When conducted properly, exit interviews are a valuable tool in determining the best way to improve employee retention and morale within your organization.  However, getting employees to feel comfortable enough to share their true feelings about their soon to be former employer can be a tricky game.
Who Should Conduct an Exit Interview?
In order to receive the most honest, relevant feedback, it is recommended to utilize a neutral, non-biased third party.  Using a direct supervisor will certainly not provide the most candid feedback about that supervisor’s performance or the functioning of a specific department.  Likewise, having Human Resources conduct the interview can cause the parting employee to become uneasy.  After all, “HR” holds the employment files and becomes a point of contact for a past employment verification.  The employee will not want any “skeletons” looming in their past employer closet.
When Should an Exit Interview Be Conducted?
You want to catch the employee at a time when they are still in the mood to talk about their past employer, but not at a time where they may still be disgruntled about the circumstances that caused them to leave.  The best feedback comes when the employee has had a reasonable amount of time to evaluate their departure from the company and reflect on their experience.  They’ll be better suited to offer constructive criticism a week or longer after they have left the company.
What Should You Ask?
First of all, you want to be honest with your employees about why you are conducting the interview.  If the departed employee thinks it is being conducted so the company can get “the dirt” on other employees, or find out what company the person’s now working with, they will be on the defensive.  Be upfront and let the employee know how the data is going to be used, if it’s anonymous, and who will have access to the information.
In order to create measurable statistics, you will want to use a rating system for the majority of your questions.  A rating system will allow you to compare data across departments, positions, time frames or any other criteria that may reveal a trend you’re looking for.  We often recommend a 1 through 5 rating scale, where 1 equals “Extremely Dissatisfied”, all the way up to a 5, which would indicate “Extremely Satisfied”.  Numerical data will allow you to quickly establish trends and patterns with the employees that leave your organization.
However, to get the most descriptive information out of your exit interviews, you will want to follow up with open-ended questions to obtain more specific information. Some examples of open-ended exit interview questions are, but are not limited to, the following:
  • What are three things you think the company could do to improve employee retention?
  • What was the most satisfying part of your role with the company?
  •  If you could pick one policy or procedure to do away with, what would it be?
  •  What type of support could the company have provided to help you conduct your job more effectively?
  • What factors lead you to the rating of your immediate supervisor?


Be Consistent
Conducting exit interviews is a time consuming process.  Phone interviews will consume the most time, but also yield the most information when conducted by qualified interviewers.  To get the most out of the initiative, the interviews must be conducted consistently on all employees that leave the company by choice.  Keep in mind, if you aren’t going to actually use the data to help improve your organization, this process isn’t going to be worthwhile.
Look for trends
  •  How long, on average, does your typical employee stay with the company?  Does it vary drastically by location, position or manager?
  •  Do most of your departing employees rate their direct supervisors poorly?  It may be time to invest in leadership training. 
  •  Do departing employees rave about the workplace culture or think the company lacks direction?
  •   Is the geographic location your biggest deterrent to long term employees?
  •  Did the departing employee leave for more pay and benefits, or simply a “better” company with the same pay?  Would a few perks have changed their perspective?


When used correctly, the data you receive is priceless.  The key is not to sit on the data.  Use what you learn to make improvements.  Your strongest areas will make excellent selling points to prospective new employees.
To receive a free evaluation of your current exit interview program, feel free to contact us 888-578-8600 or contact@safescreener.com.  SafeScreener.com offers several solutions in providing an optimal exit interview program to best suit the needs of your organization.