The Importance of Exit Interviews

The Importance of Exit Interviews

Conducting exit interviews is a standard procedure for most companies. Employment Law Handbook cites it as one of the important steps to follow when an employee resigns or is terminated. When done right, an exit interview can produce benefits for both the company and the exiting employee. With over three million Americans quitting their jobs voluntarily every month, organizations must continuously find ways to reinforce and improve retention programs in order to keep top talent. To do this, they will need to gather and work on valuable insights not only from current employees, but more importantly, the ones that are exiting.

On organizational development

Companies can do interviews for various reasons. On common reason is that they can yield valuable information that can serve as the basis for improving companies. If an employee has resigned, the Human Resource Department will want to know the reasons behind their decision. Answers to questions such as “Why have you decided to leave?” or “How was your experience with the company?” will help interviewers understand what changes they can make to ensure lower employee turnover rates in the future.

More often than not, these changes involve leadership and company culture. Maryville University highlights how leaders should strive to manage organizational conflict and introduce positive change. Good leaders must be able to guide teams through staffing changes and use critical thinking skills to make decisions that are ethical for their teams and the company as a whole. In order to do that, workplace leaders need to seek out employee feedback to determine the organization’s areas of improvement. There’s no better source for that than a departing employee who already has experience with the company.

Usually, exit interviews are a no-holds-barred affair, as employees may use the opportunity to sound off on concerns they would have otherwise kept quiet about. In order to gain the best pieces of information, all parties must be open and honest. The Balance’s guide to exit interviews iterates that the assigned representative should distill any anxiety the exiting employees have. They may worry that spilling the beans might burn bridges with the employer and complicate future encounters. Therefore, HR management and team leaders present during the interview should reassure employees that none of their statements will be used against them in the future.

Legal concerns

Exit interviews are not legally required, but they can help put companies on notice of potential lawsuits. For example, at exit interviews, employees may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement regarding trade secrets and employer data. This is a way for the company to protect its physical and intellectual property. However, if an employee refuses these provisions, it can also be a sign that he or she might be planning to sue the business. The Human Resource Department can then investigate internal operations for any inconsistencies or issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible.

In some cases, exiting employees will be required to sign waivers to their rights to sue. This is most commonly done with regard to terminated employees. In exchange for this, companies have the option of offering severance packages. Although offering severance packages in exchange for a waiver may appear to be an unlawful practice, it is perfectly legal for a company to do except in a limited number of circumstances. They can withhold a severance package if an employee refuses to sign since severance packages are not legally required. In contrast, it is illegal for a company to withhold an employee’s final paycheck.

However, do note that not all potential legal claims can be waived. Also, workers can still lawsuits if they deem the agreement to be unfair or they feel like they did not sign knowingly and voluntarily. These instances can be prevented if the exit interviews were conducted in a proper and open manner.


All in all, even though departing employees are not legally obligated to attend these exit interviews, companies should make the effort in encouraging them to do so. The interviewer could provide a clear explanation of the meeting for these workers to understand its purpose. On the employees’ end, they can use these interviews to leave on a positive note.

About The Author

Janice Webb

Janice Webb is an HR consultant by day, writer by night, and mother of two all the time. Passionate about helping teams and their leaders achieve their goals, she has worked with clients from a wide array of industries. When she’s not working or writing, Janice enjoys taking her sons out to the beach.

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