How to Get Honest Feedback in Exit Interviews


We all want to know why good employees leave our company. But how can we do this in a way that’s respectful to both the company and the employee during their exit interview?

Since we’re being honest here, let’s start by stating that the employee leaving has no obligation to explain their “why” in their exit interview, and they definitely have no responsibility to be honest about it. They’re halfway out the door. Why should it matter to them if we improve or not? Because—similar to employees not wanting to burn bridges when they leave—we never know when that former employee will become the connection that helps you, your company, or your brand.

So how can you make your exit survey one that employees actually want to take? Here are five questions to ask that will do just that.

1. What could WE have done better?

Leading with this will allow them to feel more comfortable to open up about things they wish were handled better on their direct team, and at the company as a whole.

2. If leaving for another job: What does your new company offer that influenced your decision to leave?

Companies are offering a wide variety of “perks” now, this will be a great way to gauge where you might need to adjust yours.

OR, If leaving without another job: What will you be looking for in a company that is not offered here?

It can be even more telling if an employee is leaving without having another position lined up. This will set up the conversation to fuller dive into the real reason why they no longer want to work at your company.  

3. Were you given the tools you needed to do your job? If not, what was the complication?

Without tools you need to do your job well there will be unrealistic expectations, which are a killer in team environments. Ensure you gave this employee every opportunity to become successful in their role.

4. Did you feel comfortable speaking with your manager? What are three things they do well, or what are three things they should work on?

We hear it all the time, “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” This is your opportunity to find out what impact (positive or negative) managers have on their team. These are the decision-maker employees; if people want to leave them, it’s your job to find out why.

5. Would you recommend us to anyone searching for a job?

Word-of-mouth is still the most effective marketing tool you have. And with the internet bringing more opportunities for people to voice their opinions and experiences with a company, you want to make sure it’s good PR for you.

The exit interview is the time for the former employee to share their qualms about their position, job duties, coworkers, and company. If you want them to be honest with you, you have to be open with them as well.

Use your exit survey as an opportunity to show a soon-to-be former employee that you will take their suggestions seriously, even though the struggles they faced during their employment may not have been corrected. Make it a platform for change in the company, so the ones they are leaving behind (and entering after them) can benefit from their honesty.

Topics: Talent Acquisition

Updated December 21, 2018