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Create an Exit Interview Template That Actually Works

An exit interview is a meeting between an employee who is leaving a company and a representative of the company, usually from HR. The point is to gather feedback on the employee's reasons for leaving, their experiences at the company, and suggestions for improvement. Conducting insightful exit interviews and analyzing the results helps reduce turnover, improve culture, and promote better retention.

But doing it right takes intention, preparation, and the right exit interview template. Without that, you risk wasting everyone's time or failing to dig into the "real" reasons good people head for the door. No organization wants to learn those reasons from a scathing Glassdoor review.

This guide will walk you through what to include in an exit interview template, from the logistics to suggested questions. Follow this, and you'll conduct effective and efficient exit interviews that provide genuinely useful insights into your talent retention issues.

Why Bother with Exit Interviews?

It's tempting to skip exit interviews, especially if someone is jumping ship for a new job elsewhere. You may feel stung by their departure or assume you won't learn anything useful. But well-run exit interviews offer many benefits:

Gain insights into why people leave. Exit interviews allow you to collect feedback on what's driving turnover at your company. Even if there are personal reasons for someone's departure, you can still learn about their experiences and pet peeves. Once you identify trends, you can address issues that may be prompting other employees to leave as well.

Improve the employee experience. Departing employees tend to be more forthcoming with criticism and suggestions, making their feedback invaluable for improving your culture and policies. Exiting staff can share which aspects of their jobs were frustrating or demotivating as well as what parts of the culture need work.

Promote your employer brand. How you handle an employee's transition out of the company affects your brand and reputation as an employer. Exit interviews allow you to part on good terms.

Protect proprietary information. You can use exit interviews to collect company property (laptop, keys, etc.) and remind departing staff about confidentiality requirements. This reduces potential security risks.

Support smooth transitions. An exit interview allows you to discuss hand-offs and transitions with the departing employee to minimize the disruption when they leave.

In short, exit interviews help your organization improve retention, recruiting, and operations. When done right, everyone wins.

Exit Interview Template Components: Logistics

Let's start with the logistical aspects of exit interviews, like timing and format. These structural pieces provide helpful guidelines for your exit interview template.

Timing

When should you conduct exit interviews? Here are some recommendations on timing:

  • Schedule the exit interview around two weeks before the employee's last day. This gives them time to prepare and you time to find a replacement.
  • Avoid conducting exit interviews on the employee's very last day. They will be too distracted with goodbyes and logistics.
  • Send calendar invites for the exit interview as soon as you receive a resignation notice. This ensures you lock in a time.
  • Hold the interview onsite if possible. This makes it easier to collect company property. If they've already left, conduct it over video chat.
  • Allow for at least 30 minutes but encourage the employee to take up to an hour so they don't feel rushed.

Format

Some options for exit interview formats include:

  • In-person, one-on-one interview: This allows for an intimate, open conversation.
  • Video call: The next best thing if an in-person meeting isn't possible. Use a secure platform that won't record or store data.
  • Phone interview: While you lose the face-to-face interaction, phone interviews can encourage candor about sensitive subjects.
  • Anonymous survey: An anonymous survey collects honest feedback but misses out on follow-up questions and dialogue. Send a survey if you can't coordinate an interview.
  • Group interview: Interviewing multiple departing employees together saves time but may limit sharing. Use only if you expect to uncover common, low-risk issues.

Think about which option(s) make the most sense for your purposes, culture, and resources. Aim for formats that create space for dialogue and follow-up questions while allowing anonymity if desired.

Developing Your Exit Interview Questions

Now let's get into the heart of your exit interview template: the questions.

Asking insightful, open-ended exit interview questions helps uncover the root causes of turnover at your company. It also gathers suggestions for improving retention.

Follow these tips when brainstorming your list of exit interview questions:

  • Cast a wide net. Ask about everything from job duties to company culture to leadership. You want a holistic sense of employees' experiences.
  • Get specific. Avoid huge, sweeping questions like "What did you think of your time here?" Instead, ask detailed questions about specific aspects of the job, like training, resources, and career development opportunities.
  • Probe on engagement. Try to understand when and why employees felt engaged or disengaged in their work. Ask what dynamics or actions re-engaged them.
  • Leave room for elaboration. Pose open-ended questions that encourage details and stories, not just yes or no answers.
  • Solve, don't vent. Focus the conversation on solving problems, not just venting about them. Ask for their ideas on overcoming issues.
  • Incorporate different formats. Include rating scale questions in addition to open answer ones. This provides quantitative data to complement qualitative insights.

Here are some exit interview questions to include in your template, categorized by topic:

Job Duties

  • What did you enjoy most about your role?
  • What did you find most challenging about your responsibilities?
  • What would have helped you overcome those challenges?
  • Did you receive enough training and resources to succeed in your role?

Management and Leadership

  • What did you like about your direct supervisor's management style?
  • What did your supervisor do that you found demotivating or discouraging?
  • How would you describe the leadership from upper management?
  • How often did you receive feedback and coaching from your manager? Was it helpful?

Growth and Development

  • Did you receive opportunities for growth and development that aligned with your goals? Why or why not?
  • Did you feel empowered to suggest or lead new initiatives? Explain.
  • Do you feel you were fairly considered for promotions and special projects compared to your peers?

Workplace Culture

  • On a scale of 1-10, how positive was the culture here? What made you give that rating?
  • Did coworkers collaborate effectively? Were there clear processes for working across teams?
  • Did you feel comfortable speaking up about concerns or mistakes? Why or why not?
  • What's one thing you would change about the work culture?

Facilities and Equipment

  • How satisfied were you with the office facilities and workspace?
  • Did you have the software, tools, and equipment you needed to complete projects successfully?

Compensation and Benefits

  • Were you satisfied with your pay and benefits package? If not, what was inadequate or could be improved?
  • How does your compensation here compare to similar roles at other companies?

Reason for Leaving

  • What ultimately made you decide to leave this role?
  • What could the company have done differently that may have encouraged you to stay?
  • Would you consider working for this company again in the future? Why or why not?

Recommendations

  • If you could make three recommendations to leadership about improving retention, what would they be?
  • Is there anything else you'd like to share that would help the company improve the employee experience?

Make sure to customize your questions based on what you want to learn about your organization. You can also tailor questions to dig deeper into specific concerns, like high turnover in a certain department.

End on a positive note by asking what they enjoyed most and what the company does well. This provides insights you may want to reinforce.

Tips for Conducting Exit Interviews

Just having an exit interview template isn't enough for a productive meeting. You also need skills for facilitating effective exit interviews that draw out substantive feedback.

Here are tips for conducting exit interviews:

Pick the right interviewer. Choose someone the employee trusts who can draw them out in conversation, like their manager or a senior HR representative. Avoid anyone they had tensions with.

Explain the "why". Share the goals of the exit interview so the employee understands it's meant to be helpful, not punitive. Emphasize that it's confidential.

Listen more than you speak. This is not a venue to defend practices or convince them to stay. Keep your talking to a minimum and focus on asking questions and listening.

Remain neutral. Don't get defensive or argumentative if they share criticism. Your role is to learn and reflect on their experiences, not debate them.

Ask follow-up questions. Don't stick strictly to your interview script.

Keep Exit Interview Records. Be sure to take meticulous notes during your exit interviews that you can refer to and share with the appropriate team members. Consider using an AI notetaker like Supernormal, so you can stay focused during the meeting while still getting the documentation you need.

Exit interviews present a valuable chance to learn from departing employees and gain insights you might miss otherwise. But you won't get meaningful results without an intentional strategy and strong exit interview template. Use the guidelines in this post to create interviews centered around open-ended questions in an employee-focused setting. Record feedback, analyze results for trends, and follow up on suggested improvements. Well-run exit interviews lead to faster problem-solving, better retention, and higher employee satisfaction. With some forethought and authentic curiosity, your organization can turn feedback from exiting staff into positive action towards being an employer of choice.

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