Why You Need an Exit Survey Instead of Interviews

When an employee leaves an organization, they take a lot of valuable information with them. Not only the insights about their work responsibilities or customers, but also valuable intel about their experience and the culture of the company. Leavers are in a unique position to summarize their employee experience, identify strengths and opportunities, and most importantly, share the reasons they’ve decided to leave. These insights can be used to improve the company. To make the most of this valuable information, employee exit feedback must be efficiently collected, organized, and analyzed. When they leave, an employee should be asked about their experience in a well-designed exit survey.

Many organizations attempt to gather exit feedback by asking questions in one-on-one exit interviews. While exit interviews can be productive and provide a positive sense of closure for employee and employer, they have several limitations that make it difficult to turn employee feedback into meaningful improvements for the organization. Exit interviews fail to address what I call, “the 3 C’s of Effective Exit Data” – they don’t provide candor, consistency, or comparability.

The 3 C's of Gathering Effective Exit Data

Exit surveys, on the other hand, excel at meeting the needs of the 3 C’s, and setting the stage for improvement. An effective exit approach, whether it utilizes interviews or not, should incorporate an effective exit survey. Let’s explore how surveys facilitate candor, consistency, and comparability.


Employee perceptions are only valuable for improvement if they are authentic and un-edited. Often when employees find themselves in a face-to-face interview, they hold back their true opinions or fail to bring up important topics that they may be uncomfortable discussing with HR or their manager. An exit survey provides greater psychological safety for an employee to freely respond to questions and express their true feelings. Candid feedback is key for improving an organization.


Conducting exit interviews typically relies on an HR representative to personally facilitate each session. These sessions can vary greatly in the questions asked, the amount of time dedicated, how notes are captured, and even the overall tone of the meetings. Interviews are also difficult to scale as an organization grows or during periods of high turnover, such as during a RIF. Not so with exit surveys. The same exact survey experience can be provided for each employee with little or no involvement from HR and the survey can easily handle fluctuations in headcount. Ensuring that consistent questions are asked of each employee allows for greater usability of the data.


How do you use the data once it’s collected? Interview data, even when it is collected in a consistent fashion, remains largely qualitative and can be difficult to analyze and trend. An effective exit survey approach compiles both quantitative and qualitative data into a tool that allows for meaningful discovery. At DecisionWise, we incorporate employee demographic or profile data in our exit surveys to make analysis even more powerful. Data should be comparable across departments, managers, locations, tenure groups, gender, etc. We also recommend flagging leavers as either regrettable or non-regrettable turnover. This allows for improved analysis of the areas where turnover is the most painful for the organization.

The true test of employee feedback lies in turning their input into meaningful actions and improved results. When an employee leaves your company, don’t miss out on the gift of their experience. Give employees a safe channel to express their thoughts and opinions. Give them a well-designed instrument and consistent experience. Honor their time and input by understanding and acting on their feedback. Give them an exit survey.

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