Insights To Gain From An Exit Interview

In a recent article for Harvard Business Review, authors Everett Spain and Boris Groysberg discussed the importance of a thoughtful exit interview as a part of an exit program that improves employee experience and retention. Read the full article as it appeared on the Harvard Business Review online platform here.

Colonel Everett Spain is a professor and head of the department of leadership and behavioral sciences at West Point. Boris Groysberg is a professor of business administration in the Organizational Behavior unit at the Harvard Business School. He currently teaches courses on talent management and leadership in the school’s MBA and Executive Education programs.

Together, these authors unpacked the benefits of well-structured exit interviews. Whether it be a face-to-face conversation, a questionnaire, a survey, or a combination of these, these interactions can provide management teams with priceless information.

5 Things You Can Learn From A Thoughtful Exit Interview

1. If There Are HR Issues You Need to Address

When someone is heading out the door, it’s a great time to ask them for input on how you could improve your HR processes. They have nothing to lose, so they can be frank about whether the interview and onboarding process was a good experience, whether they had all the tools they needed to succeed, and where the shortfalls were in terms of people management within your organization.

2. How Employees Experience Your Company

If you’ve ever wondered what it must be to work at your company, now is the time to ask. Exiting employees can provide very valuable insight into everything from company culture and peer relationships, to office design and layout, overall working conditions, and what you could be doing to improve the employee experience overall. 

Insights From Exiting Employees

3. Whether Your Managers Are Effective

As a company, your goal should always be to foster positive management styles and eradicate toxic top-down behavior. If an exiting employee indicates that they did not thrive under the management style of the person in charge of their team, you can use this insight to address the situation by making further training available to the individual in question, etc.

4. How Other Employers Are Beating You

If your employee is leaving you to work somewhere else within the same industry, you will do well to find out how your competitors are beating you in the talent market. Is it simply a matter of higher pay? Are they offering employees the opportunity to upskill and grow within the company? Or are they known for employee recognition and reward?

Once you know that sets them apart, it becomes simpler to adjust your own talent acquisition and retention strategy.

5. How You Can Improve Your Company

Go beyond the exiting employee’s personal work experience to see if they have any other suggestions to help shape your company into a better one. For instance, you could ask them to complete a sentence that starts with ‘Company XYZ would do a lot better if they only …’


The retention process starts at the time of hiring and continues well past the employee’s last day of work in the form of vibrant corporate alumni programs. A well-thought-out exit interview is one of the important measures to ensure the relationship continues on good footing. 

Join the mailing list to get early access to The Alumni Advantage, an end-to-end understanding of how organizations are recognizing and leveraging their former employees; authored by James Sinclair, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of EnterpriseAlumni.