How to conduct an exit interview with an employee

I was stressed after my top performer direct, let’s call him Bob,  told me that he resigned. It came out of the blue. I did not see it was coming. I conduct regular 1-on-1s and there were no big complaints. What did I miss? Well, I had to find out, right? What did I learn from an exit talk with my direct? A lot. 

Lack of promotion opportunities

Bob did not see a future for himself in the company. He was not promoted even though he had received a bonus for being a top performer. Apparently, reasoning was not  clear enough for him why he was not promoted.

Salary increase in wrong time

He tried to quit one time before and he was convinced to stay by an ad-hoc salary increase. He felt that he was never going to get proper salary unless he tries to quit occasionally. 

Too many changes in the leadership

He had 3 leaders in 1 year and I was the last one. There was no proper handover between leads so basically he had to restart the career conversation every time he had a new lead. 

Not enough challenges

So Bob was a top performer. He was very good at what he was doing. He found the topics are not interesting to him anymore. He was coming to the office everyday, fixing some bugs, developing a feature in a product he has been working for 2 years now.


I was too busy to get the best out of my top performer. He was pushing a lot of features to production, coaching less senior colleagues. I have not asked the right questions (what motivates you?, what is your plan for future?) on time but instead gave him the answers (what to do). I was very delivery output oriented - in this case maybe too much.


Some key take-aways after this exit interview:



I started to measure how much time I speak in my one-on-one meetings and how much time my direct speaks. If I am the one who speaks most, again delivering answers, this is a red signal. 


Ask these questions to your team member: What motivates you? What do you want to achieve? Let’s close our eyes and dream that we are already at the end of the year. What would we write to your performance review? Do you want to learn that new technology?

Plan a career

As a leader, you should help your team members to advance their career. It is not an easy task. If it is not possible in the current organization you are in, it might be a good idea to arrange an internal rotation to another organization within the company. Remember, they are employees of the company. So it is better if they stay within the company and work on something else rather than working somewhere else.


I hope this article was helpful to you for your next one-on-one meetings and exit interviews with your employees..