Exit Interviews, The Junk Science of HR


One of the most useless corporate inventions of the past 20 years is the exit interview. You may ask, how can honest, transparent feedback be a bad thing? In reality, exit interviews are neither honest or transparent. I’m not saying that all of the data is bad. I’m saying that it is almost impossible to separate the good data from the bad. The usefulness of exit interviews is based on false assumptions. Let us count the ways.

Turnover Is A Bad Thing

Who decided this? Let’s think about this statement for a moment. Is turnover always a bad thing? What if you have an entrenched C player on your hands? If you can’t terminate, you can’t fix hiring mistakes. My experience has been that addition by subtraction is a very real thing.

People Don’t Leave Jobs, They Leave Bosses

This a persistent cliche. Why do we have to dumb down complex human relationships to a catchphrase? I left my last job while working for the best boss I’ve ever had. Sometimes people leave because their organization has become political and bureaucratic, or they may have figured out their life purpose. God forbid they get an opportunity that their current company can’t offer.

Exiting Employees Will Be More Honest With HR

Only the dumb and angry ones I’m afraid. Only foolish, naive employees would discuss any real issues or problems. What’s in it for them? They will burn a bridge and make an enemy in the industry. You never know when you will need your bridges! It’s common knowledge that an exit interview with HR is not the place to air out grievances. You are just showing that you don’t really understand how to channel your issues.

The other category is an employee with an ax to grind, sometimes for good reason, sometimes because they were the low-performer in the group. If you work in a company that will not allow you to terminate employees, and then exit interview those low-performers, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.

Power of the CEO

Take the 20 canned HR questions, and throw them out the window. Instead, let the CEO, have a very frank, off-the-record discussion. This will accomplish the end-goal of obtaining valuable input for your organization without the damaging political interplay that prevents honesty and candor.


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