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5 Musts for Conducting Exit Interviews

Under normal marketplace conditions, it’s important for organizations to conduct exit interviews with former employees as a step to reduce turnover, increase retention and protect profits. In an employee-in-control marketplace, where approximately 3 in 4 reasons for turnover could have been prevented by the organization, it becomes critical for organizations to conduct exit interviews in the most effective manner.

Asking employees for feedback to understand the reasons behind their behavior, motivations and intents is the first step to predicting and preventing turnover. Organizations must prioritize asking former employees for feedback to build a foundation for predicting turnover. Exit Interviews are the recommended research tool used to understand the reasons that employees left the organization, or why, as this data effectively informs efforts to prevent additional employees from leaving for those same reasons. Exit Interviews are considered a core foundation of a retention strategy.


Exit Interview Research

Research has uncovered criteria for conducting exit interviews. For example, research says that exit survey or interview data collected by the organization itself at the time of employee departure is subject to substantial response bias. Also, these reasons for leaving change significantly after departure and when asked by a third party. Moreover, many exit interviews employ a fixed set of responses from which respondents must choose. This can limit the scope of data obtained and potentially bias the respondent to give answers they wouldn’t have.


Exit Interviews should be conducted:

  1. Through an independent third party to remove biases
  2. After the employee has left to get to the true reasons for leaving. 
  3. Using a mixed methods approach to ask “Why” in an open-ended, qualitative manner to avoid limiting the scope of what can be learned.
  4. With research instruments designed to double-probe in questioning to solicit multiple responses and selection of the most important reason.
  5. In a manner to categorize themes from qualitative data and analyze responses quantitatively to reduce bias and maximize causal understanding.

Don’t let employees slip out the door for reasons that could have been prevented. Ask former employees for feedback, in the right way, using Exit Interviews that meet the five criteria outlined above to effectively inform retention strategies.



  1. Sears, Lindsay E. 2017 Retention Report: Trends, Reasons & Recommendations. Franklin: Work Institute (2017).
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  3. Campion, Michael A. “Meaning and measurement of turnover: Comparison of alternative measures and recommendations for research.” Journal of Applied Psychology 2 (1991): 199.
  4. Hinrichs, John R. “Measurement of reasons for resignation of professionals: Questionnaire versus company and consultant exit interviews.” Journal of Applied Psychology4 (1975): 530.
  5. Creswell, John W. Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage publications, 2013.
  6. Gläser, Jochen, and Grit Laudel. “Life with and without coding: two methods for early-stage data analysis in qualitative research aiming at causal explanations.” Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research. Vol. 14. No. 2. 2013.