Exit Interviews

Why exit interviews are important and how to go about doing one

No matter how fantastic a manager you are people will leave your team. An Exit Interview or Final Retro is one last 1:1 style meeting that should get recorded and shared with appropriate people in your organisation.

If there is no official way of doing exit interviews in your team or company please read on. If your exit interview process exists but is terrible, feel free to passive-aggressively share this article.

An exit interview should;

  • Be as natural as 1:1s are, ideally, it should happen as the last 1:1.
  • Be non-judgemental. If the person leaving says it is because they hate everyone, do not try and defend everyone.
  • Not come as a surprise. Let the leaver know that their next 1:1 will be an exit interview.
  • Not bring up any surprises. Hopefully, you meet with people regularly enough and have built up a rapport such that you know in advance their main reasons for leaving.

The reasons we care about exit interviews;

  • Setting the leaver up for success in their new career is one of your last acts as a caring manager; this is a great time to organise final plans.
  • People will share opinions at the last meeting they may not have shared before
  • Replacing people is hard and expensive, just like 1:1s, these meetings can provide cheats for keeping people happy.

Over the years I’ve tried several processes, from formal forms to text-based chats. What I have found works best is a lightweight process where I ask three of the following five questions. Answers are noted down.

Questions to ask

  • Did you enjoy working here?
  • Would you recommend us to a friend?
  • What could we have done better? (exclude any negative things they’ve already said, e.g. Apart from the broken coffee machine; what could we have done better?)
  • If you came back in 1 year, what do you think would be different
  • Would you work with your direct team again?

I usually store the notes as a document in a folder where I can compare answers over time.

The rationale on the questions

I have tried many different questions over the years; these five have consistently raised “interesting” responses. They either open the door to many discussions or give answers I wasn’t expecting.

You will know your team better than anyone, and perhaps these questions need to be tweaked, but I feel they would be a good starting point.

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