Engagement - HR Strategy

Personalising The Exit Interview

What if we start looking at losing an employee the same way as losing a customer? Why did they decide to go somewhere else?

May 21 2020


  • The best tool to understand why an employee leaves our company is an exit interview.

  • Every company can build its personalised process and exit interview questions.

  • Exit interviews help our company gain insight and make senior management review HR strategy, L&D, retention, performance & promotion programs, salaries, and benefits.


Fortune 500 companies understand the importance of an exit interview. According to a Burke Incorporated research, 91% of the Fortune 500 companies conduct exit interviews.

Executive managers agree that top performer employees are the asset that drives organisational success, and their goal is to retain them. High turnover hurts an organisation's performance and it's essential to figure out why they leave. Exit interviews are the best tool we currently have to understand why an employee decided to leave the company. It's not enough to collect exit interview data, you also have to analyse it and share the results with senior management.

Who would conduct the exit interview?

The seniority of the interviewer gives a clear signal on how important the exit interview is for the company. The aim is to receive honest feedback and also to be able to act on it, so we need to make sure the interviewer is perceived by a leaving employee as fair, objective and interested to hear what the employee has to say. That is the rule to follow. It can sometimes be an HR professional, a second line manager, a top executive. It is important to provide some kind of training for the interviewer. Some firms use external consultants specialised in these types of processes.

When is the best time for it?

There are different approaches, but a good moment is at some point between the employee formally communicates his departure and the actual last day at work, before he feels checked out.

Others prefer to wait a month after the employee leaves the company, finding him or her feeling much more relaxed.

Face to face? via message?

It's quite important to personalise the process and adequate it, have in consideration the personality, role and seniority. On a face to face conversation, the interviewer would be able to collect information from the body language, tone of voice, and gestures, however, some people would be more honest through chat, email, or even completing an online questionnaire.

Following a predefined structure has the downside of not leaving room for unexpected responses, but facilitates the analysis of the information generated from all the interviews.

Some organisations create an exit interview menu: the leaving employee is allowed to customize the EI experience by choosing the interviewer, location, method, length, follow-up, and so on.

Would you interview everybody?

Yes. Exit interviews should be conducted with all employees who leave the company, both voluntarily and involuntarily. When exit interviews are mandatory, the probability that they will lead to specific action generally increases.

What's next?

Exit interviews should be measured by the impact it has on the organisation, therefore, it's vital to share the insights with senior management and decision-makers.

There are many aspects of the company that can be improved after analysing exit interviews:

  • Aligning HR strategy, employees' needs and interests
  • Enacting practices and retention programs to influence top talent to stay working with us
  • Offering more training and development opportunities
  • Revising salaries and other benefits
  • Reviewing performance and promotion processes
  • Training and improving managers leadership skills

Ultimately, the goal of this process is to look at the company from a different angle and gain insights into what is on employees' minds, find problems in the company, and learn about compensation benchmarks at competing organisations. To quote Wayne Dyer "If you change the way you look at things, the things that you look at change".


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