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How to conduct an exit interview and stomach the response!

Johanna Buguet 1203379 Unsplash

Stephen Brown

If feedback is the breakfast of champions then there is nothing more difficult to swallow than the reason why a top performing employee would want to leave your business.

Ideally you want to nip a good person leaving in the bud before it happens but sometimes losing a good person from your business is inevitable and the best you can hope for is to learn from the experience.

Conducting an exit interview is the best way to find out the reasons behind why someone wants to leave your business and gather information on preventing it becoming a mass exodus.

Our advice for conducting an exit interview is to make it as easy as possible for the person leaving to feel safe and comfortable discussing their departure and what drove them to seek pastures new.

The best place to hold an exit interview is to have a coffee in an informal room; we suggest using a less formal room with easy chairs in it. This puts the person more at ease and encourages openness.

Keeping the experience positive is essential, even if you don’t like the negative feedback take it without making any excuse or putting up any defence. Treat their feedback as a gift and thank them for caring enough to want to help you.

Begin by saying how sorry you are they are leaving and reinforce their contribution to the business.

Asking direct questions can seem confrontational and may actually have the opposite effect to that which you desire, rather than quiz them directly, ask:

What would they do to make the lives of the colleagues they are leaving behind better?

What one or two things if done differently would have made their lives in the job easier and more effective?

If this was their business what would they do to make it a better place to work in?

What circumstances would bring them back to the business in the future?

My preference is for an open discussion and to solicit an honest response.

If possible avoid prescribed questionnaires that lead the interviewee, the purpose of an exit interview is achieve an outcome for the business, typically learning what can be improved to make things better and prevent the problem recurring.

Always finish by thanking them for an insightful and honest discussion, wishing them well in their future career and suggesting that you remain in touch. They may well come back to you for a more senior role in the future with more experience and insights.

If you are losing a key member of your team and wish to discuss finding a high quality replacement then please call us on 01530 833825 or email