Major Teoh’s Blog

January 19, 2007

Why Conduct Exit Interviews

Filed under: Management — Major (Rtd) Teoh @ 11:26 am

Why Conduct Exit Interviews

By Major (Rtd) Teoh

Many companies, either do not attach much importance to exit interviews or they are afraid to face the stark realities which these interviews may bare. They are obsessed by the “Can do no wrong” syndrome and are cocooned into living in a glass house forever.

The most devastating aspect of this stance is that the company will not be able to judge and gauge  its performance against accepted standards and practices.

The perception the public and the employees have on the company may be warped and do not reflect the true image the company is trying to portray. It is only at these interviews that such perception can be unearthed for the betterment of all.

Reasons for Conducting Exit Interviews

If possible everyone leaving the company should be interviewed. This should be the ideal scenario. As good things are hard to come by these days, if we can interview half of the employees who are leaving the company for whatever reason, it will be an achievement.

Exit interviews should be viewed as a feedback mechanism which provides management with the information it needs to improve and spur itself to greater heights of acievement and productivity. Specifically it should be able to pinpoint to management its shortcomings, flaws, inadequacies and provide useful immediate remedial actions. If these interviews are conducted in a formal and deliberate manner with specific questions framed and asked, the return of investment expanded on it would be worth the money spent.

Such exit interviews will be able to provide answers to:

  • The employees’ perception of the company;
  • Public’s perception of the company;
  • The company’s terms & conditions of service;
  • Its employee benefits;
  • Its management styles;
  • Its employee relationship.
  • Matters of equity (externally & internally) on Pay, Promotion, Training etc.,
  • Why employees leave?
  • Why is the company not an employer by choice?

The feed-back from an exit interview must be taken with a pinch of salt especially if they are from employees who are compelled to leave due to disciplinary actions and/or are fired or laid off. Feed-back from these catergories of employees should never be insisted upon. Exit interviews should be on a voluntary basis.

How should these exit interviews be conducted?

There are many methods of conducting such interviews depending upon the circumstances and the disposition and temperament of the employee. The common methods are:

Form Filling – Questionaires

If there is a likelihood of the employee turning violent or being confrontational, it would be best to just give him a form to fill up and ask him to send it back to the company by post or to leave it at the reception. In this context, it does not really matter whether the employee replies or not. It will be quite beneficial to go through his response if there is one.


Face to Face Interview (One to One)

This is the most ideal method of conducting an exit interview. It should be conducted in a very cordial manner and in an atomosphere where the employee does all the talking and the interviewer does all the listening and take notes.



The interview could be conducted by telephone but the success rate amongst those who are compelled to leave are very low compared to those who leave voluntarily. If this method is used it is usually recommended that only a few specific questions be asked as most ex-employees do not have the luxury of time to enter into a lengthy conversation with you.

Stance to be taken by Interviewer

In conducting such interviews there are a few taboos to avoid. Some of them are as follows: 

  • Do not confront;

  • Do not be defensive;

  • Do not accuse the employee of any wrong-doing;

  • Do not blame employee for any commisiion or non-commision of an act;

  • Do not get into an argument with the employee;

  • Do not admit liabilty;


The interviewer should be non-commital and he should not promise the employee anything which the company is unable to deliver.


In conclusion, if exit interviews are well planned and are very objective in their approach, it could be a useful tool to solicit for suggestions, innovative ideas and changes for greater improvement.


Copyright © 2005 Major (Rtd) Teoh


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