Last Updated on May 23, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


cover image for what is more helpful than the exit interview

The exit interview…you have heard of it, haven’t you?

You haven’t? lucky you!

But it is that interview that businesses, mostly big but some small ones, usually want to conduct AFTER your employee resigns from your “fabulous” job.

Don’t get me wrong…I understand why you conduct them.

After all, you followed all the good advice about hiring talent. 

You do everything to make sure you have good HR practices.

But it is also one of those accepted business practices that I’ve always had problems with. Not because I want to be difficult or because I have a history of leaving many jobs.

But because my rather simple mind, with its propensity for child-like logic cannot grasp the purpose of the exit interview.

However, just because I don’t get it and I have also thought of an alternative does not mean that it will go away.

As a matter of fact, increasingly, my small business clients have been asking me about this “exit interview”.

Well, let me tell you, many of the exit interview templates I’ve had the opportunity to review are either not very well-designed or could be costly if you follow them.


Here are 2 examples of what I’m talking about.


Example #1 – The poorly designed exit interview questionnaire

Recently, I glanced at a questionnaire for an exit interview.

The thing that jumped out at me was that one of the options that the respondents could tick for a reason for exit was “dismissal”.

I really had to laugh out loud.

You would have to be a member of the World-wide Association of Idiots for some employer to dismiss you and then you turn around and allow them to engage you in an exit interview.

To add insult to the injury, that questionnaire was meant to be completed by departing employees and “handed-in” before they leave. Wuhloss!


Example #2 – The potentially costly exit interview approach

Then, just doing some cursory research for this post,  I saw another howler.

It was the “profound” suggestion by an HR Author that right at the time of resignation was not the best time to conduct an exit interview.

She argued that a better approach would be to wait for as much as up to three weeks, after the employee has left, to conduct this interview.

Say what!? Let’s unpack this suggestion with the following scenario.

You resign from a job in Barbados in the Caribbean to take up a job in  Switzerland in Europe. This is a distance of over 7,500 kilometres.

In addition to all the settling in issues, both in your new job and in a new home, you’re also dealing with a language difference as well.

And someone from your old job calls you up to find out why you left that job?



How about the “why do you stay” interview? 

By now, especially if you’re a Small Business Owner, you must be wondering…

How could I make this “exit interview thing” a more useful process?

Or…what could possibly replace the popular but useless exit interviewing?

Well, I have the perfect solution to both your questions.

I’ve always thought that a “why do you stay?” interview would be far more valuable that an exit interview, especially if your business is small.

In this scenario, you don’t interview those who are leaving. You target your “long-serving” employees.

Depending on the size of the business and the rate of turnover, you could conduct one every 18 months to 3 years.

Since the “why do you stay” interviews is not one of your “go to” business solutions I decided to conduct a few and share the findings with you.


The methodology for my “why do you stay” interview

The businesses I selected were all small and covered several industries.

I resisted the temptation to survey some self-employed persons, only because I know it would skew the data.

The questionnaire was simple.

The first question was “how long have you been working here?

If the answer fell anywhere between 18 months and 3 years the second and final question was “why do you continue to work here?”

As to be expected I will not be mentioning names of businesses nor respondents, but I assure you the answers are real.


Some responses from my interviewing process 

The answer to the first question was one of fact – just the length of time on the job.

The second question was “why do you continue to work here?”

The answers were amusing and instructive:

First Answer: (3 respondents from 3 businesses)

Waaaaiit! Who send you? I still working here because my boss can’t afford the severance pay!

Second Answer: (2 respondents from same business)

This job is in town (the city) and I only have to pay one bus fare.

Third Answer: (6 respondents from 4 businesses)

I like it here. My boss is cool…she does not breathe down my neck and I get to be creative. Also she shares info about the business.

Fourth Answer: (4 respondents from 3 businesses)

The pay ain’t good but the boss ain’t bad.

Fifth Answer: (3 respondents from same business)

Mrs X is a good boss…she pays overtime willingly , she brings us gifts when she goes away and you can bring the children to work if you can’t find a sitter.

Sixth Answer: (3 respondents from same business)

Mr X ain’t got a clue about running this business but he’s such a good person!

Seventh Answer: (1 respondents from 1 business) I wonder…I’ve been trying to find a better job for years!

Eighth Answer: (1 respondent from 3 businesses)

  • I get to run this place. If I was working in a bigger business I would not get to do that.
  • My boss respects me a lot and he consults me when he has important decisions to make.
  • When people work late, my boss provides transportation.

Ninth Answer: (6 respondents from 6 businesses)

I like working here…my boss cool…and s/he pays for training…


What the answers tell you…

Now if I were to plot these answers on a cluster graph, the clustering coefficient would have to be very high for “good treatment from the boss” whether that boss was male or female.

In other words, it would indicate that for the most part, that treating your employees well, training them and allowing them the freedom to be creative goes a long way to help them remain with you.

Wrapping this up in a neat package, your People Management and leadership skills are the key to small business success, especially in getting employees to remain with you.


Why you don’t need the exit interview…

Yeah…I had fun conducting my little, informal interview.

But I already knew from experience that if you can hire the right employees and find ways to keep them, you won’t need to waste time on an exit interview.

This is another example of what makes small businesses so special.

You have the flexibility to hire smart. You can treat you employees well and build a great team.

If you do this consistently, you can  leave the exit interview to the big corporations.


Your next “exit interview” steps 

So I’ve laid it all out for you.

I’ve shown you that as a small business, the exit interview is not your best approach to finding out how your employees feel about you and your business.  

So what do you do now? It’s simple, really…

Start engaging your employees periodically about your business.

While they are still working for you, rather than waiting until they are leaving.

When you do, make sure that you don’t block the good ideas that you can get out of the exercise.

Then use the information to do more of what works to keep your employees with you. 

You also have to examine the state of your HR skills and get coaching for yourself as well.

Or, you could find yourself a good business mentor.

As a good leader, you have to grow yourself as readily as you grow your employees. 

And don’t forget to conduct a “why do you stay?” interview, every now and again… 


The Exit Interview: How to Make It A Really Useful Process

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!

2 thoughts on “The Exit Interview: How to Make It A Really Useful Process

  • July 12, 2019 at 11:23 am

    A worthwhile, practical approach. Thanks Lorna.

    • July 12, 2019 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks Gregory!

      “Worthwhile” and “practical” are what I strive for!

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