees have an exit interview when they leave—that provides a consistent approach across your business.

By analysing responses, truly valuable information is gathered which can then feed into policy change and management training initiatives.

However, in conducting an exit interview, you must ensure your business is truly committed to improving the employee experience in your organisation.

And that all managers are prepared to receive honest feedback that will enable them to target issues if they should arise.

Best exit interview questions to ask

There’s no set way to go about this, you can adapt your employee exit interview survey questions as you see fit.

Remember, the goal is to find out why the individual is leaving—and what you can do to make your business an even better place to work in future.

But below are a useful set of examples on how to write exit interview questions. You can ask them questions such as:

  • What made you start looking for a new job?
  • Is there anything specifically your new role offers that this one didn’t?
  • What did you enjoy about working for this business?
  • Did you have all the equipment to complete your job?
  • What could we have done better?
  • Did you like our company culture?
  • What did you think of our work-life balance?
  • Can you recommend any changes to improve working life with us?
  • Do you recommend working for us to other professionals?
  • What could we have done to make you stay?
  • Would you consider returning to work for us in the future?

The range of potential questions is huge, but by using these as a starting point you can start to highlight any opportunities for improvement.

Exit interview template for the UK

The design of this can be on a simple sheet of paper—you can create one on a Word document, for example.

The structure you can follow is up to you, but certain fields are important.

You can follow the below exit interview checklist sample:

  • Employee name.
  • Job title.
  • Interview date.
  • Time spent with company.
  • Main reason for leaving (a tick box section with various options).
  • Your questions with space below for answers.

It’s good business practice to use business letterhead paper—although it’s not essential to do so.

The benefits of conducting exit interviews

It’s worth putting the effort in to develop your process—there are some impressive rewards that come from asking the right questions. Such as:

  • Cost effectiveness: You can receive direct feedback from staff about issues in your business. Normally you’d have to hold assessments or perform a business audit, which can cost a lot of time and money. Exit interviews are a quick and easy way to find issues in your infrastructure.
  • Understanding employee turnover: Gain insights into the mood of your workforce, which can ultimately affect your business’ staff retention rates. In time, that can ensure you save on having to recruit more employees.
  • Increase retention rates: Again, your leaving interview will help to identify ways in which your business can improve working life for staff. For example, making improvements to your work-life balance. Every improvement you make can increase staff happiness and encourage them to stay with you.
  • Idea resource: From the information you gain from departing employees, you can get an understanding into initiatives and opportunities to provide across your business.

Some final exit interview tips for employers

Remember the reason why you’re following the process—it’s not just for the sake of having one as it’s an industry trend.

Listen to what your employees have to say. Use it as an opportunity to end the professional relationship on an amicable note.

And act on what your employees tell you. If there’s room to improve, don’t be afraid to make the changes—they may improve your staff retention rates.

So there we go, a pretty convincing argument for introducing exit interviews into your business.

Any questions? Get in touch and we’ll help you introduce the process into your business.

Jenny Marsden

Associate Director of Service

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