Online Exit Interviews

exit interview

Unless it’s a “don’t let the door hit you on your way out” kind of situation, where the reasons are fairly obvious, most employers need to know why employees are leaving them. After all, according to the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at the University of California at Berkeley, the average cost to replace an employee for all categories of workers is about $4,000. Blue collar and manual workers can be replaced for an average cost of $2,000, while replacing managerial and professional employees cost as much as $7,000. Especially for employers in Eastern Iowa where our low unemployment rate makes it an employee’s market, identifying and addressing the underlying causes of employee attrition is a money saving proposition.

So, in addition to the requisite “off boarding” steps – removing employee access and privileges, payroll and benefits termination and just generally cutting ties, employers often also conduct an “exit interview”. Conducting an effective exit interview that actually uncovers actionable data can be challenging. Due to the often emotionally charged nature of employee separation, some departing employees try to preserve relationships by only reporting generic, non-critical information while at the other end of the spectrum, some employees are so disgruntled that they paint a bleaker picture than actually exists. One method gaining use among HR professionals is to use online rather than in-person exit interview form.

One of the most obvious benefits to moving your exit interviews online rather than in-person is the time saved by the Human Resources staff. On the other hand, conducting your exit interviews online also requires tracking this data and having the expertise on staff to analyze the results and draw practical, actionable conclusions from the data. As for the interviews themselves, there are three other pros and cons of conducting exit interviews online.


More honest feedback: When face-to-face with someone, many of us have a tendency to hold back information especially on sensitive or difficult issues.  It’s also very easy for the interviewer to ask leading questions which bias the results

Consistent data collection: If your questions are online, you can ensure that each question is asked the same way each time an employee leaves. Even slight changes in the wording of a question can lead respondents to answer differently. You can avoid this by conducting your exit interviews online where the questions always stay the same.

Gathers and reports data instantly and reduces administrative costs: By using an online, quantitative survey format, your company can aggregate the results of multiple exit interviews and look at trends over time. Answers to questions like ‘Are employees more or less satisfied with their time at your company?’ or ‘Are they leaving because of a specific manager?’ Instead of basing your improvements on just one or two negative responses, look at overall trends so you know where your priorities need to lie.


Surface level data only: At the same time, because you aren’t face-to-face you can’t follow up with questions or dig deeper into issues or problems the leaving employee may have had

Worse participation: Leaving the exit interview for the departing employee to take on his or her own time could result in fewer responses. Once an employee starts a new job it is more likely that he will forget to take the survey. To avoid this issue, require the employee to take the online exit interview survey before leaving the company.

One-way conversation: Not only can you not dig deeper into certain topics when you conduct the interview online, but you also don’t allow the employee to ask you follow up questions or bring up concerns that may not be in the survey.

Online or  in-person, done correctly exit interviews can provide a wealth of employee saving data to those companies willing to take a hard look at their findings and adjust accordingly. For employers in Eastern Iowa’s Creative Corridor where unemployment is low, learning what it takes to retain good employees rather than replacing them is just good business.