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Exit Interviews


We have an exit interview that asks why employees are leaving the company, but it just doesn’t seem to be helpful. Any suggestions?


My first question to you would be why are you asking? Is it sheer curiosity? Are you looking for trends; do you suspect a problem that needs addressing? The survey rule-of-thumb is to never ask anything that you don’t intend to tackle or report. If you think there is a problem and you need data to substantiate future actions, then make sure you ask questions that will help verify your suspicions.

Are you losing employees to a competitor and need to make your company more competitive to decrease turnover – then ask questions that pinpoint how you can increase retention.

My next question would then be what are you asking? The responses you get need to be quantifiable and actionable. If you are getting a random statement from each terminating employee it can be impossible to track let alone report to others in any actionable format. So be sure your exit interview questions ask for responses that can be compared for reporting purposes and can help you spot a trend or identify a need for intervention.

Instead of asking “why are you leaving?”, provide statements that require the employee to rank or rate their responses. For example:

  • In order of importance please rank why you are leaving: salary, benefits, paid time off, job responsibilities, supervisor, co-workers…
  • Please rate your satisfaction with the following: salary, benefits, PTO…

Finally, what are you doing with the data? If it sits in a drawer then it isn’t helpful. Asking more detailed questions in a way that allows you to compare responses and report accordingly will make the data more useful. Tracking responses over a period of time may show patterns of behavior that reflect the economy, changes in management, policy or responsibility, or shifts in morale; many of which can be impacted by human resources.

A good exit interview can positively impact employee relations, retention and turnover within your organization. Asking the right questions and communicating the results is key to positioning an exit interview as a valuable tool. If you need communication advice or assistance “talk” to us, we can help. Visit our Communications page to learn more.