People leave a job for many reasons. Some decide to move to another location, others want to change careers but usually, the reason is due to the company and management. According to NBC News, the number one reason employees leave is they don’t feel appreciated at work by their managers. Other top reasons include being bored and unchallenged and a lack of contribution of their work to the organization’s goals. But if you’re not conducting exit interviews, you may not even be aware there’s an issue.

Exit interviews give HR valuable insight into why employees leave. They provide an opportunity to track turnover and highlight any problems or issues the company might not be aware of, including when it comes to managers. But there is a right way to conduct an exit interview.

Get Prepared to Meet

Take some time before the exit interview to prepare some questions that will help you identify why the employee left. Format questions to understand the employee’s level of job satisfaction, how they felt their efforts were recognized, relationships with co-workers and managers, development opportunities and company culture. Some examples include:

  • What prompted you to look for another job?
  • Do you feel you had the tools to do your job well?
  • Did you feel your manager recognized your work?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your co-workers?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your manager?
  • Were you given the opportunity to learn new skills?
  • What company processes do you think could be improved?
  • What was the best part of your job?
  • What did you like least about your job?
  • What would you improve about the situation that’s causing you to leave?

It’s also a good idea to ask about compensation and benefits at competing companies to see where your company stands compared to the competition.


Set the Tone

An exit interview is the time to get useful feedback and send the employee off on a positive note, not get into office drama. As a representative of the company, it’s your job to set a tone that allows you to really zero in on your interviewee’s experience at your company. Keep the focus on their experience, so you can create an environment where the employee feels comfortable sharing.

Be aware, you can go into an exit interview with the best intentions to keep the meeting on track, but the employee that’s leaving may not be as positive. Robert Half suggests being prepared for negative comments, resist the urge to make negative comments yourself and don’t take anything personally. It’s your responsibility to remain professional, composed and uphold your company’s reputation.

Put Feedback to Good Use

Now that you’ve got your feedback, you can analyze what you’ve heard, look for trends, share the information with leadership and determine the next step. If exiting employees do highlight problems, create an action plan for making needed improvement. For example, if you see a trend where several employees say a manager doesn’t possess leadership skills, either provide development opportunities or evaluate how the company promotes employees.

The information gleaned from exit interviews can help improve your retention rates, essential with today’s low unemployment rates. Using HR software, like BirdDogHR’s Performance Management, can help managers guide their employees’ careers, helping keep them happy so they remain at the company.