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What is an exit interview?

Answer from Celine, SHRM-CP: An exit interview is a conversation with a departing employee about their time at the company and the reason for their departure. It’s completely optional, but some employers conduct them to learn about workplace issues they may want to address.


Exit interviews can be a good opportunity to get the employee’s perspective on the training they received, the compensation the company offered, the growth potential the employee felt they had, the performance review process, and their assessment of employee morale. They can also shine a light on toxic management practices, hostile work environments, departmental conflict, and employee concerns that haven’t been shared with management or HR. That said, departing employees who were reluctant to raise these issues earlier may still be hesitant or unwilling to share them on their way out the door.


Exit interviews typically use one of two formats: an in-person interview or a form the employee completes on their own. Each format has its advantages. The interview allows for further questioning in the event the employee mentions something you’d like additional information about. The written form option lets the employee give more consideration to each question and answer each one at a pace that works for them.


If you conduct exit interviews, be sure to put the information you receive to good use. Share it—as appropriate—with the leaders in the company. Some of these conversations might be difficult, especially if you’re having to address sub-par management practices, correct unproductive working conditions, or investigate harassment. But exit interviews will be useful only if you’re willing to have these conversations and make changes based on what you learn.

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