How to conduct an exit interview image

Exit interviews are one of the best way that companies can learn and grow. It’s the most effective way to get real employee engagement because once an employee is on their way out, there is nothing left to hold back or hide; you can discover a departing employee’s true feelings about the company.

Below are a few tips and notes about how to conduct exit interviews effectively. They touch on the kinds of questions to ask, the timing of the interview, location, and being able to accept the feedback provided.


It is important to respect the privacy of the departing employee through the exit interview process. Though this is the open and honest part of the departure of an employee, it is still important to empathize that their opinion and feedback should be as confidential as possible. If having the meeting remotely, then keep to the same guidelines as you would while conducting a first job interview -- utilize a space that is quiet and has as few distractions as possible.

How and where to conduct the interview will be different from company to company. Some will have someone from the human resources department, others will ask a direct manager to conduct the interview. Some organizations will just send out a survey by email or a provide a written version to fill out. It’s also good to be flexible with the process. If the departing employee would like to have an in-person meeting even though a survey is standard, or vice versa, then try to accommodate as best as possible.

Interview Questions

During the hiring process, employers will focus on the hard and soft skill questions that will be beneficial to the company and enhance the functionality of the job. Exit interview questions should be based on how those skills were or were not utilized. Other questions should involve the work environment and company culture. Some of the most common exit interview questions will focus on what went well and what could have gone better. Think of this of an authentic performance review of the company as a whole, or maybe just the specific department. You can find some specific suggestions of insightful questions to ask here.

Tone of voice while delivering the questions can also drive the quality and effectiveness of the entire interview. Use a neutral voice and rhythmic cadence when asking the questions and responding to an interviewee’s answers. If in person, try to avoid negative body language as well. Examples may be crossing arms, a break in eye contact, and even silence, signaling resistance to a constructive conversation.

Accept Feedback

Sometimes it is difficult to receive feedback that is not primarily positive, even as an employer. During an exit interview though, this should be taken constructively. The responses of a person on their way out can hold valuable insight into how the business is run. Keep an open mind and know that the information gained here should be leveraged to enhance the business.


Some say that timing is everything. As a manager or HR leader, timing the exit interviews at just the right point of someone’s notice of leave might make a difference in the conversation. Companies that wait until the person’s last day to hold an exit interview might end up with a more critical assessment. The same could also be said if done to early in the notice of leave.

The sweet spot to conduct an exit interview would likely be in the middle of the notice of leave. If the employee has given a two-week notice, then touch base the beginning of the second week. If it’s a month or more notice of leave, then find a time someplace in the middle. This might be a good calm period between the adrenaline rush of resigning and the excitement of starting a new job. In this pocket of time, some of the most constructive answers may end up coming out.

Try to keep the exit interview as short and effective as possible. If you feel though that the exiting employee does have a lot of valuable thoughts and opinions they wish to share, then be sure to also be respectful of their time and what it is they want to be able to say.

If you’re in need of help with your hiring efforts, please reach out to our expert consultants or submit a job description. For more management insights, please browse our advice section.

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