What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a final meeting between a departing employee and an interviewer that marks the end of employment in its present state. As part of offboarding, the exit interview is an official way of tying up loose ends and gleaning valuable information from employees on their way out.   

Why should HR leaders care about exit interviews?

Exit interviews help ensure recovery of employer property and digitally stored data, thereby maintaining confidential company information and avoiding employee-employer lawsuits.  

Moreover, the exit interview enables employers to gather, evaluate, and implement employee feedback to improve the employee experience for the remaining personnel. The exit interview can also function as a springboard for boomerang employees to join the company as alumni, work as independent contractors, or as contributing coaches. HR professionals can use the exit interview as a tool to improve the culture, management, and brand, ultimately boosting retention and morale. 

What can HR leaders do to facilitate successful exit interviews?

Here’s how HR professionals can strategically conduct exit interviews: 

  • Encourage employee feedback. The interviewer should explain the purpose of the meeting to employees to understand the value of their feedback. The interviewer can also ask employees to discuss their reasons for departure and their job satisfaction. A departing staff member can reveal crucial feedback, such as dissatisfaction with poor onboarding, that left them without proper training and fundamental coaching. 
  • Respect employee comfort level. Offering options for the exit interview format can relieve an employee’s uneasiness. While some people may have no problem engaging in the exit interview face-to-face, others may only feel comfortable sharing their critiques over the phone upon the conclusion of employment. Either way, companies must respect employee privacy and do what is in their power to ensure anonymity. 
  • Routinely exchange feedback.  Regular check-ins enable a dialogue for employees to discuss pressing issues or challenges they face. Managers and HR professionals can frequently meet with employees to avoid the festering of work problems. Meeting more often than once or twice a year can reduce attrition and prevent unresolved issues from coming to light too late.  
  • Train interviewers. The interviewer should tactfully extract information from departing employees, demonstrate active listening, and receive employee criticism towards the company with acceptance. Companies can appoint an HR professional to conduct the interview or outsource it to an independent third party. The dialogue should have structure; the interviewer, for example, can begin the meeting with a brief survey to spur discussion and then take notes throughout the rest of the meeting. 

How can exit interviews improve company culture?

Effective facilitation of exit interviews can provide valuable information for companies striving to enhance their company culture. Used in conjunction with other relevant data, organizations can apply feedback from the exit interview to improve the employee experience for the entire workforce. An organization that values constructive criticism can nurture a people-friendly culture that continuously attracts and engages talented individuals.