June 19, 2018

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The Exit Interview

The exit interview is an interview given to a departing employee. This is usually done for employees that voluntarily quit instead of those that are fired or laid off.

Exit interviews offer a fleeting opportunity to find out information that otherwise might be more difficult or impossible to obtain.

The following are some thoughts on the exit interview:

  1. Interviews can be conducted orally or written. I much prefer the oral interview.

  2. Think carefully about the information you would like to get before the interview. This greatly increases the odds of a successful interview.

  3. Save the hardest questions for the latter part of the interview. Work up to the tough stuff!

  4. A good question to break the ice is ‘would you like for us to be a reference/recommendation for you’? Do not make this offer if you would not recommend the employee!

  5. Be prepared for some bombshells. Expect the unexpected – if it ever is to happen it will happen in an exit interview.

  6. Carefully select the interviewer. Look for someone that listens well and is open-minded. It serves no purpose for the interviewer to get into an argument with the departing employee.

  7. Throughout the interview stay focused on the employee!

  8. Look for open-ended questions that allow for plenty of expression. An example of this might be "how did you feel you were managed during your employment with us?" or "how do you feel the company is run?"

  9. Other excellent questions are ‘under what conditions would you have stayed?’ and ‘if you had had a magic wand, what would you have changed?’

  10. Good general questions are ‘what did you like most (least) about your position?’

  11. Try to find out if there were things the departing employee would suggest to improve conditions, production or morale.

  12. Try to get a good feel for how they viewed their compensation and benefits package.

  13. Leave room at the end of the interview for general comments.

  14. Take notes of the high points. Get the general idea – it is not essential to get exact quotes. It is more important to listen than write.

  15. Immediately after the interview determine if you would rehire the employee. Assume they will reapply.

  16. Make use of the information gathered. If you do not use this new information then why do an exit interview?

The exit interview provides us with a good mechanism to take a hard look at how your company is perceived. Since the employee is leaving, they will often be more open and frank in their discussions about the company.

Those companies that do not conduct exit interviews miss out on a great opportunity!

-Jack Deal

Jack D. Deal is the owner of Deal Consulting. He can be reached at or 831-457-8806.