The five questions HR should ask at every exit interview

June 30th, 2022

Employee churn is usually a signal that the organization is losing people somewhere in their journey. Exit interviews are a useful way to map those journeys and identify potential forks in the road. Here are five tips for getting your exit interviews right, including a list of questions to ask in each exit interview.

Five tips for successful exit interviews

  1. Prepare for the conversation. The work history of a departing employee might offer hints about possible sources of friction—like compensation, reporting structure, promotion path, and more—that the interviewer can ask about in more detail during the meeting.

  2. Create a welcoming atmosphere. It’s helpful to communicate the intent of the meeting up front: “This conversation is meant to be a low-pressure, open dialogue about your experiences and next steps.” Many employees may also feel more comfortable being honest without their direct manager or other people on their team present.

  3. Ask the right questions. Good exit interview questions serve three purposes: they help the organization gather data, they give the employee an opportunity to deliver feedback, and they keep a line of connection and communication open even as the employee departs. The following cadence is a good model to follow:

  • Can you tell me a bit about the new opportunity you’re taking? What appeals to you most about the role?
  • Are you comfortable telling me more about what prompted your job search? What made you want to leave your current role?
  • Do you feel like our organization gave you the education and resources you needed to do your job effectively?
  • How was your relationship with your direct supervisor? What about with your teammates or other people in your reporting structure?
  • What do we need to do differently to support the next person in this position?
  • Is there anything we could have done differently to keep you on the team? Are there any circumstances in which you would come back to the organization?
  1. Give the employee space to talk. Make sure the employee has an opportunity to share open-ended feedback about the role and organization. Most departing employees will have great ideas about how to improve the role and will answer questions that weren’t part of the interview. It’s also a chance for them to vent frustrations, which can be informative.

  2. Leverage the feedback. A single exit interview only sheds light on why one individual left the organization. It might help future hiring managers fill the role or offer more support to a new hire, but it’s only one data point. Using a people analytics tool to collect exit interview data over time can help illuminate patterns and pain points going forward.

What HR should know about exit interviews

Over time, this process will yield a wealth of data for improving your hiring and onboarding methods, company culture, employee experience, and compensation. As patterns emerge, be sure to keep an open mind about changes you can make in order to improve retention and ultimately, create a better experience for everyone at your organization.


Explore more about recruitment, retention, and talent acquisition in our Talent Transformation Report, based on quantitative and qualitative data from 1,000 HR and L&D professionals. It covers topics like internal hiring, AI in talent acquisition, fostering internal mobility, and how you can shape the future of talent strategy at your organization.

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