A Guide to Exit Interviews – Key Questions to Ask and Best Practices

Exit interviews are a key element of the employee departure process, serving as a valuable tool for organizations to gain insights, enhance employee engagement, and reduce turnover. When conducted effectively, these interviews can provide honest feedback about the work environment, company culture, and management practices, offering a unique opportunity for overall business improvement.


The departure of an employee can be a course-altering event for any organization. It represents not only the loss of talent but also an opportunity for the company to learn about its internal operations, culture, and employee morale. Exit interviews, when executed properly, are a critical instrument in this learning process. They offer a chance to gather honest feedback that might not be shared during the tenure of employment due to various reasons.

Purpose of Exit Interviews

  1. Understanding Reasons for Departure: Gaining insight into why an employee chose to leave can help identify areas for improvement.
  2. Feedback on Company Culture and Policies: Exiting employees may provide candid feedback about the organizational culture and policies.
  3. Improvement of Work Environment: Suggestions from departing employees can be invaluable in enhancing the workplace for current and future employees.
  4. Knowledge Transfer: These interviews can help in understanding the gaps in skills or information that need to be filled.
  5. Legal Safeguard: Exit interviews can sometimes alert the organization to issues that might have legal implications, such as workplace harassment or discrimination.

Best Practices for Conducting Exit Interviews

1. Timing and Setting
  • Conduct Interviews Close to the Departure Date: Ideally, the interview should be scheduled a few days before the employee leaves.
  • Choose a Neutral Location: A quiet, private space where the departing employee feels comfortable to speak openly.
2. Confidentiality and Trust
  • Ensure Confidentiality: Assure the employee that their feedback will be treated with the utmost confidentiality.
  • Build Trust: Emphasize that the interview is for the betterment of the organization and their colleagues.
3. Structured Yet Flexible Approach
  • Prepare a Guideline of Questions: Have a structured set of questions but be flexible enough to explore other areas as they come up in conversation.
4. Active Listening
  • Listen More, Speak Less: The main goal is to gather insights, so encourage the employee to do most of the talking.
  • Acknowledge the Feedback: Show appreciation for the employee’s honesty and time.
5. Follow-Up
  • Actionable Steps Post-Interview: Use the information to make positive changes in the organization.
  • Feedback Loop: Share (anonymously) general findings with management and, if appropriate, the wider team.

Key Questions for Exit Interviews

About the Role and Responsibilities
  1. What did you like most and least about your job?
  2. Were your job responsibilities clearly defined and understood?
  3. Did you receive adequate support and resources to effectively do your job?
About Management and Leadership
  1. How would you describe your relationship with your manager?
  2. Was there anything your manager or team could have done better?
  3. How effective was the communication from management and within your team?
About Company Culture and Work Environment
  1. Can you describe the company culture? How well did you fit into this culture?
  2. What can you tell us about morale and team dynamics in your department?
  3. Were there any company policies you found difficult to understand or follow?
About Personal Growth and Development
  1. Did you have sufficient opportunities for professional growth here?
  2. Were your achievements and contributions adequately recognized?
  3. How would you rate the performance review and feedback process?
About the Decision to Leave
  1. What prompted your decision to leave the company?
  2. Was there a specific event that influenced your decision?
  3. What could have been done differently to keep you here?
General Feedback
  1. What advice would you give to your replacement?
  2. What do you think the company can do to improve?
  3. Would you consider returning to the company in the future?


Exit interviews, when conducted thoughtfully, can be a goldmine of information, offering genuine insights into the workings of an organization from an employee’s perspective. They should not be viewed as a mere formality but as a strategic tool for continuous improvement. By asking the right questions and listening actively, companies can learn valuable lessons from departing employees, leading to a more engaged workforce and a stronger, more responsive organization. Remember, the way an organization handles a departure can be as important as how it handles an arrival.

In conclusion, the effectiveness of an exit interview largely hinges on the approach taken by the interviewer and the willingness of the departing employee to share candid feedback. It is an invaluable practice that, when utilized correctly, can significantly contribute to the growth.