Taking the pulse of an organization

An exit interview can provide a good checkup for HR, but only if the right questions are posed
By Jayne Jackson
|CHRR, Guide to Recruitment & Staffing|Last Updated: 03/22/2005

Employees who leave organizations are just as important as the ones that stay … but for far different reasons. When an employee leaves, she can often tell a lot about a company, about the programs and policies that exist, and about the working environment. But she can only tell if the right questions are asked.

Exit interviews have been used in many organizations as a tool to understand employee turnover. The information gathered can help to evaluate the effectiveness of human resource practices and programs as well as individual managers. It can also highlight potential problems that need addressing.

Good exit interviews combine a variety of open- and close-ended questions, to probe into specific areas of interest to the company. Most exit interviews include sections on the employee’s role and job content, her job satisfaction or dissatisfaction, the relationship she developed with manager and peers, the level of communication within her group, and perhaps within the company as a whole, and access to training. Some interviews delve into salary, benefits and the work environment. Some interviews even ask employees to compare their current job with the new job they’re leaving for as a way to get some (albeit biased) market data.