Conducting an Effective Employee Exit Interview: A Complete Guide for 2023
Discover the best questions to ask at an exit interwiew, how to prepare, and how to analyze the data to improve your company's retention and performance.
Carrying out an employee exit interview often brings mixed feelings. While you are happy they get to further their career, seeing a valuable employee who was part of a team, shared company culture and has built relationships with colleagues leave can be sad too.
Sentiments aside, you can still gain something worthwhile from the experience because these exit interviews provide valuable information that can help enhance work conditions and prevent other valuable teammates from leaving. Considering that as many as two-thirds of companies face difficulty with employee retention, doing as much as you can to prevent churn is exceptionally important.
If you’re wondering how to conduct an exit interview, you are in the right place. This article will teach you how to conduct an employee exit interview correctly with the help of enterprise survey software tools such as Checkbox.
First, let’s see its definition.
What is an Employee Exit Interview?
An employee exit interview is an integral part of the offboarding process in which an employer representative collects feedback from departing employees. The meeting can be held in person, where usually a person from the employer's human resources department asks exit interview questions, or it can be in digital form, as a questionnaire, or even both.
An employee exit interview's key goal is fully understanding why the person wanted to leave. But, it is a valuable opportunity to gather additional feedback, which can improve the functioning of the company, and work conditions in the future.
Importance of running an effective employee exit interview
Collect valuable feedback
The primary reason why you should run employee exit interviews is how valuable the feedback departing employees can provide is.
The more time they spend with your company, the more helpful their experience is. Departing employees will be able to give you insights about your company as a while, not just specific everyday tasks. Plus, more experienced colleagues can highlight if the company is going in the right direction, which is something you shouldn’t take lightly.
But, it is your job to conduct an effective interview if you want to get the most out of it, as you can only run this interview once.
Improve working conditions and reduce employee churn
You can improve working conditions and reduce future staff turnover by collecting employee feedback. But at the same time, you will strengthen the relationships with the person leaving, as they will know you appreciate their opinion.
Not only that they might want to come back in the future, but they will also be more likely to spread the good word about your company in their new workplace.
Plus, employees will be much more honest when they are about to leave, as they won’t fear their answers jeopardizing their wages, relationships with their manager, or future promotions. This can potentially uncover major problems you would otherwise miss, giving you an opportunity to significantly improve working conditions.
Although this question might seem redundant, timing the departing employee interview is vital to get complete yet honest answers.
Interviewing before the employee has left is not a good idea. They will fear repercussions and feel pressure, making it less likely for them to give honest answers.
Also, asking them to do an interview immediately after they leave is not the best time. They are going through a stressful period, and their emotions are high, so they won't give their best effort to provide you with solid feedback.
But waiting too long will make them lose interest, and they might forget important details you want to know about.
Therefore, companies conduct exit interviews 1-2 weeks after employees leave the company. It will give them enough time for their emotions to settle, but it won't be too far away in the future, meaning they will be able to provide useful and fresh insights.
Features of a good exit interview or survey
While every company, position, and employee is unique, there are some features all good exit interviews should contain and which should serve as a backbone of interviews you are about to conduct:
Simple and to the point: while departing employees do have a goldmine of information, if you overwhelm them with 100 exit interview questions, you won't find out anything useful, or at least not in-depth. Conduct exit interviews with easy-to-follow questions, and only ask those that matter the most.
No cookie-cutter solutions: while you will have repeating questions, each interview should have tailor-made elements for the person leaving, or at least for their work position. Otherwise, you will be limited only to in-general questions that will hardly make a difference upon being answered.
Respect employee privacy: never ask questions about employees' intimacy and private life. Also, let them skip questions whenever they feel they shouldn't answer something, as you don't want to be too pushy and intrusive.
Stay professional: avoid any office gossip, and don't try to find out things about other colleagues or managers that aren't business-related.
Leave enough room for their opinion: while it's common practice to leave room for employees' comments at the end of the exit interview survey, you should encourage them to leave comments wherever they feel right. Leave room for "other" whenever you present them with options, and ask them to provide feedback or share anything you missed.
5 common mistakes to avoid while running an exit interview
Here are 5 things you should avoid if you want to conduct a valuable exit interview:
Constricting the employee with closed questions:
While you should prepare exit interview questions in advance and ask everything you planned, it is always good to leave some breathing room. That way, the employee will have the opportunity to express their own opinion, giving you more insights. Leave enough room for their comments.
Having exit interviews too early or too late:
We have covered that the right time to conduct exit interviews is one or two weeks after they leave. That way, they will have enough time to process things, but their memory will remain fresh.
Creating exit interviews that take too long to complete
If you plan to do exit interviews face-to-face, try to make it up to an hour. More than that will tire the employee and reduce the quality of the feedback you get.
If you opt for surveys, a good rule of thumb is that it should take the employee 20-30 minutes to complete the survey. Employees will be much more likely to complete shorter surveys, but that might leave too many important topics out. So try not to get too far either way, but monitor the completion rate and adjust accordingly.
Ignoring employee privacy:
When conducting exit interviews, respect employees' privacy by giving them a safe and confidential way to express their opinions. Also, provide them an option to skip answering questions they find inappropriate or reject taking the interview altogether.
Relying on all-purpose templates:
Templates are a great place to start but ensure you do your best to tailor them to your needs. Each position differs, so you should tweak the exit interview questions to match each employee.
Not acting upon the collected feedback:
The whole point of the process is collecting exit interview data and valuable feedback you can put to good use. Without the latter, the whole process is a waste of time and resources. Unfortunately, too many companies fail to act after they collect feedback, which is something as much as 83% of the employees feel, depending on the generation.
How to conduct a successful exit interview
Checkbox is an advanced survey builder that will give you plenty of templates you can use to get the most out of your exit interviews. But before we get to the questions themselves, let’s summarize what to focus on:
For exit interviews to be successful, the employee needs to feel comfortable, knowing they can express their feelings and opinions without any consequences. They should feel confident and respected throughout the entire procedure.
They should have enough time to answer all the questions and opportunities to give answers that are not listed.
Once the exit interview process is completed, you should collect all of the feedback and ask if there's anything else they want to share with you.
Most importantly, after everything is done, you should forward the collected data to appropriate departments that can act upon it, improving their processes and work conditions.
Lastly, leave room for employees to skip uncomfortable questions or decline the whole interview if they don't feel like taking it.
Examples of questions to ask in an employee exit interview
Here's a list of 12 questions you can ask departing employees during exit interviews:
#1 Why did you decide to leave the company?
This is the most important question exit interviews must contain. The answer will give you a key reason why the person left, and it makes sense to allow them to express themselves fully.
#2 What do you think we could do better to convince you to stay and make your job more fruitful and fulfilling?
This question will allow employees to give honest feedback, which you can use to improve the current working conditions and prevent future leaves.
#3 How could we have provided you with better support so you could thrive in your role?
This type of question is aimed directly towards their daily assignments, and you should offer them answers such as better onboarding, clearer communication, and requirements, quicker team support.
#4 Has the company provided you with the necessary tools and resources so you can fulfill all of your work assignments efficiently?
Here, the employee will be able to share information regarding hardware, tech, materials, and similar collateral they use during their workday. You can give them suggestions based on their role – printers, network, app subscriptions, tech stack, etc.
#5 Were the company values clearly communicated to you from day one?
It's important for team members to understand and share company culture. This question will uncover any communication issues.
#6 What can be improved on the company level?
Here, employees can provide feedback on other things that are not related strictly to their position—for example, office space, equipment, location, and team-building activities. You can even offer some of these as answers, giving them a better idea of what to think about.
#7 What was your experience cooperating with your supervisor?
Exit interviews are rare opportunities to collect honest feedback on these types of questions. The employee won't fear consequences, like when they take an employee opinion survey containing it while their contract is still active. However, don't make harsh judgments based on a single answer, as private interpersonal relationships can get in the way.
#8 Do you think the company provided you with enough career development opportunities, and what could we have done better?
Employees often leave companies to advance their careers, which is why it makes sense to ask them for feedback about what they have found limiting in your firm.
#9 Do you think the company nurtures a good work-life balance?
Besides the lacking of career path opportunities, employees tend to leave companies because they feel their jobs take a toll on their personal life. This question will tell you more about whether the work-life balance is problematic.
#10 Please rate your overall experience with the company
This simple question will let you see what the employees think about your company. But also leave them an opportunity to provide additional feedback in the following questions. It is a very common question all types of employee surveys contain, not just exit interviews.
#11 What advice would you share with future employees?
The information collected here will allow you to improve your onboarding process, as more experienced former colleagues will always have something useful to share with the newcomers.
#12 Please share any additional comments or feedback you might have
The last question should be an opportunity for the employees to share anything you forgot to mention during exit interviews, allowing you to improve the process for the next exit interview.
Planning your employee exit interview with Checkbox
Checkbox is a no-code survey builder that helps you quickly create and conduct effective exit interview. With it, you will collect valuable feedback hassle-free, as employees can answer the questions privately and securely whenever they please. If you have ever wondered about SaaS vs. on-premise survey software, the first time you try Checkbox will be the last time you ever considered running anything but SaaS.
A plethora of pre-built templates
Checkbox has a database of questions thousands of customers have used before you. That way, you won't have to build your exit interviews from scratch, only customize the questions, ensuring the exit survey meets your needs.
Various question types
Checkbox has many question types to choose from, which will ensure you get the most precise answers possible. The question and the situation will determine if you will use single-choice radio buttons, multi-choice checkboxes, dropdowns, free text, or something else – Checkbox will never stand in your way.
Running exit interviews is meaningless if you don't draw conclusions from the feedback collected. Checkbox has built-in analytics features that will let you do just that, giving you constructive feedback to improve your company and maximize employee job satisfaction.
Creating effective employee exit interviews can provide crucial insights that can help your company identify areas of improvement, create a better work environment, and reduce employee turnaround in the future. When conducted right, this crucial part of the employee lifecycle will uncover feedback current employees would rarely leave, becoming a goldmine of improvement opportunities.
Checkbox is here to make yoursurvey creation process a breeze. A plethora of question templates and types will give you ideas and make it easy for the employee to leave feedback. You can try Checkbox today, completely free, and see for yourself why it is trusted by some of the biggest companies in the world as their go-to survey creation tool.
What not to ask in an exit interview?
While this whole article shares valuable tips and gives you exit interview question ideas, there are also some things you should never ask:
Don't ask too intrusive or personal questions (relationships, family, health).
Never blame employees or ask them to tell on someone from their former team.
Don't ask questions about employees' previous performance, as they will feel you are blaming them for the situation.
Avoid leading questions (such as "are you leaving because you were not happy with your supervisor?" Instead, ask them to leave manager feedback.
Can I decline an exit interview?
Absolutely. Taking exit interviews isn't mandatory, but it is certainly a nice thing to do. Therefore, spare some time to complete it if you can – your former employer will appreciate the feedback.
What are the goals of conducting an exit interview?
The primary goal of exit interviews is collecting valuable feedback from employees. That feedback will be used to identify areas of improvement and make changes that will reduce employee churn and make the organization a better workplace.
Can an exit interview be used against you?
In general, exit interviews are taken once you have already left or are about to leave the company, so you won’t face any work-related consequences. But it is your job to be respectful. You can be honest, but don't use employee surveys as an opportunity to insult your former colleagues. If you don’t want to, you don't have to take the interview, which is much better than burning bridges.
Who is responsible for conducting an exit interview?
Human resources departments are usually in charge of exit interviewing. But, this can also be assigned to managers, or even people from the legal department, depending on the company.