Ahh, the Exit Interview. Nearly all Business Owners do a hiring interview, or multiple hiring interviews, in order to see if the candidate is the right fit for the company. But when an employee is leaving the company, the Exit Interview is crucial. Studies have shown that 90% of Fortune 500 companies have some Exit Interview system in place, even if it’s just an online survey. Small and Mid-Sized businesses though often let employees walk out the door without it – either because of time, or more often, that they just want to let that person go and put their head in the sand. After all, not all turnover is bad turnover, and most Business Owners don’t want to sit down after they’ve just terminated a low-performing employee and ask about the workplace culture. But they should.

Why do an Exit Interview anyway? An Exit Interview, which could be as many as 2-3 face to face interviews, or as little as an online questionnaire, seeks to know why the employee left the company. But simply knowing why the employee left the company is not enough. The Exit Interview can be a critical component to decreasing turnover and increasing positive team culture. After all, high turnover is directly tied to low performance. The Exit Interview gives clues that are often undiscoverable through daily operations.


The short answer to this is everyone. Every employee at one point was a promising candidate, a high performer, or a long-term employee. We often see that Exit Interviews are often conducted only on employees that were high performers that everyone liked. They interview people that they are surprised by the exit. It’s almost as if the Exit Interview is a chance to somehow win the person back to the team.

However, the low-performing employees’ insights can give leaders within the organization an honest look at what is happening every day. This group of employees will give invaluable insight, particularly if turnover has increased suddenly, or if turnover of employees led by an individual manager is higher than average.


Exit Interviews are the most valuable to the Owner if a neutral third party conducts them. A coach or consultant who is not working in the business every day is often able to hear the most honest feedback. The next best thing would be to have a supervisor or leader who doesn’t directly supervise the employee perform the interview. Why? Because employees who are great will feel as if they cannot be honest – either because they like their supervisor, or because they feel like they’ll jeopardize a future positive recommendation. Low-performing employees may not have a good relationship with their supervisor which will cloud results. Overall, a neutral third party is the best choice.

Keep the interview simple. Ask open-ended questions that do not allow a one word answer. Asking “what did you like about working here” is going to get far better insight than “did you like working here?” The latter will surely produce a one word answer: yes or no. Some questions we like are:

  • What did you like about working here?
  • What didn’t you like about working here?
  • Why are you leaving the company?
  • If you could change anything about the company right away, what would it be?


If no action is taken based on the feedback, then the Exit Interview is a waste of time. Very often, we see companies that are doing the exit interview, but then when they get the feedback it just goes into a file, never to be seen again. The only way to truly know what it’s like to work in your business is to ask. These are your answers. Address the feedback with the team – not by scolding, or calling out individual team members in a negative way – but ask them one on one if they are also feeling that way. Address the issues in a team meeting. Chances are, the former employee is not alone.

Be aware of systemic issues in your organization too. Are people leaving because you don’t have a training program established? Are they leaving because the training was inadequate? Is there a culture of racism? Is there a culture of discrimination toward women? Cultural or religious minorities? Ageism? These are all things that can come through in an Exit Interview, and they cannot continue. Do you have one particular leader with a high turnover? Then it’s time for some leadership development, and looking at the leader’s performance. It may also be time to review your pay scale and see if the salary ranges for your industry are adequate to keep the best people.


Exit Interviews, as a whole, show the employees who are both leaving and staying that you care enough to ask about the work environment. This honest feedback is just another tool to assure that your team has positive team culture, and in turn growing profits at a rapid pace.


Need help in making more money in your small business? Need help keeping your great employees? Is your employee turnover too high? We can help. Contact us today to set up a no-cost, no-obligation business analysis with our global award-winning coaching team.

About the author,

Director of Marketing, ActionCOACH Columbus

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