What Is An Exit Interview?

December 1, 2014 | By Beth N. Carvin

In human resource terms, an exit interview is a survey that is conducted with an employee when he or she leaves the company. The information from each survey is used to provide feedback on why employees are leaving, what they liked about their employment and what areas of the company need improvement. Exit interviews are most effective when the data is compiled and tracked over time.

How are Exit Interviews conducted?

The exit interview may be conducted through a variety of methods. Some of the methods include: in-person, over the telephone, on paper, and through the Internet such as with Nobscot's WebExit.

Pros and Cons of each method of Exit Interviewing

In-Person Exit Interviews

With in-person exit interviews an HR representative meets individually with each terminating employee.


  • Can provide information regarding benefits and retrieve company property during the interview
  • Gives a personal touch to each employee
  • Can probe for more information on each question


  • Employees may be afraid to share sensitive or negative information during an in-person interview
  • For larger companies, it may be too time consuming to interview every employee
  • It's difficult to track information received verbally during an interview

Telephone Exit Interviews

Telephone Exit Interviews are conducted over the telephone by an HR Representative or an outside third party consultant.


  • Can probe for more information on each question
  • Can enter data into a tracking system while conducting the interview
  • Easier to schedule than in-person interviews


  • Time consuming if done in-house by an HR Representative
  • Expensive if done with an outside consultant
  • Employees often reluctant to verbally share sensitive or negative information

Paper and Pencil Exit Interviews

Paper and Pencil Exit Interviews are usually conducted by a form that is given to the employee on their last day or mailed to the employee's home.


  • Takes less time to provide a form compared with conducting an in person or phone interview
  • Employees can share information on paper that they may be reluctant to say in person


  • Return rates for exit interview forms average just 30-35%
  • Difficult and time consuming to compile and track the data from paper and pencil forms

Online Exit Interview Management Systems


  • Employee self-service so easy for HR to administer
  • Employees comfortable sharing information by computer so more honest responses
  • Information automatically compiles and tracked
  • Reports available at a click of a button
  • Participation rates (for WebExit customers) double that for paper and pencil exit interviews

Exit Interviews Conducted By Over 90% Of Companies

According to a study by the Society of Human Resource Management, over 90% of companies conduct exit interviews. Exit interviewing is one of the most widely used methods of gathering employee feedback.

Exit Interviews Versus Employee Satisfaction Surveys

One of the benefits of exit interviews over employee satisfaction surveys is that they are conducted when an employee is leaving. This diminishes the urgency in which a company must act on the feedback provided in the exit interview. With employee surveys, it’s imperative to act on the results of the employee satisfaction surveys as quickly as possible. Once you provide employees the opportunity to tell you where the problems are, they expect immediate action on those problems. With exit interviews, you have a greater opportunity to review the data and look for trends over time. Employers can take action on problem areas as they see fit without causing further concern among employees.

Post Employment Exit Interviews

One of the newest fads is conducting the exit interview after the employee has been gone from the company for 3 or 6 months. The theory behind this strategy is that employee will have a better perspective on things once he or she has had a chance to reflect on his or her employment. Therefore, the employee is expected to provide more valuable information in an exit interview if it is held six months after employment. In research that Nobscot has conducted, this theory has yet to hold up. The majority of companies that have tried these kinds of Post-Employment exit interviews found that the results were similar to those conducted immediately upon termination. Additionally, it’s difficult and time consuming to reach employees this far after employment has discontinued.

Generally, you can expect to get the most valuable information by exit interviewing a few days before or after an employee leaves the company. The employee’s employment experiences are fresh in his or her mind and the employee is usually happy to express their final thoughts before leaving the company.