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Employee Exit Interviews


Increasing Employee Retention Through Employee Exit Interviews

Employee exit interviews are an important part of HR management and monitoring employee retention and satisfaction. It is important to understand why an employee leaves and what information you can use to avoid future employee losses.


  • Avoidable losses result from employee job dissatisfaction, poor management practices, the lack of advancement opportunity, and sometimes personal harassment by or conflict with a co-worker or manager. A recent employee retention survey suggests that nearly 70% of employees leave their jobs because they do not feel valued!
  • Another purpose is to help employers avoid litigation down the road, caused by illegal activities or by “disgruntled” employees.
  • Employee exit interviews can change the climate of the organization by changing management style, making changes that reflect employee opinions, and creating value recognition programs where needed. One key to increasing the employee’s opinion of the organization is in the management of expectations. Realistic job expectations are important and management should focus on creation of proper expectations.


Employee exit interviews provide a window to view and benchmark employee expectations regarding:

  • Job Responsibilities and Performance
  • Employee Job Orientation and Training
  • Mentoring Programs
  • Working Conditions
  • Opportunities for Skill Development Career Advancement
  • Training and Development Programs
  • Supervision and Management
  • Work Satisfaction
  • Workload Distribution and Schedule Flexibility
  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational and Work Group Communication

Employee exit interviews should focus on retention by identifying the reason the employee is leaving and also determine if the company’s level of performance or the employees’ unfulfilled expectations are at issue. Just as consumer retention views fulfillment from products or services as “delightful” or as a “failure,” employment environments similarly delight or fail.

Failing environments with low levels of employee retention reflect low levels of job satisfaction and come at a great cost to the organization. Not only is it expensive to hire and then train new employees, but there can be a negative impact on productivity and morale.

Goals for Exit Interviews

Employee exit interviews can result in measurable retention and performance increases for the employees and for the business in general. Specifically, effective employee exit interviews are an opportunity to diagnose and improve performance within the company:

  • Improve employee retention and reduce turnover.
  • Increase company objectivity by having employee exit interviews handled by a fair and non-partisan third-party.
  • Benchmark against industry and company norms for the exit interview survey items.
  • Compare exit interview scores against overall the Employee Satisfaction Tracking Survey to determine if employee satisfaction impacts turnover.
  • Track trends in employee exit interview satisfaction to measure improvements made.

Structure of Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are generally completed by about 1/3 of employees who leave an organization. Because this is a small percent of actual employees, this number should be doubled through multi-mode approaches: paper and pencil, online and telephone interviews. Online interviews are particularly valuable because online respondents tend to be frank in their evaluations and more likely to provide anecdotal experiences related to their previous employment.

Increasing Response Rates for Employee Exit Interviews

Employees who leave your organization are generally willing to provide feedback. However, when termination is due to employee deficiency or cutbacks, the employee may fear, be dismayed, or even be angry at the company. To obtain useful information in this type of situation requires special care. It is useful to identify why employees sometimes choose not to participate in or complete exit interviews.

  • Face to face exit interviews are uncomfortable for the employee.
  • Psychologically the person may not want to participate since they may be in denial or want to leave this chapter in their lives behind.
  • The exit interview may be too long, detailed, or contains requests for unimportant information.
  • The exit interview questions may be confusing or personally invasive.
  • Employees don’t believe that the company will value the exit interview information provided.
  • Employees are afraid of repercussions from information provided or statements made.
  • Employees are angry with the company, the employment situation, management, or co-workers.
  • Employees forget to complete the interview or lose the interview form.

Given a 5-10 minute time window and that about 7 multiple choice questions can be answered per minute, 35-50 questions is the maximum. Text input questions take longer and will decrease the number of multiple choice questions (trade 1 text question for 3-5 multiple choice questions).

For all of the reasons discussed above, keep employee exit interview questions simple and short, focusing on evaluations of different job components and identification of needed changes. Questions about feelings and emotions are particularly difficult, especially if the employee has been terminated from the job.

Including Former Employees in the Exit Interview Feedback Loop

Employees who are angry or feel that they have been treated unfairly have the greatest potential to damage the company. However, these same employees also place great value on the opportunity to have their say and provide feedback to someone who might listen to their side of the story. Tell employees leaving the company that their feedback will be evaluated by the director of HR and that their comments and evaluations are important. If the employee makes suggestions, it is appropriate to send a letter thanking them for their honesty and to report on the value and implementations that are to be made based on their recommendations. No doubt, the employee still has friends at the company who may learn of the communication and the value the company places on suggestions for improving the workplace.

Build Your Exit Interview Process to Increase Response Rates

The employee exit interview process within your organization can be structured to maximize the quantity (response rates) and quality of feedback. Begin with an audit of your exit interview process to determine how employee exit interviews are conducted.

  • How is HR notified that an employee exit interview needs to take place?
  • How soon after the notice is received does the interview need to take place?
  • Who is responsible for initiating and conducting the exit interview?
  • How is the employee notified of the exit interview?
  • When does the employee receive notification of the need for an exit interview?
  • What is the employee told about the exit interview?
  • Is the interview process unbiased and free of repercussions?
  • What encouragements are used to secure employee cooperation for the exit interview?
  • When and where will the employee complete the exit interview?
  • Is there easy access to exit interview materials?
  • Does the employee have privacy when completing the exit interview?
  • Does the employee have the choice of completing the interview at work or at home?
  • Is the exit interview easy to complete?
  • Are supervisors and managers supportive of the exit interview process?
  • Are supervisors and managers fearful about receiving negative feedback from employees?
  • Is it easy for employees to submit their exit interviews?

Post Employee Exit Interview Follow-up: Job Comparison Questionnaire

Approximately three months after the completion of the employee exit interview survey, consider sending a Job Comparison Questionnaire that contains questions related to current employment status and asks for a comparison of their new job to their previous job with your organization.

Many different formats and approaches to building online employee exit interviews exist. The general approach is to include:

  • Introduction
  • Identification of position and other relevant classification information
  • Evaluation of corporate climate
  • Evaluation of job environment
  • Evaluation of sensitive issues such as bias, harassment, abuse, and discrimination
  • Evaluation of reasons for leaving
  • Feedback to improve the work environment
  • Feedback to improve the department and/or company
  • Thanks and appreciation for contribution

Employee Exit Interview Questions

A short form of an employee exit interview questionnaire might include the following:

  • Why did you join this organization?
  • What were your best experiences here?
  • What were your worst experiences here?
  • What would make you return to our company?
  • What message would you give to management upon your departure?
  • If a friend asked you, would you recommend that they take a job here?
  • If you could change anything about how the company operates, what would it be?

Employee Exit Interview Questions: Commonly Asked By Category

Below is a list of commonly asked employee exit interview questions.

Job History and Overall Evaluation

  • What factors led you to accept a job with our company?
  • How has your perception of those factors changed during the time you’ve been here?
  • What is your primary reason for leaving?
  • What triggered your decision to leave?
  • Did your job duties turn out to be as you expected?
  • What was most satisfying about your job?
  • What was least satisfying about your job?
  • What would you change about your job?

Job Feedback, Training, Reviews, Support, and Career Goals

  • Was the training you received sufficient to enable you to meet our performance expectations?
  • What additional training should have been provided to you?
  • Did you receive adequate support to do your job?
  • Did you receive sufficient feedback about your performance between evaluation reviews?
  • Were you satisfied with this company’s merit review process?
  • Did this company help you to fulfill your career goals?

Job Improvements, Feedback, and Suggestions

  • How do you feel about the way our company is run?
  • How would you rate the morale in your department? Why?
  • Were you happy with your pay, benefits, and other incentives?
  • What part did pay or benefits play in your decision to leave?
  • How did you view your chances for advancement?
  • What would you improve to make your workplace better?
  • How would you evaluate the quality of the supervision you received?
  • What could your immediate supervisor do to improve his or her management style?
  • Based on your experience with us, what do you think it takes to succeed at this company?
  • Did any company policies or procedures (or any other obstacles) make your job more difficult?
  • Would you consider working for this company again at some time in the future?
  • Would you recommend working for this company to your family and friends?
  • How do you generally feel about this company? Very Satisfied — Dissatisfied
  • What did you like most about this company?
  • What did you like least about this company?
  • If you could change anything about how our company operates, what would it be?

Employee Retention, Comments, and Suggestions

  • How is your new job/company different from this one?
  • What motivated you to begin looking for another job?
  • What made you consider an offer from another company?
  • Before deciding to leave, did you investigate a transfer within the company?
  • Could this company have done anything to encourage you to stay?
  • What does your new company offer that this company doesn’t? (If leaving for another job)
  • Did anyone in this company discriminate against you, harass you, or cause hostile working conditions?
  • What other comments of information would you like to share?
  • Do you have any suggestions of who we might hire or where we might find your replacement?

Other Employee Exit Interview Questions

  • Special demands of the job
  • Skills required by the job
  • Experience gained or needed in the job
  • Educational opportunities on the job
  • Travel requirements
  • Hours required
  • Working environment issues
  • Special problems or challenges in job completion
  • Duties that you were not able to complete
  • Long term objectives associated with the job
  • Management style appropriate to the job or employee environment
  • Budget or resources for job completion
  • Compensation and advancement associated with the job
  • Common challenges faced by other employees in similar jobs
  • Tips to provide to future employees in this job position
  • Other reasons or areas where you either had trouble performing or had a poor performance
  • Company measures of successful performance
  • Company or supervisor acknowledgment of excellent performance
  • Recognition and communication of department or job goals
  • Employee training
  • Impact of poor performance on the company
  • Significant changes on the horizon
  • Education policy
  • Work-life balance
  • Service policy