Exit interview

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A survey that is conducted with an employee who is about to leave an organization

Purpose and benefit

The purpose of the exit interview is twofold: on the one hand the organization wishes to get some information about why the employee decided to leave; on the other hand it is also used to collect the explicit knowledge of the employee, for knowledge retention purposes. Although this is not the best way of capturing the implicit or tacit knowledge of the leaving employee, but it can deliver indications that there are important implicit or tacit knowledge that should be captured by more suitable methods. Exit interviews are one of the best ways to get honest feedback from the employees. An organization can use the information gained from an exit interview to assess what should be improved, changed, or remain intact. This way it can better align its HR strategy, reduce the employee turnover, and in some cases can also shorten the recruiting and hiring process.


The information from each exit interview is used to provide feedback on why employees are leaving, what they liked about their employment and what areas of the organization need improvement. Exit interviews are also used as part of knowledge harvesting to glean knowledge from the departing employee so that it is retained within the organization.


Exit interviews can be of different forms:

  • Voice per telephone or other voice communication means
  • Face to face in person with the interviewer
  • Fill out feedback questionnaire on paper
  • Web based, using Exit Interview Management Systems

Each type has its benefits and drawbacks. The first two is not assuring anonymity, therefore the interviewee can be influenced by personal concerns. The questionnaires can be filled out in privacy without indicating the name, but this form obviously limits the number of questions and also the elaboration of the answers cannot be deep enough in writing. The drawback of the first three methods is that the information and the knowledge captured by them should be written down manually for further analysis in the organization. The last one has the drawback that only those employees can preform it who are at a place with Internet access, but it has the benefit that the information are recorded directly in electronic form, and usually the exit interview management software performs some preliminary analysis and statistics of the entered data.

If capturing of the employee's technical knowledge is also an important goal of the exit interview, then the exit interview must be tailored according to the actual knowledge domain to be captured. In this case face to face interviews are the best option, possibly involving other experts from the relevant field.

Implementation guidance

Any type of exit interview is chosen, it must be prepared well in advance.

Usually there is some general part which is relevant to nearly all interviewees and which aims to assess the reason why he/she is leaving. Typical questions can be: "What are the main reasons for leaving?", "What, if improved, would have caused you to stay at the organization?" etc.

For implementing the knowledge capturing part of the exit interview see knowledge elicitation interview.

Success factors

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Common pitfalls

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Related articles


Knowledge elicitation interview