Exit Strategy: How to Use an Exit Interview to Your Advantage

Posted on March 2016 By Speller International
Exit Interviews

​An employee sees every aspect of your company – the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s why an exit interview can be a great resource. So how do you make the most of an exit interview? Read on to find out.

Recently, we wrote a blog about Boomerang Employees and the importance of knowing why an employee has left your organisation. But unless you conduct a proper exit interview, how would you have this information?

Whether a full time employee is resigning or a contractor is finishing up their contract and moving on, an exit interview is a useful tool to find out more about your company culture, what is working in the workplace and what needs improvement. Sometimes issues or concerns flagged in an exit interview are specific to the person leaving. Other times however, they alert you to a reoccurring problem across a department – or a widespread issue across your organisation.

It is important to remember that it’s not all bad! Exit interviews can produce great ideas for improvement, or confirmation that things are indeed going well. For example a contractor can provide you with insight into what a great team or company culture you have. And they could have ideas on how to leverage on the positive environment you have already created.

So what exactly does an exit interview entail? And how do you make it a useful exercise instead of just another item to cross off the list?

There are several ways to conduct an exit interview, each with their own pros and cons. It is important to remember that an exit interview is voluntary and your former employee may request a different format to the one you have suggested. Be as flexible as you can.

Internal – face-to-face

If an internal staff member is to conduct the interview, a more honest response will be obtained by using someone who does not work directly with the person leaving. If you have a HR department they are the most likely option for an internal exit interview. If your company doesn’t have a HR department, then a HR representative or equivalent, or a manager from a non-associated department are good options.

The downside to this is that they still work for the company and the person leaving might still not feel they can speak freely on issues within the organisation, or they might feel self-conscious in praising their department or peers.

Outsourcing – face to face or phone

Many companies these days outsource their HR support and these companies would offer exit interview support. Often support is given via phone but you might be able to request someone actually comes out to conduct these interviews. The benefit of outsourcing for an exit interview is that the exiting employee is more likely to be completely honest with a stranger. They might feel more confident to make suggestions for business system improvements or talk through some of the challenges they faced while in the roll.


This is a very passive way of getting information which sometimes can be prohibiting. People can be less likely to give additional information in a questionnaire and you might miss important items that have been answered with a yes/no or ‘rate out of’. If a low score is given on a particular item, you also miss the opportunity to ask why if they chose not to provide that at the time. However for some people, being given the chance to complete the questionnaire in their own time, where they can review what they’ve written and not feel like they’ve been put “on the spot” can make them more likely to give detailed feedback.


Phone exit interviews can be used where geography is an issue (say if HR is based in a head office in a different city). Sometimes too a phone interview can be viewed as more relaxed than a face-to-face one which can make people open up more easily. The downside is that you can’t see the person you are speaking with and therefore might miss some cues that are being given in body language that contradict what is being said.

Results can be analysed both individually and collectively over a period of time, and should be used to determine employee best-practice and strategies for the future. You do need to put thought into what you’re actually going to do with the results though, otherwise its just collecting information for the sake of doing so (and is a waste of everyone's time).

Conducting thorough exit interviews, and taking on board what a leaving employee says can help you improve staff retention and allow you to use money and resources on maintaining a high level of service, rather than spending time and money on replacing staff. You do need to keep in mind that sometimes issues and frustrations are specific to one person and sometimes they are company-wide issues that need addressing. Really listening to both exiting staff and those who are employed in your organisation can help you sift through and decipher the difference between the two. And whether the feedback is positive or negative, their actual response is much more useful than no response at all.