Four Ways to Use Data From Exit Interviews

Despite a common perception that these tools are the final formality before waving goodbye to employees, exit interviews can be powerful retention weapons, said Beth Carvin, CEO of Nobscot Corp., and Laura DiFlorio, director of sales at Nobscot.

Even though an organization may be losing the employee, further talent loss could be prevented if talent managers take the appropriate measures to use information gathered during a thoughtfully executed exit interview.

1. Timing is everything. The first step to an effective exit interview strategy is timing. Often, the best results are achieved when the interview is performed immediately following a worker’s two-week notice, according to Corbin and DiFlorio. That way, the employee is still invested enough in the company to put in a good effort. Further, any experiences, anecdotes or thoughts he or she may be harboring are likely still top of mind. “There’s some information out there from certain consultants about waiting three months, six months, but that’s just wrong,” Carvin said. “Not only is it hard to get a hold of them, they’ve moved on.”

2. Don’t jump to conclusions. One common mistake Carvin said she sees organizations make is not using an exit interview because they assume they know why a team member is leaving. For example, one of her clients, an insurance company, was positive its high turnover rate in one region was due to one manager with a strong personality. In analyzing the data, however, Nobscot found that employees were dissatisfied that the company had canceled a training program that led to growth opportunities. “That problem was quite solvable,” Carvin said. “They were able to reinstitute that program and watch their turnover rate drop.”

3. Accentuate the positive. Not all workers who leave a position do so by choice. Sometimes, corporate belts tighten and layoffs are the result. Sometimes, people go through life changes that cause them to leave a job for reasons that have nothing to do with their performance, the company or their satisfaction.

Regardless, the exit interview is useful for every employee who steps out from under a company’s umbrella because any feedback he or she provides — even if it’s positive — can make a difference. For workers who choose to leave on their own, asking them what they liked about the job can help companies continue popular programs for their current employees or even accentuate those features when seeking future hires.

4. Pick the right delivery method. By giving people options for how they’re most comfortable sharing their final input, companies can ensure their exit interview completion rates are high. In-person exit interviews are hardest to get people to open up, and while doing so over the phone was effective in the past, DiFlorio said one company saw participation rates drop to as low as 1 percent. “The company they had hired to do this for them couldn’t even generate a report because they had no data,” she said.

Jessica Krinke was an editorial intern at Talent Management magazine. She can be reached at