Importance of the Exit Interview

By DEBRA HOLDEN on MARCH 2, 2016

I know how much it hurts to have a high turnover rate. That’s why I’m sharing this one tip that, if utilized properly, will help you create a better employee retention rate for those whom you will hire at your company in the future: exit interviews.

An exit interview is simply taking the time to ask employees a few questions about their upcoming departure. For example, when you receive a two-week notice, use it as an opportunity to ask employees why they have chosen to pursue other opportunities. An exit interview is not taking the notice and saying, “Fine! Leave then. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” Acting that way won’t help your business, your brand, or your reputation in any way.

Conducting an exit interview provides an opportunity to gain information about the structure and dynamics of your company. Use this valuable information to improve your company. You might have to sift through the information because some of it might be emotional; however, it is critical to not get lost in the emotion of it all. There is too much valuable information to discard the comments and reactions of employees who choose to move on.

Reasons for Departure

There are many valid reasons why a happy employee might leave your company: ailing parents, relocation of a spouse, etc. Regardless of why they are leaving, it’s good to know exactly what those reasons are. It is still useful information to have and review for future hiring strategies. If it’s professionally based and objective, it can add value to your company and help you make changes that will make it be a better place to work for future employees.

When you ask why your employees are leaving, you will be able to discern what are legitimate concerns as opposed to what is known as simply “grinding the ax.” There will always be a few things you can’t change, no matter how sharp the ax is ground.

C-level marketing people, in addition to those with a very defined and in-demand skill set tend to move around frequently. This is neither good nor bad. However, if people at many levels of the organization feel as though they have no voice, and that their concerns are not being heard, in addition to other issues surrounding internal and external communications, then that might be a reason they are exploring other opportunities in their industry.

Do you have the tools or resources you need to ensure success for new hires? Do you share these tools and resources with your staff and key employees? New hires and old hires alike need to know whom they can call for help and assistance. Do they know what to do when they encounter problems? It’s important to establish this early during the transition period of beginning a new job.

Understanding the Role

The expense of a bad hire has a domino effect.

The overall expense of a bad hire has a domino effect, which is why it is so costly. Ensure that your new hires really understand the role, duties, and responsibilities associated or required by the position. If a newly departed employee gives a reason within the realm of job duties and responsibilities, delve a little deeper. Try to gauge their understanding of their role when they were hired. You might gain insights into your own company culture. Having information is one step in moving forward.

Who Performs the Exit Interview?

Be sure the decision makers, not HR, perform the exit interviews. Human Resources will typically ask perfunctory questions so they can fill in the blanks and get their paperwork completed as quickly as possible. The decision makers are the ones who best understand the job duties. They know what questions to ask and understand how to listen for answers that could assist them in implementing positive changes.

Conduct Exit Interviews with Boldness

The question you need to ask is this, “What would you change?” Instead of asking, “What didn’t you like?” which is so subjective. Focusing on what an employee would do differently will give you the valuable insight you need in order to make positive changes. Listen for legitimate concerns as opposed to issues of personal dynamics.

The Best Exit Interview Questions

Use boldness when conducting an exit interview.

Remember, don’t ask what they didn’t like. Ask what they would change. It is this question that makes them think about the company directly. In addition, the following questions are also excellent ways to glean additional insight.

  • Why are you leaving?

  • Why did you begin looking for a new job?

  • What ultimately led you to accept the new position?

  • What does your new company/position offer that made you decide to leave?

  • Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well?

  • Were you comfortable talking to your manager about work problems?

  • What three things could your manager/the company do to improve?

  • How would you describe the culture of our company?

  • What could have been done for you to remain employed here?

  • What could we have done better?

  • What would you change about the company, and why?

  • What did you like most about your job?

  • What was your best or worst day on the job?

  • If you could change anything about your job, what would you change?

  • If you had a friend looking for a job, would you recommend us? Why or why not?

  • Are there any other unresolved issues or additional comments?

The Final Say on Exit Interviews

Exit interviews may not be something you’ve considered in the past, or you might not have utilized the information you have received. While the act of asking key players in your company why they are leaving may seem uncomfortable, they just might appreciate it and know that you really care. Asking the right questions will help you prepare the next person to fill a similar role or position at the company. In closing, exit interviews, when handled properly, are a great way to find out more about the internal dynamics of your company and to make positive and productive changes, should they be deemed necessary. Implementing changes might not be easy, but in the long run, it will be well worth your time and effort.

The Author

Straight from the desk of

Debra Holden

Debra Holden

Market Leader

Debra Holden began her career with Kimmel & Associates in 1994 as a recruiter in construction. In 2003, she was named an associate in our Curtain Wall/Cladding Division.