How to Gather the Exit Data

“People join companies and leave bosses” – maybe a generalisation, however there is some truth here.  The right person to conduct an Exit Interview is NOT the person’s line manager or supervisor.  This person is in a position of authority over the employee and they may not be able to illicit the truth.  The employee may have a period of notice to work under their supervision, also they may be reliant on them for commission or expense sign offs, and/or a reference.   Openly discussing the reasons for leaving with someone who has played a part in that decision is a tough challenge which can be avoided.

There are independent third parties such as HR Consultants or online support companies who can be engaged to hold telephone or face to face interviews on your company’s behalf.  If you want to keep it internal, nominate a trusted and respected person, maybe in ‘neutral’ function such as HR or Finance, or possibility in the Senior Admin team, to take on this duty on a routine basis.

The person conducting the Exit Interview and the employee should be clear about who will have access to the data and how it will be communicated.  It is not possible to ‘gag’ the employee who is leaving, however the person conducting the Exit Interview should be told the data is confidential and only to be shared with the designated personnel who have commissioned the exercise – probably the HR Manager (or person responsible for HR)  and the Managing Director.

The Exit Interview should be held in private, away from prying eyes and ears.  This might be difficult, consider meeting when most people have not yet arrived/left for the day or off site.    Both parties should be asked to be discreet.  There is nothing as gossip worthy as an exiting employee.   Everyone will have view on their departure, anyone leaving the team has a ripple effect. 

 The purpose of the Exit Interview is to gather data.  To encourage an employee to share their true reasons for leaving the Interviewer should

  • Communicate the reasons for inviting them to participate in an Exit Interview – i.e. to understand why their employment with you didn’t work out, in the interests of improving things in the future. 
  • Explain the company’s policy on Exit Interviews – i.e. applicable to all leavers, who sees the data, what reassurances you can give regarding repercussions of negative feedback.
  • Encourage the employee to be open and honest in their answers.  Use questioning techniques which rely on generating conversation and probing to clarify your understanding of comments. 
  • Be non-judgmental regarding the employee’s answers, even if the interviewer doubts the information being presented is entirely truthful, ask for clarification and examples rather than dismissing the information the employee is sharing.  For example the employee reveals a generally mild mannered manager is intimidating to them – they should be asked for specific examples of the manager’s behaviour which led to them feeling this way.   If the employee feels not listened or not believed they will clam up.
  • Take concise and contemporary notes of what the employee says, the interviewer is gathering raw data not introducing their own interpretation on how the employee feels.

Start with a prepared standard set of questions to be asked of every exiting employee.  There is a basic format for you to use as a resource here.   Some questions you may view as irrelevant in your circumstances, use your own judgment and skip them if they are.

However, don’t skip a question because you don’t want to hear the answer!  It is best practice to ask a standard set of questions to all who leave your employment.

See example Exit Interview Form below -

If a face to face discussion before the employee leaves is not practical, you can either ask the questions over the telephone after they have left or ask the employee to complete a questionnaire and send it back to you.

See example Exit Interview Form – below - to be emailed or posted

It might not always be possible to illicit information from the exiting employee, you can’t force them to open up.  Data may have been gathered from the exiting employee which needs further investigation, or validation from others who may have similar thoughts and experiences.

Other people who may hold important information, or at least valuable opinions, about issues which may have contributed to why the employee decided to leave are:

  • The employee’s colleagues from their immediate team
  • The employee’s line manager and/or other supervisory staff in the department
  • Members of the HR team
  • Customers
  • Third party contracted staff who they might have a working relationship with

See example Exit Interview Form – below -  to be sent to colleagues of the exiting employee.