Exit Interviews

Decker Cunov
Jan 20 · 3 min read

A critical opportunity to behave as a world-class organization.

Whether they are resigning or being asked to leave, your ability to artfully navigate this transition can either have both parties walk away as fierce advocates, even allies, for life or lead to such fundamental resolution that the colleague offers to stay on board after all.

Scheduling

  • When someone is exiting the organization with goodwill, plan this interview for within 3 days of notice, ideally within one day.
  • When someone is exiting the organization when goodwill is not certain, plan this interview for within a week after leaving and handle the urgent legalities separately.
  • Exit Interviews are not for right before they leave, half of the value possible is lost by then plus the last day is a time for toasts & handshakes/hugs.

State Context

My hope for this exit interview is to…”

  • Gain any valuable critique from your experience to help our organization grow.
  • Celebrate the contributions I hope we’ve made to each other.
  • Part ways as allies and speak candidly about how we can be supportive as you move forward in your career.

Get Their World

  • What are they moving towards? (Express happiness for their next chapter)
  • Anything they are moving away from…? This is where you often elicit critiques of your company as well as the opportunity for them to vent a bit if needed. Prioritize asking clarifying questions, welcoming their perspectives even if/especially if you don’t agree with them. Welcome any questions they might have as well.
  • Offer a summary of what you think you’ve heard from them.

Err on the side of zero unsolicited coaching at this phase of the relationship, even when done well it’s a favorite way to create defensiveness.

Share Impact

  • Include everything from Regret/Loss to Gratitude/Congratulations.
  • Inspired by new possibilities within the organization?
  • This is often the most effective place to attempt retaining the individual, stating how they’ve inspired you to improve the organization might resolve the concern that had them wanting to leave.

Make/Confirm Plan

  • Are they offering two weeks? Will they train their replacement? Does it still feel like a charged situation in which they should simply turn-in their badge and leave?
  • Review non-competes, NDA’s etc…

Acknowledgment & Close

  • “A highlight moment we had with you is…”
  • One way we are better off for having worked with you is…”
  • Allow them final words + compulsory handshake/fist bump/hug.

In summary, yes it’s unsettling to have someone you worked closely with expressing negativity publicly and in worst cases actually hinders recruiting efforts. The best exit interviews prevent those unsavory situations when they focus less on preventing something and more on sincerely celebrating and honoring the journey you’ve had with any and every employee who has dedicated some part of their professional journey to your cause.

The more you actually enjoy the interview, the more effective it is likely to be, so enjoy!


Prime Movers Lab invests in breakthrough scientific startups founded by Prime Movers, the inventors who transform billions of lives. We invest in seed-stage companies reinventing energy, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, human augmentation and computing.

Prime Movers Lab

Backing breakthrough scientific inventions transforming billions of lives.

Decker Cunov

Written by

Decker Cunov is a Partner and Executive Coach for Prime Movers Lab, challenging organizations towards extraordinary levels of teamwork and effectiveness.

Prime Movers Lab

Backing breakthrough scientific inventions transforming billions of lives.

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