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Why Exit Interviews Are Beneficial

LSA encourages its units to conduct exit interviews with departing staff. If it is found in the exit interview that there are problems that can be addressed with relative ease and little financial burden, they should be reviewed before the next person begins in the position. Exit interviews also leave the departing staff member with the feeling that the department cares about their feedback and will respond to their suggestions. Some examples are:

  • Use information received from the exit interview to revise the job duties for the position posting.  If there is a skill or strength that is critical to the position, highlight that in the position description.
  • Look at retention issues.  Is the position classified correctly for the level of complexity associated with the job?
  • Take suggestions for improvements, such as office location and dynamics, workload, work flow, and resources seriously.  Sometimes a simple change can make the position more attractive and efficient.
  • If an infrastructure issue is cited as a barrier to productivity, such as a problematic telephone system, or other such fixed resources, it is possible that changes can be made with very little cost or effort.
  • If the workload is too little or too much for the position, look at reorganizing the workload relative to the skills of the existing personnel and resources. Does this position warrant a nine-month, seasonal leave or change in effort?
  • If the office dynamics are such that it makes it difficult to perform well, such as sharing an office with someone whose position requires a lot of traffic, or a lot of time on the telephone, look at space resources to see if it’s possible to relocate that desk to a quieter area.

Suggested ways to approach an exit interview

Exit interviews may be conducted in a variety of ways. Currently in LS&A, some units have an informal approach while others may be formally structured. Below are some suggested ways to gather feedback from departing staff while also hopefully gaining new insight into your unit’s operations and how to improve the work environment. We are providing a list of sample questions you may wish to ask staff.  

Options for exit interviews:

  1.  A formal meeting may be conducted by the staff member’s supervisor, Key Administrator, other designated staff or a combination of some or all of these.
  2. The meeting may be scheduled with the person before the job is posted to incorporate any changes to the position (either duties or effort).
  3. The unit may use a standard set of questions for all staff.
  4. The questions may be distributed via email or hard copy to the staff member prior to the meeting. This way the person has more time to give careful thought to responses.
  5. The staff member may submit the responses to the person conducting the exit interview before the meeting or they could bring the questions and answers with them to the meeting.
  6. The meeting should include a review and discussion of the responses especially for any areas of clarification.
  7. If the timing of the staff member’s resignation leaves no opportunity for a face-to-face exit interview, perhaps the questions could be mailed, emailed or discussed by telephone.
  8. The important point to make to the staff member is that the purpose of this process is to hopefully allow the unit to gain further insight relating to the retention of valuable staff and suggestions for improving the work environment (which could be in a variety of areas).
  9. Another point to make clear to staff is that the information will be held confidentially to the extent possible while still using the feedback in a way as to improve policies, procedures or work settings for the unit or other staff in the unit.

Sample questions for exit interviews

As someone who will be conducting an exit interview, you will want to assure a casual informal setting for the staff member. You may begin the meeting by explaining the purpose of the exit interview and the desired openness and honesty of the discussion. You want feedback regarding the person’s experience in your unit, their observations of operation, their opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the unit and anything they would like you to know. Always end the meeting by thanking them for their time and feedback, and congratulations on their next move or position.

  1. Did you have an opportunity to learn new skills in this position?
  2. Were you able to obtain all of the training necessary to function in this position?
  3. Were you provided mentoring? Was it helpful?
  4. What training and skills do you feel your replacement will need in order to be successful in this position?
  5. Do you have any ideas for improvements in the office location, workload, work flow, etc.
  6. Do you have any advice for interviewing future candidates?
  7. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this position?
  8. What were your likes and dislikes about the unit? Your supervisor? Your co-workers?
  9. Are there particular unit or College policies or procedures that you’d like to recommend we improve?
  10. What led you to decide to leave your position here?
  11. Would you return to this unit or a similar position within LSA?
  12. Would you recommend this position to a friend?
  13. If you were the Key Administrator in your unit, what would you do differently within the unit?


When an employee provides notification of their plans to leave a unit the supervisor must clarify whether the employee is transferring to another unit or leaving the U-M entirely.

There are two processes that are followed based on the individual’s future employment.

Transferring to Another U-M Unit

A transfer does not require a formal paperwork process as University Human Resources takes care of moving the employee from one unit to another through eMploy. It is always a good idea to ask the departing staff member for a resignation letter along with forwarding address information as it brings closure to your unit personnel file. Occasionally the actual transfer date is adjusted by a day or possibly a week so it is suggested that the departmental manager check the employee's Total Picture to be sure that the agreed upon dates appear correctly in the system.