We may earn money when you click on links to our partners. Advertiser Disclosure

How To Conduct an Exit Interview

Gain valuable insights from departing employees

Updated: July 10, 2023
exit interview notes on paper

You’ve just received an employee’s letter of resignation. What should you do next? Well, first breathe, because although unfortunate and perhaps even sad, employee transitions are a natural part of the employee life-cycle.

But, before you say the final goodbyes, schedule an exit interview with the departing employee. It will help you gather valuable insights about the individual’s experience at the company and things you and your leadership team may want to address moving forward. It also offers the opportunity for the employee to share their experience, often a valuable closure activity for them before they depart.

The concept of an exit interview may be one that you need to familiarize yourself with or be sure about how to implement in your organization. In this article, I cover

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a conversation during the off-boarding process (also called out-processing). This conversation is between an HR staff member – or for those organizations that don’t have HR staff, an individual that oversees HR functions – and a departing employee that focuses on the employee’s experience at the company.

The exit interview seeks to understand both the positive and negative aspects of the employee’s experience related to the organization, their particular role, and their interactions with their manager and other leaders.

Exit interviews should be conducted with employees that are voluntarily leaving the organization. Refrain from conducting exit interviews with terminated or laid-off individuals, as the responses may skew negative due to the nature of the end of employment, and any analysis conducted may prove unreliable.

The exit interview can be face-to-face during an in-person or virtual meeting or via an online survey. There are pros and cons to each. If your organization values and consistently encourages open and honest communications, a “live” interview may be best. Yet, an online survey can offer an environment more conducive to honest responses.

What is the purpose of an exit interview?

An exit interview is an opportunity to learn more about why employees leave your organization and the positive aspects that kept them there for a while. Ultimately, what you learn in an exit interview can help leaders do more of what is working and address what isn’t to increase employee retention and strengthen their employer brand.

As HR software provider, Personio shares on its blog, “Exit interviews are a great opportunity to take the temperature of your organization, maintain a strong employer brand, and find new ways to boost your retention rates while decreasing attrition.” Where exit interviews are concerned, you can learn much from and gather insights to inform future actions, initiatives, and changes to implement within your organization.

An exit interview can offer the departing employee a final opportunity to share their experience, communicating that their feedback and perspective are valued and desired.

Pros & cons of exit interviews

  • Understanding organizational strengths and weaknesses
  • Valuable feedback that leadership can address for remaining employees
  • Opportunity to hear directly from employees
  • Provides a chance for employees to provide honest and open feedback
  • Reactive and perhaps too little too late for remaining employees
  • Responses may not reflect the experience or perceptions of other employees
  • Since they are optional, results and insights may be incomplete or skewed

Who should participate in the exit interview?

The exit interview is a one-on-one conversation between the departing employee and a designated staff member. Again, I recommend conducting these with voluntary departures (those that resign) versus terminated or laid-off employees.

An HR staff member or individuals overseeing HR functions should conduct the exit interview. The direct supervisor should not lead nor participate in the interview to create the most open and hospitable environment for the employee.

What to say in an exit interview

An exit interview should be a standard, repeatable process within your organization. Therefore, it is essential to share the same information and ask the same questions of each participating employee.

When conducting exit interviews, inform the employee that their responses are voluntary and will remain confidential. In a “live” exit interview, there are times when comments about helpful coworkers or highly positive experiences are mentioned (as well as negative ones too). These are only shared with others if the employee explicitly says you can share the feedback with those directly involved. Otherwise, any information gathered during the interview remains confidential.

Aside from asking the predetermined questions and follow-up or clarifying questions as needed, there is no need to do much talking. Instead, listen, offering the individual the space to share openly and honestly about their experience.

At the end of the interview, remind them of how the responses will help inform future practices within the organization and how what you learn can help make the experiences of other employees better. Thank them for their service, remind them of any final out-processing tasks or information, and wish them well in their future endeavors.

“Be open to hearing both positive feedback and sometimes tough truths about the employment experience at your company. That is one way you can keep improving and providing an excellent experience for your staff,”

What questions should be asked during the exit interview?

Since the goal is to learn more about the employee’s overall experience and what the company can improve upon, ask questions about the company’s overall work environment, their position and responsibilities, and supervisory practices. Be sure to pick the questions you will ask in advance, creating a template for all future exit interview conversations.

For some, an exit interview may produce uncertainty or anxiety, wondering what to expect. Settle nerves by letting them know in advance what the nature of the conversation will be. Consider providing the questions in advance so they have time to reflect upon their responses, creating an even more welcoming environment for candid and constructive feedback.

Here are some sample exit interview questions to get you started.

Overall experience

  • How was your overall experience working for this company?
  • What factors contributed to your decision to resign?
  • What could have prevented you from leaving?


  • What makes your new job more attractive than your present job?
  • Were the duties and demands of this job described accurately during the interview process?
  • Were you given the training to perform the job? How would you assess the quality of that training? What are some of the areas for improvement?

Supervisor support

  • Were you and your supervisor able to work together effectively?
  • What kind of feedback did you receive from your supervisor, and how frequently?
  • How could your supervisor have helped you more on the job?

A great place to work/employer brand

  • Would you consider returning to this company if a position were available in the future?
  • Would you recommend a friend or family member to work here? Why or why not?
  • How would you describe our work environment to someone considering working here?

There is much to learn when you invite open and honest feedback and listen closely to what departing employees share. You’ll gain more insight into an individual’s experience that can shed light on what is and isn’t working within the organization or a department. You can also learn how employee satisfaction and the workplace culture may have evolved and what events in the life of the organization, the team, or on a personal level may have impacted an individual’s decision to leave the organization. Finally, insights into how well a supervisor supports an employee can drive management training and best practice changes.

Overall, what you learn through an exit interview can help improve the employee experience for remaining and future staff and set priorities for you and senior leaders.

How to summarize exit interview results

It is crucial to analyze key themes and determine what is needed to strengthen healthy and positive aspects of the employee experience while addressing those that are negative or potentially contributing to attrition. There is value in looking at individual responses and responses over time to determine what issues to prioritize and address.

Depending on how often you have employees departing, it is a good idea to report high-level findings, insights, and recommendations regularly (monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually). HR software often includes reporting features, which can help present exit interview data in a clear and actionable format. This can be useful for HR and management to understand the common reasons for employee turnover and work towards reducing it.

Remember to keep individual responses confidential if that has been a standard adopted with your process. When a concern arises, address changes immediately whenever possible. As appropriate, communicate how insights and feedback provided by employees informed the action(s).

Exit interview legal issues

As you prepare to integrate exit interviews into your out-processing practices, remember there is no legal requirement to conduct them. The Employee Law Handbook notes that comments, actions, or refusals to sign specific forms or agreements can indicate legal concerns looming. If any red flags arise, note them and share them with your legal counsel and senior leadership, as appropriate.

Exit interview frequently asked questions (FAQs)

An exit interview aims to gather feedback and insights from an employee leaving a company or organization. It allows the departing employee to express their thoughts, experiences, and opinions about their time with the organization.

An exit interview ideally lasts 45-60 minutes. There may be times when a more extended amount of time is appropriate due to the feedback the employee shares or areas where follow-on questions are helpful. Be mindful and respectful of the individual’s time, as this is often one of the last tasks they must complete before officially ending their employment with the company.

An HR staff member, or a staff member responsible for HR duties, should conduct the exit interview. The direct supervisor of the departing employee should not lead nor participate in the interview to ensure the employee can share openly and freely.

Ask all departing employees the same questions. The questions should glean insights about their overall experience as an employee, focusing on the company, their role, management, and coworkers.

Generally, the responses gathered through exit interviews are confidential. Before implementing exit interviews in your organization, determine if the responses will remain confidential and how to share insights with senior leaders. Share that with each departing employee at the beginning of each exit interview.

No, exit interviews are not mandatory. Employees may choose not to participate in an exit interview, even if it is highly encouraged by the organization.

The Bottom Line

There is much to learn from departing employees. A well-defined and executed exit interview can provide helpful insight into an employee’s experience. The feedback provided can support making needed changes to enhance your company’s areas of strength while also addressing unhealthy, harmful, or weak areas that can improve the experience for remaining and future employees.

Insights gained from offering departing employees the chance to share their experience are well worth integrating this practice into your offboarding process for employees that have voluntarily resigned.