EXIT INTERVIEWS: How to Get the Truth from Employees

Exit Interview Cartoon


While retaining talent is ideal, sometimes an exit interview is unavoidable. So, when it comes to the discussion, having an impartial person conduct the exit interview is critical.

As a rule of thumb, the employee’s immediate manager should never conduct the interview so that the employee feels they are in a safe place to provide honest feedback.

It’s ideal if you have a Human Resources department, but if not then it’s fine to use an executive from another department where the employee did not work.

This, of course, all ties into the ultimate goal of the exit interview: to garner truthful feedback so you can make positive changes at your company.

Ultimately, you want to uncover opportunities to improve retention, culture, bridge knowledge gaps, and so on. This should be made clear to the employee at the beginning of the interview.


Three example questions that can help get you there:

  1. What could we have done to keep you here?
  2. What’s the main reason you’re leaving? (Money? Your role? Location? Your manager?)
  3. Is there anything that you can suggest from your standpoint that would improve efficiencies/morale/culture?

But exit interviews go beyond asking the right questions– try to hear in-between the lines. For example, if someone says “I really loved working with Jim,” that could mean they really didn’t enjoy working with other people on their team. And, make sure to have follow-up questions to their answers. For example, if someone makes a statement (positive or negative), have them provide some examples to back it up to ensure legitimacy and so you can relay that information clearly back to the management team.