Exit Interviews Questions – examples – interview guide Compiled by Dean Amory
Exit InterviewsAccording to the NLH Knowledge Management Specialist Library, Exit Interviews aretraditionally "conducted with employees leaving an organisation. The purpose of the interview isto provide feedback on why employees are leaving, what they liked or didn’t like about theiremployment and what areas of the organisation they feel need improvement. Exit interviews areone of the most widely used methods of gathering employee feedback, along with employeesatisfaction surveys. More recently, the concept of exit interviewing has been revisited and expanded as a knowledge management tool, as a way of capturing knowledge from leavers. Rather than simply capturing human resources information, the interview also aims to capture knowledge about what it takes to do the job." In the most straightforward terms however, an exit interview is simply a means of determining the reasons why a departing employee has decided to leave an organization. In fact, it appears that many organizations take this definition literally... in a 1992 survey conducted by Human Resource Executive Magazine, 96% of HR managers agree that they conduct exit interviews with employees who are leaving voluntarily.However, in most cases, the information collected is not put to any useful purpose. In fact, thesame study showed that just 4% of companies conducting exit interviews conduct them in astructured and systematic way. This situation does not appear to be much different than in 1975and again in 1981 when several thorough reviews of exit survey practices indicated that theinformation gathered from exit interviews is rarely used.It appears, then, that many organizations are failing to recognize the value of a systematicapproach to collecting information from exiting employees, including: 1. Gathering and collating the data in a structured manner 2. Aggregating the results for the organization as a whole 3. Analysing the findings to identify consistent trends, patterns and themes 4. Using the results to determine and implement strategies to increase retention and reduce turnover.The traditional method of having the employee’s supervisor or a company HR representativeconduct an in-person interview on an employee’s final day is fraught with difficulties andproblems, including being time-consuming, difficult to tabulate, not necessarily executedconsistently and both less reliable and valid than using surveys to collect the data.
Exit interviews aims and outcomesThe purpose of an exit interview is to get the departing employee to divulge why she is leavingand how she feels about her experience with the company. Ostensibly, this provides data thatsenior leadership will use to improve things. (Alexandra Levit – Blind Spots)The knowledge of the departing employee commonly has immense value, and the recovery of itis often overlooked altogether by the organization, until the employee has departed, or morelikely been hurried out of the door holding the contents of their desk in a cardboard box. When any employee resigns, or a decision is made for a person to leave for any reason, always ask: Should we spend some time thinking about how to enable some sort of knowledge transfer? In other words, if we place a value on the knowledge that the departing employee holds, isnt it worth thinking about how to enable this knowledge to be passed to the appropriate people remaining in the organization? Instead of course all too often, senior managements response to all the head- scratching after a vital person has left, is to rationalise the loss of information(and vital personal contacts often) with the old cliché, "No-one is indispensable". The adagemight ultimately be true, but thats not really the point. The fact is that most people who leave doactually possess useful (often critical) knowledge and experience. Moreover most departingemployees are delighted to share this knowledge, to help a successor, or to brief a managementteam, if only the organization would simply ask them politely to do so (assuming their exit ishandled decently of course, which the exit interview helps to enable).Exit interview aims and outcomes:• They provide an opportunity to make peace with disgruntled employees, who might otherwise leave with vengeful intentions.• Exit interviews are seen by existing employees as a sign of positive culture. They are regarded as caring and compassionate - a sign that the organisation is big enough to expose itself to criticism.• Exit interviews accelerate participating managers understanding and experience of managing people and organizations. Hearing and handling feedback is a powerful development process.• Exit interviews help to support an organizations proper HR practices. They are seen as positive and necessary for quality and effective people-management by most professional institutes and accrediting bodies concerned with quality management of people, organizations and service.• The results and analysis of exit interviews provide relevant and useful data directly into training needs analysis and training planning processes.
• Exit interviews provide valuable information as to how to improve recruitment and induction of new employees.• Exit interviews provide direct indications as to how to improve staff retention.• Sometimes an exit interview provides the chance to retain a valuable employee who would otherwise have left (organizations often accept resignations far too readily without discussion or testing the firmness of feeling - the exit interview provides a final safety net)• A significant proportion of employee leavers will be people that the organization is actually very sorry to leave (despite the post-rationalisation and sour grapes reactions of many senior executives to the departure of their best people). The exit interview therefore provides an excellent source of comment and opportunity relating to management succession planning. Good people leave often because they are denied opportunity to grow and advance. Wherever this is happening organizations need to know about it and respond accordingly.• Every organization has at any point in time several good people on the verge of leaving because they are not given the opportunity to grow and develop, at the same time, ironically, that most of the management and executives are overworked and stretched, some to the point of leaving too. Doesnt it therefore make good sense to raise the importance of marrying these two situations to provide advantage both ways - ie., facilitate greater delegation of responsibility to those who want it? Exit interviews are an excellent catalyst for identifying specific mistakes and improvement opportunities in this vital area of management development and succession.• Exit interviews, and a properly organised, positive exit process also greatly improve the chances of successfully obtaining and transferring useful knowledge, contacts, insights, tips and experience, from the departing employee to all those needing to know it, especially successors and replacements. Most leavers are happy to help if you have the courage and decency to ask and provide a suitable method for the knowledge transfer, be it a briefing meeting, a one-to-one meeting between the replacement and the leaver, or during the exit interview itself.Exit interviews are best conducted face-to-face because this enables better communication,understanding, interpretation etc., and it provides far better opportunity to probe and get to theroot of sensitive or reluctant feelings. However, postal or electronic questionnaires are better thannothing, if face-to-face exit interviews are not possible for whatever reason (although I remain tobe convinced that there is never a proper excuse for not sitting down for 30 minutes with anydeparting employee.....)In some cases perhaps a particularly shy employee may prefer to give their feedback in aquestionnaire form, in which case this is fine, but where possible, face-to-face is best.Actions resulting from exit interview feedback analysis, in any size or type of organization, fallinto two categories:• Remedial and preventative, for example improving health and safety issues, stress, harassment, discrimination., etc.• Strategic improvement opportunities, for example improved induction, management or supervisory training, empowerment or team building initiatives, process improvement, wastage and efficiencies improvements, customer service initiatives, etc.
So You Quit Your Job.Now They Demand an Exit Interview. What Do You Say?You just quit your job. In your final two weeks you’ll tie up loose ends, help train yourreplacement, clean out your desk and say your good-byes. There’s also a good chance you’ll beasked to attend one final meeting before you hit the road: the exit interview.Before leaving most firms, the Human Resources department will ask you to meet with them todiscuss your reasons for quitting, among other things. “The purpose of an exit interview is to getthe departing employee to divulge why she is leaving and how she feels about her experiencewith the company,” says Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths YouCan’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. “Ostensibly, this provides data that seniorleadership will use to improve things.”Departing employees might use this opportunity to be completely honest with their employers—dishing out constructive criticism, berating or praising colleagues, airing grievances, orapplauding the corporation for its do-gooding ways. Others, however, might be less candid. Andit turns out there are pros and cons to both approaches. Three experts weigh in.“I do think employees should be completely honest in the exit interview,” says Jay Canchola, anHR business partner for Raytheon. “Without the perspective of the departing employee, theopportunity for the workplace to improve is decreased.” By bringing certain issues to light, youcould be helping out your colleagues who will have to deal with those problems long after you’regone.
Levit offers alternative thoughts. “When it comes to exit interviews, the general rule is, if youdon’t have anything nice to say, lie.” Stick to official business as much as possible, and if youmust provide criticism, proceed with tact and caution, she says. “While it may be tempting to usethe meeting to spill your guts about the company’s difficult personalities and insufferablepolicies, don’t give in.” Once you’ve made the decision to leave, unloading your grievanceswon’t do you a drop of good, and the risk of offending people is too great. Andy Teach, a corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time, falls somewhere in between. “I think it’s important to be honest but don’t be too honest,” he warns. You want the HR department to know the positives and negatives of your experiences with the hope that they will listen to you and take action when necessary. However, if you’re too honest and you are overly critical of an important executive or of the company itself, you could hurt your reputation within thatcompany and could jeopardize your chances of getting a reference from them. “This isunfortunate but I’m sure that it happens. I think there are ways to be honest and get across yourpoint if you preface your negative comments with positive ones about your experience with thecompany,” he says.If you do disclose your thoughts and feelings, Canchola says you should steer clear of anyprofanity, racial or gender slurs, blasting individuals, departments or the company as a whole,“and never state an opinion as fact.”Teach says you shouldn’t be out for revenge, as thereare diplomatic ways to criticize people. If you comeacross as being vengeful or out to get someone, HRwill not listen to you, and your criticisms canbackfire. If you just state the facts and even preface itby saying something like, “I don’t want to get anyonein trouble, but I did want to make you aware of aparticular situation in my department,” you can makemore headway with the HR employee.So instead of bad-mouthing colleagues andcriticizing the employer, Canchola suggests you discuss your work relationship with yourmanagers, talk about your career development, “and be as positive as you can,” Levit adds. Talkabout how much you learned at the organization and why your tenure benefited both you and thecompany, she says.
Knowledge transfer questionsStart thinking about using these questions when the employee and the organization knows thatthe employee will be leaving. Dont leave these questions until the exit interview.• What would you consider to be your foremost knowledge assets?• Would you be happy to take part in a briefing meeting with managers, replacements, successor, and/or colleagues so that we can benefit further from your knowledge, experience and introductions to your contacts prior to your departure?• I realize that youll not be happy with the situation surrounding your departure, however we would really appreciate it if you could help us to understand some of the important things youve been working on - how might we agree for this knowledge to be transferred?• What can we do to enable you to pass on as much of your knowledge as possible to your replacement or successor prior to your departure?• How and when would you prefer to pass on your knowledge to your successor?• Could you introduce (name of successor) to your key contacts before you go?• How can we gather and make better use of the knowledge of employees?
Exit interview questionsIn terms of managing the interview, listen rather than talk. Give the interviewee time and space toanswer. Coax and reassure where appropriate, rather than pressurise. Interpret, reflect andunderstand (you can understand someone without necessarily agreeing). Keep calm, resist theurge to defend or argue - your aim is to elicit views, feedback, answers, not to lecture oradmonish. In face-to-face interviews particularly, use the word why if you want to probe, especially if the first answer is vague or superficial. Questions beginning with what and how are better for getting people to think and and convey to you properly and honestly about their views.Ask open what/how/why questions, not closed yes/no questions, unless you require specificconfirmation about a point.When and where are also more specific qualifying questions, unless of course they are used in ageneral context rather than specific time or geographic sense.Who should be used with care to avoid witch-hunts or defamatory risks (moreover many exitinterviewees will be uncomfortable if asked to name people or allocate personal blame - exitinterviews are not about blame, the allocation of which is not constructive and should be avoidedfor anything other than very serious complaints or accusations, which must then be suitablyreferred as follow-up would be beyond the normal exit interview remit.Tips and lessons learnt • Invest enough time to research problem areas of the program/work and achievements of the leaving person so you can shape knowledge capture questions to best reflect the persons perspective. • Avoid asking personal questions that may make the interviewee feel intimidated. • Where you do the interview is critical. Experience shows that interviewees answer questions most comprehensively when the environment chosen for the interview is cozy and comfortable. Offer comforting drinks/snacks etc. • Make sure knowledge capture queries reflect not only the persons work focused experiences, best practices, challenges and lessons learned, but also about organizational culture. e.g. What organizational culture did the leaving person appreciate and what improvement areas does he/she observe. • It helps to keep knowledge capture interview questions short and clear as much as possible.
Examples of exit interview 1• What is your primary reason for leaving?• Did anything trigger your decision to leave?• What was most satisfying about your job?• What was least satisfying about your job?• What would you change about your job?• Did your job duties turn out to be as you expected?• Did you receive enough training to do your job effectively?• Did you receive adequate support to do your job?• Did you receive sufficient feedback about your performance between merit reviews?• Were you satisfied with this companys merit review process?• Did this company help you to fulfill your career goals?• Do you have any tips to help us find your replacement?• What would you improve to make our workplace better?• Were you happy with your pay, benefits and other incentives?• What was the quality of the supervision you received?• What could your immediate supervisor do to improve his or her management style?• Based on your experience with us, what do you think it takes to succeed at this company?• Did any company policies or procedures (or any other obstacles) make your job more difficult?• Would you consider working again for this company in the future?• Would you recommend working for this company to your family and friends?• How do you generally feel about this company?• What did you like most about this company?• What did you like least about this company?• What does your new company offer that this company doesnt?• Can this company do anything to encourage you to stay?• Before deciding to leave, did you investigate a transfer within the company?• Did anyone in this company discriminate against you, harass you or cause hostile working conditions?• Any other comments?
2• Tell me about how youve come to decide to leave?• What is your main reason for leaving?• What are the other reasons for your leaving?• Why is this important, or so significant for you?• Within the (particular reason to leave) what was it that concerned you particularly?• What could have been done early on to prevent the situation developing/provide a basis for you to stay with us?• How would you have preferred the situation(s) to have been handled?• What opportunities can you see might have existed for the situation/problems to have been averted/dealt with satisfactorily?• What can you say about the processes and procedures or systems that have contributed to the problem(s)/your decision to leave?• What specific suggestions would you have for how the organization could manage this situation/these issues better in future?• How do you feel about the organization?• What has been good/enjoyable/satisfying for you in your time with us?• What has been frustrating/difficult/upsetting to you in your time with us?• What could you have done better or more for us had we given you the opportunity?• What extra responsibility would you have welcomed that you were not given?• How could the organization have enabled you to make fuller use of your capabilities and potential?• What training would you have liked or needed that you did not get, and what effect would this have had?• How well do think your training and development needs were assessed and met?• What training and development that you had did you find most helpful and enjoyable?• What can you say about communications within the organization/your department?• What improvements do you think can be made to customer service and relations?• How would you describe the culture or feel of the organization?• What could you say about communications and relations between departments, and how these could be improved?• Were you developed/inducted adequately for your role(s)?• What improvement could be made to the way that you were inducted/prepared for your role(s)?
• (For recent recruits of less than a year or so:) What did you think about the way we recruited you? How did the reality alter from your expectations when you first joined us? How could we have improved your own recruitment? How could your induction training have been improved?• How could you have been helped to better know/understand/work with other departments necessary for the organization to perform more effectively?• What can you say about the way your performance was measured, and the feedback to you of your performance results?• How well do you think the appraisal system worked for you?• What would you say about how you were motivated, and how that could have been improved?• What suggestion would you make to improve working conditions, hours, shifts, amenities, etc?• What would you say about equipment and machinery that needs replacing or upgrading, or which isnt fully/properly used for any reason?• What can you say about the way you were managed?... On a day to day basis?....... And on a month to month basis?• How would you have changed the expectations/objectives/aims (or absence of) that were placed on you? ...... And why?• What, if any, ridiculous examples of policy, rules, instructions, can you highlight?• What examples of ridiculous waste (material or effort), pointless reports, meetings, bureaucracy, etc., could you point to?• How could the organization reduce stress levels among employees where stress is an issue?• How could the organization enabled you to have made better use of your time?• What things did the organization or management do to make your job more difficult/frustrating/non-productive?• How can the organization gather and make better use of the views and experience of its people?• Aside from the reason(s) you are leaving, how strongly were you attracted to committing to a long and developing career with us?• What can the organization do to retain its best people (and not lose any more like you)?• Have you anything to say about your treatment from a discrimination or harassment perspective?• Would you consider working again for us if the situation were right?
• Are you happy to say where you are going (if you have decided)?• What particularly is it about them that makes you want to join them?• What, importantly, are they offering that we are not?• (If appropriate:) Could you be persuaded to renegotiate/stay/discuss the possibility of staying?• Can we be of any particular help to you in this move/deciding what to do next (we cant promise anything obviously)? 31. What is your main reason for leaving?2. What’s been good about working here?3. What’s been difficult about working here?4. How effective and supportive has your line manager been?5. What’s communication like within your team and the wider Directorate?6. What kind of learning opportunities have you had?7. What hasn’t been addressed by the Directorate that should have been?8. If you could change one thing about the Directorate, what would it be?9. Would you recommend SCS as a good place to work?I agree that the above notes represent a fair and accurate record of the exit interviewdiscussion.I do not agree that the above notes represent a fair and accurate record of the exit interviewdiscussion. I have these additional comments:
4 Asian Development Bank 6 ADB Avenue, Mandaluyong City 1550 Metro Manila, Philippines Tel +63 2 632 4444 Fax +63 2 636 2444 firstname.lastname@example.org www.adb.org/knowledgesolutions What Next• What are you going to do?• If employment, who will be your new employer?• If employment, what sort of job and at what level?• If employment, what attracted you to your new job?• If employment, how will your new job differ from your current one? About the Unit • Do you feel the description of your job in the engagement process was accurate? • Were the purpose and expected results of your position clear throughout your work in the unit? • Could your qualifications, experience, and skills have been used to better advantage? • Do you feel you received appropriate support to enable you to do your job? • Was the training you received in the unit adequate to enable you to accomplish your job? • Are there further training opportunities you think the unit should be offering? • What did you see as your promotion and career prospects in the unit? • How might those prospects have been improved? • How was your working environment generally? • Can you list the three most important things that should be done to make the unit more effective in terms of influencing decisions in the organization?
The following questions can be used in face-to-face exit interviews to complement or deepen, ona case-bycase basis, the responses made to the exit interview questionnaire. General• What was satisfying during your time in the unit? What was frustrating?• What could you have done better or more?• What extra responsibility would you have welcomed? Induction• Were you inducted adequately for your role(s)?• What improvement could be made to the way you were inducted for your role(s)? Training and Development• How well do think your training and development needs were assessed and met?• What training and development did you find helpful and enjoyable?• What training and development would you have liked or needed that you did not receive and what effect would that have had? Performance Evaluation• What can you say about the way your performance was measured and the feedback on your performance results?• How well do you think the performance and development plan worked for you?• How would you have changed the expectations (or absence of) that were placed on you? And why? Communications• What can you say about communications in the unit? How could these be improved?• What could you say about communications between the unit and other departments and offices? How could these be improved? Working Conditions• How would you describe the culture of the unit?• What suggestion would you make to improve working conditions?• What examples of inefficiencies in business processes and procedures in the unit could you point to?• How could the unit reduce stress levels among employees where stress is an issue? Management• What can you say about the way you were managed? On a day-to-day basis? On a month- to-month basis?• What things did the unit and its management do to make your job more difficult?• What would you say about how you were motivated and how could that have been improved?• How could the unit have enabled you to have made better use of your time?
Early retirement interview guideOverviewThank you for agreeing to participate in this “exit interview” project. Many people prefer toknow in advance what topics will be covered and the specific questions that will be asked. This“pre-interview copy” of the exit interview guide has been prepared with that aim in mind.I invite you to review the document in advance of our meeting. You might want to simplyfamiliarize yourself with the topics and questions, to get comfortable with the territory we’llcover. If you like, you might make notes to assist you in recalling certain events or to remembersome points you want to include. However, please know that I don’t expect you to prepareanything for our meeting. Just being familiar with the questions, and showing up for theappointment, is fine. The document is organized into the following areas.Factors making the organization attractive: items cover your initial experience here, anychanges in perception, times when you felt exceptionally involved, and what you value and willmiss most.Exceptional customer service: a core value for the organization. Questions explore times whenit has provided exceptional customer service, and how that can be made the norm.Managing change: another critical area for the organization. Questions seek your recollectionsand insights about the organization’s “greatest hits” in managing change.Your own contributions: what you believe your greatest value has been to the organization;your “legacy.”Disappointments and missed opportunities: a look at times when the organizationunderperformed or didn’t take advantage of an opportunity, or a chronic aspect that needs to beaddressed. This is something of a contrast to the rest of the interview questions, which focus onstories of “highest and best moments.” Even in those instances, however, there are questionsabout how to make those moments more frequent (which can include addressing constraints andbarriers).Three wishes or suggestions for the organization: an opportunity to build on the“disappointments and missed opportunities,” as well as on your recollections of high points. -------------------------------------------------------------Ground Rule for the Interview: As you already know, the chief ground rule for the interview isconfidentiality and privacy. I will probably do quite a lot of note-taking, but my report will onlysummarize what you and others tell me, without saying “who said what.” (Of course, you are freeto discuss the interview with whomever you please.)Thanks again for participating. I am looking forward to our conversation!Ed Jacobson
Interview GuideFactors Making The Think back to when you first joined the organization.Organization Attractive • How long had you been employed by _______________? • What attracted you to the organization? • What were your initial impressions when you joined? • How have these impressions changed since then? Tell me about a time when you felt most excited, most engaged or involved in your work –with your colleagues, the customers, a specific project, it could be anything during those years: a time when you felt, “this is really good!” “I wish it could always be like this!” or sentiments such as that. • What was the situation? • What made it exciting? • Who was involved that made it significant? What do you value most about the organization? Why? What do you think that you will miss most, when you leave?Exceptional Customer As you well know, the vision includes a focus on customerService service (include quote, as appropriate). Think of a time, in your __ years here, when you witnessed truly exceptional customer service. Perhaps a time that you recall whenever you read or hear that phrase, “exceptional customer service.” It might be an occasion when you were directly involved, or when you observed a colleague. • What was the situation? • Who was involved? • What took place? What about it earns the phrase, “exceptional customer service?” • Have you seen that type of event often here, or is it truly exceptional? • What is one suggestion that would make it more frequent?
Managing Change During your __ years here, you have certainly witnessed many changes and transitions here. (Give examples of actual changes past, present and/or pending.) Think of a change – it could be any of these, or any other – that you believe was especially well handled. • What was the specific change? • What about it was well handled? • Who was involved? • What did they do that was especially helpful? • What was your role or participation in this change? • What about the organization contributed to the change’s success? • How can we apply this experience to other organizational changes, now and into the future?Your Own Contributions What do you feel that you have contributed to the organization during your years here? Perhaps it is a specific and concrete “thing,” such as a process, a procedure, a written document. It may be an attitude or a way of relating to colleagues or customers, that others may have “caught,” as one catches a contagious “bug.” It might be something else. • What is it that you think you leave as a legacy or a “footprint” as you plan to leave here?
Disappointments, Nothing is perfect, and nothing (and no one) works as we mightMissed Opportunities wish all the time: whether it is an appliance, a computer, a relationship, an organization, a job, a person, ourselves. Thinking back to your years here, is there a major disappointment or a missed opportunity that you would like to bring up? A time when the organization under-performed, when it didn’t take advantage of an opportunity, or when it quite simply “blew it?” Alternatively, it could be an area where the organization doesn’t quite “get it,” and that might be keeping the organization from being all it could be. • What is that disappointing event or missed opportunity? • What happened? • What didn’t happen? • What was the result? • How can we learn from that event or situation?Three Wishes What three suggestions do you have for enhancing the organization’s effectiveness? These could be in areas that are obvious to many people but that, for some reason, it doesn’t change. Or they could be something that only a few ever talk about. Or something subtle that you have noted, and for which this is a good opportunity to raise it for consideration. • What are those three suggestions? • How would each one help the organization in its work?IMAGE OF THE ORGANIZATION’S FUTUREImagine that you left here this evening, and didn’t return here for a visit until the year 2025.You’ve heard or read nothing about us in the intervening time. When you return, you see that amajor transformation has occurred, and the organization has become everything you hoped itcould be! Aspects that were excellent are still that way, if not better. Areas that needed attentionhave been strengthened. This is now truly a world-class organization which provides exceptionalcustomer service.What do you see? What does the organization look like? What is new and different? What is thesame? What do you see in terms of people (your former colleagues; customers others), systems,ways of working?What has been preserved (i.e., not been lost)?How did this come about?