Management Articles


This Way Out
How to Conduct an Exit Interview.

By: Les Gore

Les Gore is founder and managing partner of Executive Search International, a Boston-based, nationally recognized search firm and a 23-year veteran of the "recruiting wars."

There may never be a better time and place to find out what you're doing well--and what your organization needs to do better, than during an exit interview with the person you are terminating. Along with employee satisfaction surveys, exit interviews may offer some insight into improving your workplace.

Exit interviews can be extremely helpful in improving and better understanding your current organization. How so? Because it's an occasion likely to generate blunt and candid feedback. You may find that some items were resolvable with prior information but others are not, such as the desire for a large salary increase.

Unfortunately, if improvement ideas or employee concerns come up at the exit interview, it's probably too late to improve or help your exiting employee. The best time for an associate to discuss concerns, dissatisfactions and suggestions with you is as a committed employee, not on his way out the door. Make sure you provide lots of opportunities to gather and learn from employee feedback--including surveys, department meetings, comment or suggestion forms, and more.

Get feedback from employees who leave voluntarily--and ask for feedback from employees you fire for attendance or performance. Useful information can be gained in both cases.

Exit interviews should be done in person. Your employee's manager should conduct the exit interview, with a human resources senior staff person doing a follow up. Some organizations use written or online questionnaires to conduct exit interviews. Most professionals suggest talking with the departing employee to more completely explore and understand individual views and feelings.

The exit interview questions you ask are key to obtaining actionable information. Begin with "light talk" to help your departing employee feel comfortable answering your questions. Assure that person that no negative consequences will result from honest discussion. Explain that you will use the information provided during the exit interview, in context and in its entirety, to help your organization do better. Freely explore each response for additional clarification and complete understanding.

Sample exit interview questions you can use.

  • Why have you decided to leave the company?

  • Have you shared your concerns with anyone in the company prior to deciding to leave?

  • Was a single event responsible for your decision to leave?

  • What does your new company offer that encouraged you to accept their offer and leave this company?

  • What do you value about the company?

  • What did you dislike about the company?

  • The quality of supervision is important to most people at work. How was your relationship with your manager?

  • What could your supervisor do to improve his or her management style and skill?

  • What are your views about management and leadership, in general, in the company?

  • What did you like most about your job?

  • What did you dislike about your job? What would you change about your job?

  • Do you feel you had the resources and support necessary to accomplish your job? If not, what was missing?

  • We try to be an employee-oriented company in which employees experience positive morale and motivation. What is your experience of employee morale and motivation in the company?

  • Were your job responsibilities characterized correctly during the interview process and orientation?

  • Did you have clear goals and know what was expected of you in your job?

  • Did you receive adequate feedback about your performance day-to-day and in the performance development planning process?

  • Did you clearly understand and feel a part of the accomplishment of the company mission and goals?

  • Describe your experience of the company's commitment to quality and customer service.

  • Did the management of the company care about and help you accomplish your personal and professional development and career goals?

  • What would you recommend to help us create a better workplace?

  • Do the policies and procedures of the company help to create a well managed, consistent, and fair workplace in which expectations are clearly defined?
  • Describe the qualities and characteristics of the person who is most likely to succeed in this company.

  • What are the key qualities and skills we should seek in your replacement?

  • Do you have any recommendations regarding our compensation, benefits and other reward and recognition efforts?

  • What would make you consider working for this company again in the future? Would you recommend the company as a good place to work to your friends and family?

  • Can you offer any other comments that will enable us to understand why you are leaving, how we can improve, and what we can do to become a better company?

End the meeting on a positive note. Before showing the door, wish your associate success in her new endeavor, or whatever she does in the future. End the exit interview graciously. And if it applies, use the information you get to improve your workplace.

Employees have the right to decline an exit interview, so you should inform the departing associate of that option. Also, career experts are divided as to whether the exit interview benefits the company more than the worker, or is worth the time at all. This article is intended as information only and is not a substitute for legal or professional advice.

© Copyright 2006, Les Gore

Other Articles by Les Gore

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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