In an article for The Balance Careers, HR authority Susan Heathfield shares valuable insights on how to conduct an exit interview for optimal results.

Susan is a management consultant and company owner at Techsmith operating out of Williamston, Michigan, United States. As an organization development consultant, she specializes in human resources issues and values-based management to create forward-thinking workplaces that foster successful careers for employees. 

In short, she is an expert in the field of employee engagement, talent retention, and the importance of employee experience. As such, Susan advises employers to remember that this experience includes the encounters a person has at the end of their tenure at a given business. Which, of course, includes the all-important exit interview. 

Here are a few key takeaways from Susan’s piece on effective exit interviews.

Five Top Tips On How To Conduct An Exit Interview

1. Come Prepared and Pay Attention

HR professionals should be careful not to treat the exit interview as just another box to tick. Come prepared and be ready to pay close attention to what is being said (and what is not being said). Although many businesses prefer to ask a series of standard questions that help them gather data, it’s best to go beyond that. 

If you really want to get valuable feedback from an exiting employee, you need to tap into their emotions. How are they feeling about their imminent departure? Be empathetic and open. If an employee senses any hostility, they are unlikely to share any insights they may have.

2. Check The Interview Environment For Comfort

The physical environment should be comfortable and private. Employees are far more likely to play open cards about their reasons for departure when they know that they are not being judged for it. Furthermore, the atmosphere should be welcoming and engaging, not loaded and intense.

3. Focus On The Positives First

Start with the easier topics, i.e., the positive aspects of their employee experience. This information is not as hard to share and will provide scope to build a rapport. Knowing what’s good about the company culture is just as important as knowing what does not work after all. 

You can also use this time to find out what drew them to their new employer if you see fit.

4. Offer Unimpeachable Trust

Offer the employee your complete trust and assurance that their feedback will go towards your data set and not be evaluated individually. If you are unable to do so, be honest about that as well. Just know that it might impact their level of honesty since nobody wants to burn bridges when they leave.

5. Ask The Tough Question

The most important thing you need to know is why they started looking for another job in the first place. It’s a tough question to ask, but this is how you will learn what you need to do to retain your top talent.


Knowing how to conduct an exit interview is a vital skill every HR practitioner should have. It has the potential to affect a lot of things, including your employer brand

Start by coming prepared, paying attention, and checking the interview environment for comfort. Focus on the positives of their experience, offer unimpeachable trust, and ask the tough question.