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Strategic Exit Interviews: Cutting Edge Practices in Exit Interview Management

Webinar Wrap Up – Part Two
In the Part One recap of the Nobscot Corporation webinar, "Strategic Exit Interviews: Cutting Edge Practices in Exit Interview Management," the focus was on the cost of turnover, turnover myths and the five main objectives of conducting exit interviews. Part two focuses on several other important areas – exit interview methodologies, exit interview timing, who to interview, exit interview questions, reporting and data analysis.

Exit Interview Methodologies

There are several exit interview methodologies:
  1. Paper and pencil method – this is the default method when organizations do not have anything else in place. It is comprised of giving the exiting employee a paper survey and then asking them to complete it and return it. The common issue with this method is that they do not all get returned (15-35% average participation rate).
  2. In-person exit interview method – this gives a personal touch, has worked pretty well in the past and gives HR the opportunity to probe for more information. Many mature employees (such as those retiring) tend to like this method. However, younger generations tend to prefer other methods. Some issues with this method are that people may be too afraid to speak their minds honestly, they are time consuming, and it can be difficult to efficiently track results.
  3. Telephone method – this used to be a great method, and may still work with employees who do not have access to computers. However, in the modern age, it is extremely difficult to reach people via telephone so it’s hard to get high participation rates.
  4. Technology-based exit interviews – with this method, the exit interview is emailed to the departing employee and then the results are emailed back to the HR department. Good systems also automatically track the data and generate reports. Participation rates for this method are typically 65% or higher.

When to Conduct Exit Interviews

The ideal time to administer an exit interview is between 3 days before the last day worked and 3 days after the termination date. During this short window, exiting employees are still emotionally attached to the company and are more prone to give organizations honest information. Post-exit interviews, such as those that occur at 3 months or 6 months after the termination date, do not work as employees have moved on and no longer want to think about or help the company.

Who to Interview

Around 80% of organizations only conduct exit interviews with their voluntary terminations, and 20% conduct exit interviews with both voluntary and involuntary terminations. Every company can decide which method works for them. However, interviewing involuntary terminations can be very beneficial, as these types of employees are usually very vocal and will say things that the voluntary terminations will not. The key is to keep the data separate so that the data is not skewed.

Participation Rates

All organizations should aim for participation rates of 65% or higher.


Once again, choosing to make exit interviews anonymous is up to the organization. Many HR professionals are unnecessarily overzealous when it comes to this topic. However, the topic may be a non-issue for most employees. Approximately 70% of exiting employees actually want to be identified, while only 30-35% choose to remain anonymous when given the choice. Companies can also leave the decision up to the individual employee by giving them the option to choose to be identified or to remain anonymous.

Exit Interview Questions

Ideally, the exit interview will be comprised of between 35-65 questions that are a combination of quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (open-ended) questions. Once you hit the 65 question mark, participation rates tend to drop off significantly. The main purpose of the questions should be to identify the organization’s unique irritations – basically, the things that are driving quality employees away.


Quantitative questions are typically conducted on a 5-point scale, which gives employees the opportunity to strongly agree, agree, strongly disagree, disagree and remain neutral about the statement. Some categories of questions to include are things related to the work environment, things related to management, the work itself, compensation, enthusiasm and safety.


These types of questions allow the employees to give exact details about why they rated a question a particular way. Some good categories for these types of questions include asking what they most enjoyed about working at the company, things they didn’t like or would change, where the employee is going, what the company could have done to keep him or her and if there’s anything the employee would like to tell the company.


One of the most integral aspects of the exit interview process is breaking down the results by demographics. This allows organizations to see the data insightfully. For example, they may want to compare why males are leaving versus the reasons females leave. They also may want to compare the results by race and age to see if the irritations are different for each group.


Exit Interview Reports can be manually created in spreadsheets, or technology-based systems can generate them for the HR department. Laura gave a brief demo of a wide variety of Nobscot’s WebExit reports, including those that showed the average responses of the entire employee population compared to the ratings by each individual department.

Reports in graphical format such as pie and bar charts are an effective way to give information to senior management. They are easy to read providing corporate executives with simple, meaningful pictorial representations of exit interview results.

Data Analysis

Without this important piece of the puzzle, HR professionals will not be able to improve their unique irritations. Laura uses the SWOT analysis which helps to identify an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, based on the exit data.

For more information on this webinar and Nobscot products, please contact our friendly exit interview experts at 888-662-7444 and visit us on the web at

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