Exit Interviews

by Alyssa Hill, SHRM-CP, Manager, Human Resources Solutions
Published September 21, 2022

Every organization has turnover. While some organizations may feel frustrated over terminations and develop hard feelings over resignations, all employees leaving a company have valuable information they can provide – unique feedback from their job experience. In these turbulent times of attracting and retaining employees, it is pivotal that organizations have a better understanding of their employee’s experience – both what makes them stay (as identified within Employee Engagement Surveys) and what might encourage them to leave (through Exit Interviews). Employees who are exiting the company may be able to provide a unique and candid perspective making the Exit Interview an important piece of the talent management puzzle. With the proper feedback and insight into what is “really going on,” organizations can discover issues and work to improve the work experience for new hires AND long-term employees.


Organizations say the most common reasons Exit Interviews ARE NOT conducted with resigned and terminated employees are:


1.      The feedback may not be genuine or accurate. If an employee were involuntarily terminated or leaving the company due to dissatisfaction, some organizations feel their feedback may only be negative and skewed, rendering the interview useless and a waste of time. While some employees may be bitter, there is still information that could be useful – especially if a common trend of similar answers across multiple Exit Interview responses materializes. The Exit Interview also could include a question about the good aspects of their time spent there.


2.       They think it may be awkward to speak to the exiting employee. If a person was terminated or quit due to an unfavorable reason – while the conversation may be uncomfortable – there are ways to mitigate the discomfort. HR or another manager the employee has not worked for could conduct the interview, decreasing the chance of personal feelings bleeding into the conversation. The interviewer should set clear expectations at the beginning of the interview – that it is being conducted for data-collection purposes and employee comments are appreciated – and that the organization will use information collected to improve the experience for all employees. During the conversation, the interviewer should not argue or comment on something said unless it was serious, dangerous, or destructive and could require a more thorough investigation.


3.      They feel there is not enough time. While many organizations truly may not have the time, they do need to consider the long-term effects of Exit Interviewing. Organizations could potentially save time in the future if feedback from an Exit Interview was used and helped retain an employee who had been considering leaving. The 15 – 45 minutes needed to conduct an effective Exit Interview could save hours (and significant dollars) when recruiting and managing talent.


These three perceived barriers (along with countless others) are potentially legitimate reasons why employers choose not to conduct Exit Interviews. Some organizations also artificially restrict interviews to employees giving a two week notice or those that had been with the company over 1 year. Those organizations are missing out on crucial feedback as there is no definite timeline or “breaking point” that initiates most employee turnover – it is a combination of events, environments, opportunities, and trust that should be identified regardless of the tenure of an employee or the reason they are leaving.


If your organization wants to learn from conducting Exit Interviews but has barriers in the way (real or perceived), TEA can help. We conduct Exit Interviews for several local organizations, compiling and reporting back the major reasons listed and make recommendations as to how to “stem the tide” to prevent unwanted turnover. TEA will work with you to set up a custom Exit Interview template, contact the exiting employees via phone call, and do the interviewing off-site using the questionnaire to consistently collect actionable data. If you are interested in learning more about this service, please call us at 616-698-1167 or contact us through e-mail at tea@teagr.org.