Guide to exit interviews

£ 20

The exit interview process is a valuable tool for making business improvements and retaining staff. This guide outlines the best practice for employers conducting exit interviews.

What is this guide for?

The purpose of this Guide to exit interviews is to provide you with a flexible and customisable document to serve as a robust and effective starting point for you.

By using our Guide to exit interviews, you can streamline your process, maintain consistency and accuracy, and save time, and it can be easily adapted to fit your specific scenario.

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Time to read / prep / use
10 mins
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1506 words, 4 pages A4
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Date last reviewed
1 June 2024
guide to exit interviews

Guide to exit interviews

Exit interviews are a good method to get valuable feedback from workers before they leave your organisation. When it comes to departing a company, individuals may claim that they have obtained a better opportunity or that they just want a change. However, there is likely to be more helpful criticism lurking beneath the surface.

Some of the most typical causes for worker turnover are a salary increase, a promotion, further training, or a shorter commute. Whatever the reason, it's a good idea to have an open and honest talk about their experience in order to retain your employees in the future.

The advantages of exit interviews

Exit interviews provide various advantages for both employees and companies.

Advantages for employers

  • Improved comprehension of employee emotions.
  • Allows for the comparison of employee comments across teams through reporting.
  • Aids in evaluating their manager's competence and capabilities.
  • Identifies both the positive aspects and recurring problems within the business.
  • Helps to part on good terms (if there was any negative sentiment).
  • Long-term assistance in decreasing worker turnover.

Advantages for employees

  • Allows workers to express their opinions.
  • Gives a more pleasant conclusion to their experience (if there has been negatives).
  • It makes them feel appreciated as an employee.

Disadvantages of exit interviews

  • Employees may not be totally forthcoming (due to fear of burning bridges).
  • Exit interviews are useless unless they are properly followed up on.
  • If the reasons for their departure are unfavourable, the exit interview may be a difficult event.
  • Employees may be dissatisfied if they are not given the opportunity to submit feedback prior to leaving.

The ideal exit interview procedure

An exit interview can be conducted in a variety of ways.

The business should present several alternatives for the employee to choose from. In an ideal world, the employee would first complete a survey that provides measurable data.

This will be followed by a brief face-to-face discussion in which the employee will be able to elaborate on specific topics in a descriptive manner.

Checklist for the exit Interview procedure

  1. Check whether the employee is willing to participate (even though departure interviews are part of your business policy, they are fully voluntary).
  2. Give the employee a range of options to provide feedback: in writing / over the phone / in person
  3. Make a note of the meeting in your calendar (no longer than 1 hour)
  4. Request that the employee complete a departure survey ahead of time.
  5. Create a comprehensive set of questions for the in-person meeting.
  6. Allow the employee to review and complete the questions prior to the exit interview so they are not caught off guard.
  7. Conduct the exit interview in a private location.
  8. Store and record feedback in a secure location.
  9. Distribute the comments to the appropriate members of staff.
  10. Use the feedback to determine business tasks.

Who should carry out the exit interview?

Employers must be careful to select the correct individual to conduct an exit interview.

This person should typically come from a neutral position with regard to the employee. The employee's immediate manager, for example, would not be a neutral option. It may result in the employee not being completely forthcoming, especially if their reason for leaving is related to their management.

In most circumstances, HR representatives can be a more neutral alternative as long as they are not interviewing someone from their own team.

If you don't have an HR department, a manager from another department is a suitable option. Employees must be able to express themselves freely and confidently. They must also believe that the interviewers will provide truthful and helpful comments.

How to maintain confidentiality during an exit Interview

Keeping exit interview comments anonymous can be challenging, but it must remain a priority for employers if they want genuine input. When providing feedback, the employee's name should be kept confidential. This may be more challenging in smaller organisations when it is clear who gave the comments. 

When should exit interview feedback not be kept confidential?

Under certain conditions, the feedback may not be kept confidential. These reasons should be communicated to the employee prior to the leaving interview, and some companies may opt to begin an internal investigation or disciplinary proceedings with the consent of the employee who supplied the information where there has been:

  • a report of harassment.
  • a report of discrimination.
  • a breach of company policy.

Exit interview do’s and don’ts

Do:

  • Remain neutral.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Maintain confidentiality.
  • Maintain a calm tone throughout the discussion.

Don't:

  • Provide unconstructive feedback.
  • Get caught up in the details of an incident, and don't express your personal ideas.
  • Make people answer questions they aren't comfortable answering.

Exit interviews should not be used to retain a specific member of staff.

How to summarise exit interview results

Summarising the feedback is one of the most crucial parts of the exit interview process. It allows you to implement the feedback into actionable steps and improve the business. The summary notes should be digitally recorded and categorised for ease of use.

Ways to categorise exit interview feedback

Once the interview’s complete, the qualitative feedback should be recorded and categorised in an organised way. If recorded correctly, you can accumulate a valuable amount of qualitative and quantitative data over time which you’ll then use to spot trends. Many HR professionals review and analyse this information on a quarterly basis to identify any potential business improvements.

Qualitative employee data

  • Any negative / positive experiences mentioned
  • Any suggestions for improvement
  • Employee manager
  • Employee department
  • Employee level (junior / senior / management)

Quantitative employee data

  • Number of years at the company
  • Length of time employed
  • Date of notice
  • Any scoring from exit surveys e.g. 7/10 likely to recommend the employer to a friend
  • Employee performance against target e.g. 60% of target

Trends you may encounter when analysing exit interview feedback

Trends will vary from company to company, but here are some trends that you may typically encounter off the back of exit interviews:

  • A certain manager has low staff retention
  • Particular members of staff frequently receive negative feedback
  • People tend to leave when they join a particular department/team
  • Changes in company policies have triggered people to leave
  • Consistent dissatisfaction with aspects of how the company is ran
  • Employees tend to leave within a certain number of years of employment
  • Employees frequently leave to join one company competitor in particular

How to share exit interview results with the business

Any feedback from the exit interview should be put to good use and shared with the wider business. What you want to achieve from the feedback will determine who you share it with. Remember, feedback should always be delivered anonymously or in aggregate form, and the employee should be made aware of this ahead of the exit interview.

Sharing with HR

Exit interview information should be shared with HR in all its entirety since it’s HR’s responsibility to notice trends and spot any areas of concern that need escalating. Having access to all the information allows HR to create an organised and visual representation of the feedback that can be easily accessed at any time by authorised personnel.

Sharing with management

Certain aspects of the interview feedback will need to be shared with the management team. Employers should avoid openly discussing any feedback that relates to another member of the management team – this should be done privately. Any points shared with the wider management team should aim to collaboratively correct any cultural, structural or procedural problems.

Sharing with individuals

It may be appropriate to share feedback with specific individuals if they’re mentioned in the exit interview. Any feedback that relates to one person specifically can be relayed on a 1:1 basis in a private setting, rather than in a group setting. Feedback should be constructive, whilst also giving the member of staff an opportunity to share their perspective. Employers should use their discretion and may feel that it’s not necessary to share the feedback with the individual concerned.

Sharing with the wider business

It’s good practice for companies to share regular updates with their staff about improvements from feedback. This could be done on a quarterly basis via an email or a quarterly meeting. This update shouldn’t detail where the feedback has come from specifically or relate to any particular events. Instead, it should explain that the company is always gathering feedback for improvements via surveys, exit interviews, meetings and 1:1s. This will have the benefit of showing employees that you’re proactive in taking feedback seriously. In turn, this will encourage employees to feed back in their own ways.

Potential action points from exit interview feedback

The action points you create from the feedback will vary significantly from organisation to organisation. Here are some examples of action points you might create:

  • Further training for staff members
  • Restructuring
  • Improving company benefits
  • Introducing remote working options
  • Increasing staff wages
  • Improving company culture
  • Developing a clearer progression structure
  • Disciplinary action
  • Investigation into misconduct

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