Does exit interview tell the truth behind the attrition?

Have you ever come across an organization that doesn’t talk about transparency and open criticism? Probably not! It is one of the fundamental points in the HR charter. However, everybody knows that it is not possible to express your concerns and grievances openly till you are part of the system. Whatever the organization claims about it, there are always limitations.

People work in the organization and resign one fine morning. Well, the decision is not an impulsive one for sure. There is always a history behind every resignation. Just like ailment, there are symptoms and signs. Unfortunately, neither functional manager nor HR manager has the capability of sensing it.

There is a process followed by almost every organization once an employee resigns. It is known as ‘Exit Interview’. As per   HR managers, it is the barometer of measuring organizational health and integrity. But the problem is; does it really happen? Is it possible that an employee who didn’t reveal anything about his feeling or grievances while he was part of the system would tell everything true while leaving the company? It doesn’t happen because the employee doesn’t want to walk out with an unpleasant taste in the mouth.


It is a common observation that employees share their feelings openly with their friends in the company (whether they are part of the team or not), but prefers to keep mum during exit interviews. He or she knows that every statement will be recorded in the system. Hence, there is no point in opening the cards.

Making exit interview mandatory doesn’t make it effective

Whether you make it mandatory or optional, it hardly makes any difference. When employees come for the exit interview, they come well-prepared for it. They do not utter a single word which may give an indication about their grievances or disappointments. They praise the organization culture, their managers, team and work profile. They talk about the exciting and productive time spent in the company. But they don’t share the truth!

It can be helpful if you get the format designed by an expert

According to HR experts, it is possible to get the benefit of exit interview only if the format is correct. It includes all aspects; the number of questions, tone, presentation, and sequence. Precise, to-the-point questions are appreciated by employees instead of long and descriptive ones.

Questions that help

  1. List down three job responsibilities that excited you the most.
  2. When did you feel that the job responsibilities fulfilled your expectations?
  3. List down three situations when the manager of the supervisor contributed to your success.
  4. List down three situations when the manager of the supervisor was responsible for the failure in your opinion.
  5. When did you feel the job fulfilled your expectations?
  6. List down three things you feel should be improved to nurture individual capabilities.
  7. List down two most motivating moments and two most demoralizing moments.

If you have read these questions carefully, then it is evident that they are crisp, precise and close-ended. They don’t give a chance to be descriptive or subjective. Employee has to think about it and remembers the specific incidents to answer the question. There is no room for generalized “motherhood statements”.

It is observed that some companies follow the practice of taking the telephonic interview. However, it is not a good practice at all. It loses the whole purpose of it. Telephonic exit interview is merely a formality. In-person interview is always preferred. Sometimes, the interview is conducted in some other location than the regular premises. It is done to make the employees comfortable.

Ways to make the exit interview fruitful

Well-designed, well-structured exit interview achieve great results. It digs out valuable information about the organization which can be used for retaining talents. Organizations see a great drop in HR related issues. The level of engagement increases, and you have more motivated employees.

Want to know the best practices that make an exit interview incredibly helpful? Here are the top three.

  • When an employee leaves the organization, he wants to say good bye with a smile. Even if he is leaving the company with many grudges, seldom he expresses the same. Therefore, exit interview becomes just a formality where the employee wants to be a goody-goody. He knows that his responses will not remain a secret. Hence, he plays safe. Only when 100% anonymity is ensured, you can expect factual responses. It is critically important to maintain complete secrecy about the information. Also, it is not a good thing to pass judgment about a manager just on the basis of one or two exit interviews. Substantial data should be collected to reach a conclusion.
  • According to experts, the only reliable data set can provide meaningful insights about the organization. HR people must spend time in designing right questionnaire and formats so that employees don’t find it difficult and intricate. Close-ended, candid questions make the problem easy. Organizations should design documentation and formats for exit interviews.
  • According to HR Experts, there is no use if organizations do not use exit interview. Good quality questions give excellent insight into what employees feel. It helps HR managers in shaping the HR policies. If there are no resources in the company who can use the information, then there is no harm in outsourcing the process. When you hire consultants, they provide experienced interviewers who know how to conduct it. With their excellent professional skills, they can extract meaningful information from employees.
  • Timing is also critically important. As a rule of thumb, you should arrange exit interview three to four days before the last working day of the employee. Give ample time for the employee to think so that the feedback is candid and valid. Don’t schedule it too early, and don’t make it a ‘last minute affair’. He needs to sign on full and final settlement and take a lot of signatures. Hence, he or she is not in a position to answer rationally.

An exit interview is a great tool if HR managers conduct it well.