Why do we ask exit interview questions? After all, saying goodbye to a valued employee is never fun. It’s skilled, dedicated employees that drive organizational success.
But what’s even worse than losing a top member of your team? Not knowing why they’re leaving in the first place.
Even worse, you do not know what you could have done to make them stay and lose more valuable team members as a result.
But only with the right exit interview questions can you really get the important information you’re looking for.
Let’s look at some of the best exit interview questions to ask so that you can make every exit interview count.
What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is a conversation that happens between an employee leaving a company and HR or a manager from the same company. The idea is to have an open and honest conversation about why the person is leaving the company. A good exit interview process yields actionable insight for the manager and the company to help retain others.
At the same time, it helps to assess what they feel could be done better in the company.
The purpose of an exit interview is to learn.
You want to find out exactly why the person is leaving and how you could mitigate this happening with other employees.
In exit interviews, you can learn how employees feel the company is run based on the current management style. You can also determine whether or not an employee has been supported enough and where they felt they were let down.
The person asking the exit interview questions could be the employee’s direct manager or supervisor, a member of HR, or even the head of the company. It depends on who the departing employee is, the position they held, and the reasons for leaving.
It’s important to set up the exit interview so that the exiting employee feels comfortable enough to be candid. Otherwise, you may not learn much from the experience.
Why hold exit interviews?
Companies hold exit interviews to gather valuable insights from departing employees about their individual experiences and beyond. These interviews also help evaluate and enhance the company’s culture, assess management and leadership effectiveness, and ensure legal compliance.
Exit interview data can be used for benchmarking, succession planning, and maintaining positive employee relations. Overall, exit interviews play a crucial role in learning from departing employees and fostering a more positive and productive work environment.
Why it’s important to ask the right exit interview questions
There is a lot of important information that you can gain from an effective exit interview. If you aren’t asking the right questions, you won’t get the feedback you need to improve your business and keep your other valued employees.
When you ask the questions that matter (and listen to the answers), you’ll see benefits such as:
Gain insight into workplace culture
Finding out if an employee is leaving due to company culture can make a big difference.
Employees talk to each other, and other team members may already know why someone is leaving. But when leaders have insight into an exit, they can be proactive instead of simply reacting after employees leave.
Behavior can change quite significantly when the boss isn’t around. When you ask the right questions, you can discover things that happen behind your back or when your office door is shut.
Any negative workplace culture needs to be checked. This includes issues like:
Identify areas of improvement in the workplace
Ask your employee about their everyday life in the workplace and if that is part of the reason why they’re leaving. They can point out aspects of the employee experience you didn’t notice because they don’t directly impact you.
For example, one of the reasons they’re leaving may be due to frustration over slow business management software. With this valuable information, you can investigate alternative solutions that will benefit other employees.
Receive honest responses
It’s not just about what questions you ask. It’s also about asking them in the right way.
Research shows that changing the way you phrase a question can affect whether people answer honestly or whether they hide the truth.
Try to word your questions in a way that is not demanding or accusatory. You want to encourage open communication, even if the responses include negative feedback.
Increase job satisfaction for employees not leaving
Actively listen to the employee who is leaving, and make positive changes based on their constructive feedback. This way, you can make the lives better for those still working for you and future employees.
Improve employee retention
A knock-on effect of better job satisfaction is preventing high turnover and employee attrition at your company.
Employees are far less likely to look for a new job or be enticed by another company if they are happy with the job they have.
20 exit interview questions
Here’s a list of questions to choose from for your next exit interview. Many of these can be applied to most exit interviews, but you can also tailor them specifically to your company.
1. Did you feel equipped to do your job?
Not having the right skills and knowledge can be a major cause of dissatisfaction in the workplace. Knowing the answer to this question can prevent other employees from leaving.
This exit interview question also gives you insight into how to improve the employee onboarding and hiring processes. Based on this, you can update your new hire checklist accordingly.
Yes, I generally felt equipped to do my job. The organization provided ample training and resources to help employees adapt and excel in their respective roles. However, there were instances where the rapid pace of technological change outpaced internal resources, causing minor challenges. Continuous upskilling and staying abreast with industry advancements could have better equipped me to navigate these situations.
2. Were you happy with the way your manager treated you?
If employees feel mistreated by their managers, they may not want to stick around in the job.
My relationship with my manager it was largely positive. I felt respected and was given the autonomy to perform my tasks. However, there were instances where I felt my input and suggestions could have been considered more. Open and frequent communication would have enhanced our relationship and fostered a more collaborative working environment.
3. Did you feel comfortable talking to your manager/supervisor?
It’s crucial for direct reports to feel like they can talk to their superiors about their concerns. Only by bringing up problems in the workplace can they be addressed.
Yes. For the most part, I found them approachable, particularly in matters concerning daily tasks and project updates. However, when it came to voicing concerns or proposing new ideas, I felt a certain level of reluctance. In such instances, an environment fostering open dialogue, irrespective of hierarchical levels, could have fostered a greater sense of comfort and confidence.
4. Why did you start looking for a new job?
The answer to this question will be different for everyone. Employees may have started looking for a new position in search of better compensation, employee benefits, or work culture. Some may have just wanted a change.
Only by asking this question to all employees leaving can you identify any common themes.
I started looking for a new job to seek new challenges and expand my skills in a different setting.
5. What made you decide to leave?
If there was an inciting incident, you can find ways to prevent it from happening again with other employees. If there was a series of smaller occurrences, you can find ways to lessen them and their impact.
Ultimately, the decision to leave was based on my desire for a new challenge and a role that better matched my career aspirations. It’s not a reflection of any negative experiences here.
6. Can you give specific examples of what you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about working here?
General, sweeping statements aren’t going to be constructive for how to make your company better. Ask for specific examples of what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about working at your company. However, don’t pressure them to the point of feeling uncomfortable or stressed.
I enjoyed the collaborative work environment and the supportive colleagues. On the flip side, I found that at times, the workload could be overwhelming, which made work-life balance a bit challenging.
7. Did you share your feelings with anyone at the company?
If there were particular concerns that the employee had, but they were never voiced, you need to know why and if there is a way to improve the lines of communication. If you know there is a problem, you can solve it before another valued employee leaves.
Yes, I did. I believe in open communication and I provided feedback to my manager when necessary, with the intention of improving our work processes.
8. How would you describe our company culture?
Workplace culture is a big part of what makes people want to work at a company or not. You need to know how your employees see the culture in your business.
The company culture was generally positive and encouraging, fostering open communication.
9. Do you think that your original job description was correct?
Another reason employees quit is if they feel that they are not doing what they were hired to do. If roles and responsibilities aren’t being clearly defined, this needs to be addressed.
The job description provided during the hiring process was accurate. The tasks I was assigned aligned well with the responsibilities mentioned in the description. However, there were instances when unexpected tasks were added, which could have been included in the initial job description for more clarity.
10. What was your favorite part about working here?
Finding the positives in a work environment is important. You’ll learn what to build on and keep going.
My favorite part was the opportunity to work with a talented and dedicated team. I also appreciated the emphasis on creativity and problem-solving in our projects.
11. How could our working conditions improve?
Working conditions cover a broad range of topics, including:
- Hours of work
- Work schedules
- Mental demands
If the leaving employee feels your company doesn’t promote healthy working hours, other employees may feel the same. Promoting a work-life balance is essential for employee retention and productivity.
Improvements could be made in terms of workload distribution and clarity in roles and responsibilities.
12. Did you feel that you had clear goals when working here?
Helping employees set and achieve goals provides motivation and gives a sense of direction. This question also helps you see if you communicate well with your employees about what you expect from them.
While I had clear goals in place, the shifting of priorities was challenging. Frequent changes in the project’s direction sometimes led to confusion and delays. A more stable goal-setting and priority management system could have avoided this.
13. Did you feel like you were a valued employee?
Knowing that you value them and their work can make a big difference in an employee’s decision to leave. Make sure you know how they feel on this point. There may be room for improvement regarding employee recognition at your company.
I felt recognized for major achievements, but smaller day-to-day accomplishments often went unnoticed. A more frequent and comprehensive recognition system could have been beneficial for overall morale.
13. How did you find our training and development programs? What could be improved?
According to a 2020 Retention Report, a lack of career development opportunities is the number one reason for employees leaving their jobs.
Based on their feedback, you can invest in employee development by offering more organizational training programs. This will show your employees that you value them as individuals and you’re interested in their career development.
The training programs were comprehensive, but more regular follow-ups or refreshers could enhance learning retention.
14. What does your new job offer that we don’t?
There’s nothing wrong with looking at a direct comparison in job descriptions and employment offerings. You could find that you aren’t competitive in the market and need to make important changes.
My new job aligns more closely with my long-term career goals and offers a chance to take on a leadership role. It’s not a matter of what’s lacking here but about seeking new challenges.
15. What were the deciding factors in accepting your new job?
It’s good to know if it was something that your business did wrong or if it was something that the new company is doing better than you.
The deciding factors were the alignment with my career aspirations, the potential for growth, and the chance to lead a team. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
16. What should we look for in your replacement?
The outgoing employee’s position may have changed a lot since they were hired. This question gives you an idea of what hard and soft skills you should be looking for to fill the position. It also shows that you value the interviewee’s opinion and skills, even if they are about to leave the company.
For my replacement, I would recommend someone who is adaptable, a team player, and welcomes challenges. Given the dynamic environment here, these attributes would be crucial for success.
17. Is there anything that could be done to change your mind about leaving?
If the employee is truly important to your business, you should fight to keep them.
But the purpose of this question doesn’t necessarily have to be to get them to change their mind. Instead, their answer could simply help you keep other employees down the line.
While I’m committed to my new role, it’s always worth considering opportunities for improvement. Enhancing career development options and ensuring competitive compensation could potentially retain talent.
18. Would you ever think about coming back to this company?
Keeping the door open for the future shows that you value the employee. It also tells you if the reason for them leaving was about your business or their personal needs.
Certainly, I would consider coming back should an opportunity arise that aligns with my future career path. Despite my decision to move on, I hold this organization in high regard and wouldn’t rule out a return if a suitable opportunity arises.
19. Is there anything else you’d like to share or address?
Ending with an open-ended question gives the employee an opportunity to share any other information they feel is important. They may have something to say that doesn’t relate to any of your other questions.
Providing a platform for them to voice an opinion or grievance gives them space to talk about something that may otherwise have remained unheard.
I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the experiences and opportunities I’ve had here. Working alongside such a dedicated team has been both rewarding and enlightening.
20. How would you rate the communication within the company?
Communication issues can be big roadblocks and painpoints within an organization. An they can occur at varied places during an employee’s journey with an organization, from top-down communication from managers and the C-suite, to collaboration with peers and beyond.
Overall, the communication within the company is good. There’s room for improvement, particularly in terms of transparency about strategic decisions and regular updates on company-wide initiatives.
Tips for asking exit interview questions
Creating the right workplace environment is essential if you want to get honest feedback on your exit interview questions. To do this, you should:
Choose the right person to conduct the interview
An exit interview is generally conducted by a supervisor, manager, or someone from human resources. If possible, the person asking the questions should be someone that the employee has a good or neutral relationship with. This will help them feel more comfortable.
Prepare in advance
Make sure you know what you want to ask and why. If you go in for a casual chat, you aren’t likely to get much useful feedback. You can also review the departing employee’s history with the company, including their performance reviews and any feedback received from supervisors or colleagues. This will give you a clear view of their documented path within the company. Also consider timing. Departing employees have a lot to do before they depart, so try to schedule their exit interview 3-10 days before their last day.
Create a comfortable environment
Choose a private and comfortable setting for the exit interview to encourage open and honest communication. If you can meet in-person or virtually with cameras on, that would be ideal for many individuals. Make it clear that the conversation is confidential and that there will be no negative consequences for the departing employee.
Avoid getting too personal
The employee might not want to give too much detail to someone outside of their circle of trust. If you push for personal information, they might clam up and give you nothing.
Be respectful (and don’t be pushy)
If you push for specific answers, you may find that the employee will give you no useful answers. The experience should never feel combative or argumentative.
Show that you are really listening
Exit interviews should be treated like a conversation, not an interrogation. And as with any good conversation, you need to engage with the person’s answers and ask follow-up questions.
Use different types of listening to show that you are taking in what they’re saying, pay close attention to their feedback, and take notes to ensure that nothing is overlooked.
Ask open-ended questions
Use open-ended questions to encourage detailed and candid responses. For example, instead of asking, “Did you like your manager?” ask, “Can you share your experiences working with your manager?”
Seek constructive feedback
Focus on gathering constructive feedback that can lead to positive changes within the organization. Ask questions like, “What improvements would you suggest for our company culture?” or “How can we enhance our onboarding process for new employees?”
Analyze the feedback received and identify common themes or areas for improvement.
Develop an action plan to address the issues raised in the exit interviews and communicate changes to the current employees, demonstrating that their feedback is valued and acted upon.
Have standard questions for all exit interviews
In order to get the most out of all your exit interviews, you should have a series of standard questions. This will help you identify any trends.
You can also gauge whether or not the changes you’re making based on the feedback is effective or not.
What to do after the exit interview
Asking the right questions is only the first part. Action needs to happen for change to occur. Once you’ve done an exit interview, you should do the following:
Look for any trends
To learn from your exit interview questions, you need to analyze the feedback you’re getting. Take the time to carefully go through the answers you receive. After enough exit interviews, you should be able to spot specific areas that need to be improved.
Share insights with the appropriate people
It’s vital to share the information and insights with the right people within your organization. Real change can’t happen if you don’t share the data with leaders who can act on it.
Create an action plan for improvement
Start by addressing the biggest points of concern that need immediate attention. This could possibly prevent turnover contagion, which is the domino effect from one resignation.
However, don’t forget about any minor concerns. A few small changes might go a long way toward making things better for employees while you work on making the bigger changes over time.
If you are concerned that many of your employees are feeling similar to the person who is leaving, talk openly with them about the feedback you received. Show them that you have heard the information and are planning to make changes.
Use exit interview questions to improve your company
Asking the right exit interview questions and acting on that feedback can help improve your employee retention rate. This is vital for a strong business because you won’t have to continually look for and train new employees.
Beyond reducing turnover, exit interviews are an opportunity to learn how to foster a happier, healthier workplace. And when your employees are happy, your company can thrive.
For more help with employee retention and boosting your workplace culture, request a demo with BetterUp today.