Why do Exit Interviews Exist?

6 June 2022

It’s never easy to tell your current employer you’re leaving. You don’t know what reaction you’re going to get, and as much as you’d like to be missed, you need an amicable parting in case you need to call upon them for a reference. Exit interviews are awkward at best, and the traditional interview is gradually waning in popularity, with more proactive methods being used to gather genuinely useful and honest employee feedback.

So, why do exit interviews exist?

They are essentially a method of harvesting information surrounding what’s keeping people within a company, and what’s driving them away. Employee feedback can reveal a great deal about company culture, and if acted upon, can create a stronger workplace. Research has demonstrated that high employee turnover predicts low company performance, and so in order to maintain a competitive advantage, figuring out the real reasons people are leaving a company is therefore key.

So, what’s the problem?

Although a great idea in principle, there are a few reasons why exit interviews often turn out to be useless in the real world.
- Sometimes, information is collated from employees but never acted upon
- Employees can feel compelled to sugarcoat their experience so as not to cause hard feelings
- It’s human nature for HR departments to sometimes dismiss feedback as personal gripes
- People can often be unreliable narrators of their own experiences

Perhaps the biggest issue of all is the most glaringly obvious one. By the time an exit interview takes place, it’s already too late. From the employee’s point of view, if the company was truly interested in what they had to say, they wouldn’t be in that position in the first place. Even if the meeting is used as an opportunity to make a counteroffer, waiting until the point of departure only reinforces that lack of effort that was made beforehand.

So, what’s the alternative?

Communication is key. Asking for feedback regularly in the workplace can unearth problems within the company before it reaches the point of someone wanting to leave. However, people can feel hesitant about delivering feedback when their name is attached to it, so consider allowing team members access to an anonymous way of communicating honestly with no fear of repercussions.


Are you looking to make an exit yourself? We’ve got plenty of positions available in a wide selection of industries, so get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.