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An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Exit Interview

What Is an Exit Interview?

An exit interview is an activity that allows a departing employee and their organization to exchange information, usually on that employee’s last day of work. Typically the exit interview is an opportunity for the employee to explain their reasons for leaving and provide feedback about their experience working for the organization. This exchange could happen in a face-to-face interview between the employee and a manager or HR, or it could simply be a survey which the employee fills out and turns in. For the most effective communication, we recommend the first option.

Benefits of Effective Exit Interviews

When done well, exit interviews can be a great tool for organizations to collect open and honest feedback that will ultimately help improve their employees’ experience moving forward. Other benefits of an effective exit interview include:

  • Amicable Parting: Considering 15 percent of employees have returned to work for a former employer after leaving (a practice called boomeranging), making sure employees depart on a positive note is important. A well-conducted exit interview can help guarantee that.

  • Employment Wrap-Up: An exit interview can help you set up an orderly departure by clarifying lingering obligations like equipment returns, non-compete clauses, intellectual property agreements, and more.

  • Q&A: Employees may have a few questions that they’d like to ask for clarity and closure, and an exit interview can be the perfect setting for those.

  • Private Venting: Some departing employees may have lingering frustrations and complaints they’d like to express. If you don’t give them a chance to do it in an exit interview, they may air their grievances publicly instead. Not only can this damage your employer brand, but it could also mean your organization is missing out on important feedback.

How to Conduct an Effective Exit Interview

To make the most of an exit interview, you need to establish the right expectations, keep an open mind, and be prepared. Each interview will be different because each employee leaves for their own reasons and under their own circumstances, but you should try to apply the same practices and principles to each one. Try some of these strategies for the best results:

  • Communicate the purpose when scheduling the meeting.

  • Ask someone besides the employee’s direct manager to conduct the interview.

  • Encourage openness by reinforcing confidentiality.

  • Outline appropriate and useful questions beforehand.

  • Express excitement and support for their new opportunity.

  • Implement the feedback to improve other employees’ experiences.