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exit interview

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

An exit interview is a wrap-up meeting between management representatives and someone who is leaving an organization, either voluntarily or through termination. 

Exit interviews are common in business, education and government environments. The purpose of the interview is to gather useful feedback that can help guide future practices and improve recruiting and retention.  

In a corporate environment, exit interviews are usually conducted by human resources (HR) personnel. Alternatively, depending on the size of the company and other factors, interviews may be conducted by management or outsourced to an HR service provider. 

The interview may be conducted in person, over the phone, through chat or email, or in an online survey. In general, interactive methods are considered more useful than surveys because they allow interviewers to respond to the employee and develop follow-up questions that can yield more in-depth information. 

The specific questions asked in an exit interview vary for terminated employees and those leaving voluntarily. For an employee leaving voluntarily, the most important question is "Why?" If they repeatedly hear particular reasons for leaving, the business may be motivated to review practices, pay scales and benefits, among other things. 

Whether an employee quits or is fired, it may be profitable to ask what they liked most about the job and what they liked least. If a number of employees mention problems working with a particular manager, for example, that is an issue that should be explored. When an employee is fired for inadequate performance, it can be useful to ask if they believe business practices or other corporate issues contributed to the problem. 

The exit interview is also an opportunity to provide the employee with information about any benefits and pay yet to be disbursed and any agreements in force between the business and the employee. 

Although exit interviews are often company policy, they should always be voluntary. 

This was last updated in September 2013

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I have had a few jobs over the years due to companies relocating, going bankrupt or downsizing. I have yet to have an exit interview. I have been told on leaving one job after giving my 2 weeks notice, to just go clean out my desk. Due to security, they did not me working on the system any longer. I can see that. One other position I left due to issues with the manager. Over the years I have had no less than a dozen employment agencies call me and ask if I want to work for this company. I ask "is the DP manager still the same?", they say "yes", I say "no thank you". When they ask why , I'd explain. They say they hear that a lot about this manager, and it's a tough position to fill, yet as far as I know he is still there. If they only conducted an exit interview they may know they have an issue.

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I thin of exit interviews much in the same way I think of once-yearly performance reviews. The fact that they need to exist can be a sign of organizational dysfunction. 

In the care of performance reviews; if that employee doesn't have a good understanding of their standing in the organization well before that point, something in management is terribly wrong. 

Similarly, if you are not discovering reasons your employees are leaving till an exit interview on their last day, something is probably up with how that person was being managed. 

These are usually sock-puppet management tools only paying lip service to the actual problems employees and the organization as a whole are experiencing. 
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Exit interviews are in most cases a formality. They can be helpful or they can be just another piece of paper kept in a file for compliance purposes. 

Sometimes people leave jobs just because they get an option closer to home, or with different pay and benefits that suit them better. In other cases, there is a chance to highlight dysfunction or other issues in a constructive and helpful way.
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Exit interviews are just a part of the separation process. Not sure how many companies might be actually taking the feedback seriously.
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As many originally good ideas this one too often becomes just a ceremony. I, however, witnesses situations where the feedback taken from exit interviews triggered some staff decisions.
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