Management & Leadership

Exit Interviews: Their Purpose & Best Practices

Disciplinary At Work Meeting

Exit interviews give employers the opportunity to gather feedback directly from departing employees. The purpose of exit interviews is to better understand the experiences of employees and their reasons for leaving, uncovering insights that can enhance employee satisfaction and retention strategies.

Although they’re a valuable tool that can help to support a healthy and productive working environment, exit interviews are not mandatory. As such, not all small-to-medium-sized businesses conduct them, often due to resource limitations. However, when done well, exit interviews ensure that employees depart on good terms, foster a positive organisational culture, and provide valuable information that can help your business to grow .

In this guide, we’re going to explore the importance of exit interviews, offer guidance on exit interview best practices, and share some useful exit interview questions that can help you to get the most out of the exercise for your business.

What are exit interviews?

Exit interviews are a formal or semi-formal discussion conducted when an employee leaves a company. They’re an important part of the employee life cycle, helping HR professionals to gather valuable insights into the employee experience and reasons for departure. Aside from the employee, other attendees at the interview may include their manager or team leader, and a member of the HR department.

The purpose of exit interviews is to gather constructive feedback that can help businesses to understand why employees are leaving. It enables them to identify areas where improvements can be made helping to enhance employee satisfaction and retention. In turn, this can contribute to a more efficient and productive workplace.

The benefits of exit interviews for SMBs

When done correctly, exit interviews can provide a wide range of benefits for SMBs. They can be time consuming to create, conduct and analyse, but putting in the effort to make the most of the discussion will help your business to gain valuable insights for improvement.

Some of the key benefits of exit interviews include:

  • Providing feedback to help improve the company culture and boost business performance
  • Supporting the employee life cycle by facilitating a structured departure process
  • Providing a final touchpoint for employees to feel heard, ensuring they leave on a positive note
  • Supporting the reputation of the business by demonstrating care for departing employees
  • Providing management with feedback to help them improve leadership practices
  • Identifying trends or issues that may affect employee retention and addressing them proactively
  • Gathering insights into workplace policies and procedures that may need adjustment
  • Highlighting strengths and weaknesses in training and development programs
  • Offering an opportunity to discuss career growth opportunities and succession planning
  • Enhancing overall employee engagement and satisfaction by addressing concerns constructively

What are the disadvantages of exit interviews?

While they can provide a wide variety of useful insights to improve practices within your business, exit interviews may not always be helpful, or could perhaps even be unnecessary. For example, they can sometimes yield untruthful information, especially if the departing employee is disengaged or has had an unpleasant experience in the workplace. As the purpose of exit interviews is to gather constructive feedback to enhance future employee experiences and organisational practices, it may not be worthwhile to conduct one for an employee who has been terminated.

Exit interviews can also be perceived as reactive rather than proactive in gathering feedback, and employees may not feel that it is worth their time to provide feedback to a company they’re leaving. This perception underscores the need for careful consideration and a structured approach within a larger employee life cycle strategy. By integrating exit interviews thoughtfully, SMBs can effectively harness feedback to improve organisational practices and foster positive employee relations.

Let’s look at some best practices that can help your organisation to make the most out of the exercise.

How to conduct a successful exit interview

To ensure that the exercise is useful for your business, you should follow this guide to exit interview best practices as a minimum. However, the more tailored and in-depth your exit interview process is, the deeper and more valuable the resulting insights will be. This will help you to maintain positive employee relations and continuously improve the workplace environment.

Pre-interview: Exit survey

Before the exit interview, consider using an exit survey to gather initial feedback from departing employees. This survey can include questions about their overall experience, reasons for leaving, and suggestions for improvement. The data collected from the survey can provide valuable insights and help to identify common themes or issues that you can use to inform the exit interview questions.

Pre-interview: Clearly set expectations

It’s important to clearly communicate the purpose of the exit interviews and the format that it will take to the departing employee. Explain that the conversation aims to gather constructive feedback to improve the workplace environment. Setting clear expectations helps the employee feel comfortable sharing their thoughts honestly and ensures a productive discussion during the exit interview.

Holding the interview: When and where

Schedule the exit interview shortly before the employee’s departure date, ideally within a week of their resignation. Choose a private and neutral location for the interview to maintain confidentiality and encourage open communication. Avoid holding the interview on the employee’s last day to allow time for reflection and prevent rushing the conversation.

Holding the interview: Who should be present

Typically, the HR manager or a designated HR representative should conduct the exit interview. Depending on the size and structure or your organisation, a direct supervisor or department head may also attend to gain insights relevant to their area. Limit the number of participants to maintain a comfortable environment where the departing employee feels safe to express their views openly.

Holding the interview: Key points to cover

During the exit interview, discuss the employee’s reasons for leaving, their overall experience with the company, and any suggestions that they have for improvement. Encourage them to provide specific examples, and make notes throughout the discussion so you can more easily analyse and act on the feedback. If the employee completed an exit survey before the interview, make sure to bring this to support the structure of the discussion. We’ve put together some examples of useful exit interview questions in the next section.

Post-interview: Confidential use of feedback

Ensure that all feedback obtained during the exit interview remains confidential and is used solely for the purpose of improving the organisation. Avoid sharing individual responses with other members of staff without prior consent from the leaving employee. Collectively analysing exit interview feedback from multiple employees can help you to identify trends and patterns to inform strategic decisions aimed at enhancing employee satisfaction and retention.

Example exit interview questions

Here are some examples of exit interview questions that might be beneficial for you to ask employees who are leaving the business.

  • What prompted you to leave the company?
  • Do you feel that your role matched your initial expectations when you were hired?
  • What aspects of your job did you enjoy the most?
  • Were there any aspects of your job that you found particularly challenging or frustrating?
  • How would you describe the team dynamics here?
  • Did you feel that your contributions were valued and recognised?
  • How do you feel about the support you received from your manager?
  • Did you feel that there were sufficient opportunities for professional growth and development?
  • Did you receive enough training and resources to succeed in your role?
  • Do you feel that the company’s policies and procedures were fair and consistently applied?
  • Based on your experience here, what suggestions do you have for improving the company culture or work environment?
  • What are your career plans moving forward?

Before conducting the exit interview, collaborate with key stakeholders and thoroughly review the questions to make sure they meet the requirements of your business. For the best results, tailor the exit interview questions to different roles or departments within your organisation.

Improve the employee offboarding experience with People HR

While exit interviews aren’t mandatory, they’re an extremely useful tool for gathering actionable feedback for employee satisfaction and retention strategies. As well as helping to improve efficiency in the workplace, acting on the insights uncovered by exit interviews can also help to support a positive business reputation.

As your HR software partner, PeopleHR can help small-to-medium businesses by providing tools that support effective feedback and appraisals throughout the employee life cycle. As well as providing more purpose and focus, this can improve the employee offboarding experience by ensuring that departing employees feel heard and valued, even as they transition out of the company.

Check out our 4 minute demo to see if PeopleHR is right for you, and download our exit interview template to get started on improving your employee experience.


Sheldon Walker
By Sheldon Walker New Business Sales Representative

Sheldon is a New Business Sales professional with Access PeopleHR. He is dedicated to helping SMBs thrive in today's competitive landscape. With over 5 years of experience in SAAS and HR software products, he has provided numerous clients with the tools to make their life easier. Sheldon's passions lie in helping clients achieve their goals and giving them the freedom to do more.