People Management

23 Exit Interview Questions for Employers

Exit interviews are a vital part of the offboarding process, providing key insights that can help improve the workplace. When crafting your exit interview, it’s important to ask the right questions to gain valuable feedback from departing employees. Here are some essential tips and questions to consider for making your exit interviews as effective as possible.

What Is an Exit Interview?

An exit interview is a meeting between an outgoing employee and a representative of their place of work, often a human resources professional or manager. The purpose of an exit interview is to allow workers to provide opinions on their experience with the company and the workplace in general. 

Exit interviews also allow employers to collect information to improve the workplace. Nearly every workplace can gain something from interviewing outgoing staff members. 

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What Are the Benefits of Exit Interviews?

Many employers question whether exit interviews are mandatory. After all, tensions can exist when a worker departs a company, especially when the person has grievances they’d like to share with management before they go. 

Remember that employers are not legally mandated to conduct interviews with departing staff. And barring contractual obligations, employees can deny these interviews when requested. However, the exit interview process can be quite beneficial, particularly for employer branding, by achieving the following:

  • Enhance a workplace’s brand and image
  • Uncover problems and issues
  • Reduce high turnover rates
  • Promote engagement with remaining staff
  • Ensure a successful departure process
  • Identify essential qualities for the worker’s replacement

The benefits of exit interviews make the process worthwhile for most employers. However, workplaces should evaluate the decision to conduct exit interviews on a case-by-case basis.

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Should Exit Interviews Occur in All Cases?

The benefits of exit interviews typically outweigh any potential risks in most cases. However, some situations warrant special consideration. For instance, interviewing a terminated employee is a delicate process that requires a careful approach. While an interview may be helpful in this case, it’s also likely that tensions are running high. 

If an employer chooses to interview a terminated worker, neutrality is essential. In addition to drafting a careful and considerate termination letter, the person in charge should thoughtfully consider what to say in an exit interview, mainly when the employee is aggrieved about the loss of employment. 

Carrying out interviews after layoffs requires a similarly delicate approach. While it’s important for workplaces to handle employee layoffs with dignity, workers may still experience volatile emotions about being let go. Accordingly, their feelings could cloud their judgment and lead to unhelpful statements about the company and their working experience.

What Should an Exit Interview Cover?

The exact process for exit interviews will vary from place to place. Despite these variations, the basic structure remains largely the same:

Choosing an Interviewer or Interviewers

A company’s human resources department typically leads the exit interview process, but other management personnel can also be involved. Some companies enlist a third party to hold the interview, which may be beneficial when the situation is highly contentious. 

Planning the Interview

This step usually involves drafting questions and selecting a location for the interview. Conference, meeting rooms, or Zoom are often preferred, as they establish neutrality. Focus on areas where privacy is assured to instill confidence in the departing staff member.  

Scheduling a Time

Some employers conduct their interviews a few days before the staff member’s two-week notice is up. Others may schedule the interview after the person has officially left the company. The timing is ultimately up to the needs and discretion of the employer.

Conducting the Interview

On the interview day, do your best to put the departing employee’s mind at ease. Create a comfortable atmosphere for the interview by keeping things casual and low-key. Be considerate of the staff member’s time as well. Most exit interviews range from thirty minutes to one hour; anything longer can feel drawn out. 

In addition to the general structure of exit interviews, employers can also consider the different types:

In-Person Interviews

In-person interviews are generally considered the best option to ensure a comprehensive and productive process. However, they can be inconvenient when dealing with remote staff located a great distance from company headquarters. 

Email Interviews

Email interviews offer more convenience in remote working situations but lack the personal nature of in-person sessions. Emailing back and forth can also affect the quality of the answers to exit interview questions, as the departing employee will have more time to draft their responses. 

Phone-Based Interviews

Phone-based interviews are a good compromise between in-person and email interviews. Employers can also use video conferencing technology to create a more personal atmosphere.

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How to Conduct an Exit Interview

Numerous steps are involved when conducting a successful interview with a departing employee. In general, employers will want to cover the following areas:

Greeting the Interviewee and Making Them Feel at Ease

Once the interviewee arrives, greet them warmly and offer them a seat in the conference or meeting room. Refreshments, such as beverages or snacks, can also put the person in the right frame of mind. Feel free to engage in light small talk before the official interview to create a comfortable environment. 

Discussing the Details of the Employee’s Departure

Next, discuss the employee’s upcoming departure from the company. This portion of the discussion can involve practical matters (such as the person’s last day) and more conversational ones (such as how they feel about their new place of work). Keep topics light and casual to maintain a relaxed atmosphere.  

Diving Into the Interview Questions

At this point, you can feel free to begin the formal interview process. In addition to taking notes to document the employee’s responses, you can also consider recording the session. Having a conversation record protects both parties, as it ensures accuracy. However, gaining the staff member’s consent is necessary before recording the session. If they refuse, proceed with note-taking. 

Allowing Time for the Worker to Provide Thorough Answers

While you want to keep the interview on track, refrain from rushing the interviewee when they’re developing answers. If a person feels rushed or under pressure, it can impact the veracity of their responses. Employers will benefit more from the process by allowing the staff member time. 

Asking for Additional Insight or Feedback

Once the interview portion is complete, ask the employee if they have any additional information they’d like to share. This can be positive or negative feedback related to the person’s job duties, the company atmosphere, management staff, and other relevant topics. During this portion of the interview, allow the staff member free rein on the topics of conversation. 

Thanking the Outgoing Employee

While it’s always sad to see someone depart a workplace, a positive demeanor is preferred. Be sure to thank the person for their honesty and wish them luck in their new position. You can also offer to write a letter of recommendation if they’re currently searching for employment. 

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Exit Interview Questions

The following exit interview questions cover some important topics. In general, these topics are relevant to most employers when it comes to employee satisfaction:

  1. What made you decide to leave the company?
  2. Is there anything that could have convinced you to stay?
  3. Do you feel that your criticisms and concerns were properly acknowledged?
  4. How was your relationship with your direct supervisor/manager?
  5. Do you feel that your job duties matched the job description provided during the hiring process?
  6. Would you recommend this company to a friend or colleague seeking employment?
  7. What’s your opinion of the company culture at this workplace?
  8. What qualities, skills, and abilities should your replacement possess?
  9. What advice would you give to the person replacing you?
  10. Do you have any feedback for management?
  11. What was your favorite aspect of your job? What was your least favorite?
  12. Did you feel well-supported by management in your position?
  13. What did you look for when seeking a new place of employment?
  14. Did you find it easy to collaborate with your co-workers?
  15. Did your employer create an accurate impression of this workplace before your hiring?
  16. Were you provided consistent feedback from your supervisor or manager?
  17. Did your salary/rate of pay match your job duties and responsibilities?
  18. Were you satisfied with the benefits you received?
  19. Would you ever consider working here again?
  20. Did you have access to advancement opportunities in the company?
  21. Were you satisfied with the quality of communication between yourself and your colleagues/supervisors?
  22. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience with this employer? 
  23. Did you feel that problems and issues within the workplace were addressed sufficiently?

In addition to these questions, consider situations unique to your workplace. For instance, you may want to ask a departing staff member about their views on a particular process. Questions involving an employee’s specific job duties are also recommended. 

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How to Improve Your Exit Interview Process

In addition to developing a solid exit interview template, there are some other things you can do to ensure a successful process:

Remain Positive and Upbeat

No working relationship is perfect, but avoid discussing controversial issues during the interview. Instead, try to focus on the positive aspects of employment and address any possible conflicts with respect and consideration. 

Stick to the Facts

Discuss only the pertinent facts regarding the employee’s time working at the company. Addressing second-hand information, such as unverified claims made by co-workers or managers, will only create an uncomfortable environment for the interviewer and interviewee. 

Express Encouragement

It’s tempting to request that an employee stay with the company, especially if they brought a lot to the table. However, it’s important to respect the person’s wishes. In this case, be mindful of statements that could cause guilt in the departing staff member. 

Keep the Interview On-Track

If you and the outgoing employee disagree on a particular issue, agree to disagree. There’s no point in repeatedly rehashing the same topic when the outcome will likely be the same. Following the interview structure will keep all parties comfortable during the process. 

Wize Words

The right exit interview questions allow employees to express their opinions regarding a place of work and their experiences. They also provide insight to employers, who can use the information obtained during interviews to create a more positive workplace where staff can thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you do if an employee refuses an exit interview?

You can ask the employee for any specific reason why they’re refusing the exit interview and offer assurance to alleviate these concerns. You can also provide information on the structure of the interview, which may put the person at ease. If they continue to decline, accept their refusal and wish them luck in their future endeavors.

Can direct supervisors/managers conduct outgoing interviews?

It’s not usually recommended that an employee’s direct supervisor be involved in an exit interview. Asking questions in a neutral environment is key to getting unbiased answers. Involving a person who worked closely with the staff member can invite unnecessary conflict to the process or affect the answers’ sincerity.

Can you provide a questionnaire instead of holding an interview?

Providing a questionnaire instead of a formal interview can be problematic for employers. Former staff members will be less forthcoming when providing answers in writing, which prevents you from receiving their genuine thoughts and feelings about the workplace. Also, a questionnaire deprives you of the chance to ask follow-up questions. While exit interview questions are an excellent guide, they’re just one part of the process.

Are exit interviews always confidential?

Exit interviews do not always need to be confidential, as sharing exit interview answers with others in a company is sometimes acceptable. However, the interviewed person should secure the worker’s consent. Otherwise, removing identifying information from the answers is advisable before sharing it with others. A breach of confidentiality can negatively impact future interviews, as staff may withhold information out of fear that it will be shared with others.


  • Stacie Adams

    Stacie Adams is a seasoned writer with a passion for topics affecting modern workplaces, especially topics relevant to the restaurant and food industry. She’s written extensively on legal issues affecting businesses, including discrimination, contractual disputes, and safety code violations.

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The article was reviewed by Deirdre Sullivan

Stacie Adams

Stacie Adams is a seasoned writer with a passion for topics affecting modern workplaces, especially topics relevant to the restaurant and food industry. She’s written extensively on legal issues affecting businesses, including discrimination, contractual disputes, and safety code violations.

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