What is an Exit Interview?

Ann Casano

Exit interviews are voluntary meetings held between a member of a company’s Human Resources (HR) Department and an employee who has resigned. Although exit interviews are still a traditional practice, more and more companies in the modern era have shied away from them.

Exit interviews are intended to give employers a better understanding of the level of employee satisfaction.
Exit interviews are intended to give employers a better understanding of the level of employee satisfaction.

The goal of the exit interview is to ask questions that would presumably help the company improve the way that they do business especially in the area of employee satisfaction. Skeptics argue that these interviews are more of a safeguard to protect companies from possible future lawsuits. In turn, if a former employee feels that the company did him wrong in some way, his remarks made during his exit interview could be used against him in court.

Exit interviews may be used to improve job satisfaction for other employees.
Exit interviews may be used to improve job satisfaction for other employees.

Career experts disagree on the effectiveness of exit interviews. One of the obvious benefits is that they actually do help companies make improvements based upon honest perceptions of an employee’s personal work experience. Other experts argue that interviews performed while a person actually still works for a company would be more sincere and ultimately beneficial. A former employee may be disgruntled, fear burning bridges or simply not care about the company enough to provide valid thoughtful answers.

Some popular exit interview questions: What did you like or not like about your job? What is your main reason for leaving? Do you have any advice to improve the company? Were you happy with your supervisor? Would you consider working for the company again in the future? Would you recommend working for the company to your family or friends? Were you ever discriminated against or harassed while working at the company?

The ultimate decision on whether to participate in an exit interview is solely based upon the decision of the outgoing employee. However, it is usually recommended that the employee keep their answers general. If a person feels that they will not be able to quell heavy emotions or might become angry during the interview, then they should probably pass on participating in the process.

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Discussion Comments


I had a friend and co-worker who agreed to a human resources exit interview, and she was glad she did it. She wanted the company as a whole to know she wasn't leaving because of any animosity towards the entire management team or executive officers. She just couldn't resolve a number of conflicts with her immediate supervisor, and she felt like the best thing for her to do was to resign her position and find someplace else to work.

She said the exit interview questions were general enough that she didn't have to do into much detail about her specific reasons for leaving. She just said that certain members of management needed to be more sympathetic to the plight of single mothers in the workplace. If her child became sick at school or a babysitter called with an emergency, she had little choice but to leave work and handle the situation personally. If her immediate supervisor couldn't stop making derisive remarks about her efficiency, then she needed to be in a more understanding work environment.


I've been in the workforce for nearly 40 years, and I have never been asked to participate in an exit interview. Usually I turn in a two week notice and try to fly under the radar until my final day arrives. Most of the time, my soon-to-be former boss will ask me to help train my replacement, and might wish me good luck on the last day of employment.

There have been a few employment situations when it was probably a good idea there was no employee exit interview. I probably would have said a lot of hurtful things about the company or management and left in a huff. I wouldn't have been very constructive, to say the least. But there were other times when I would have gladly sat down with a human resource director and and honestly answered any exit interview questions. It all depends on the reason I have for leaving.

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