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10 Exit Interview Questions to Ask

Get the most out of employee turnover by asking the right questions during the exit interview.

It’s normal for employees to churn, but having someone leave is never a good feeling. You loose their knowledge and it often comes with a hefty cost to replace them. However, there is a way to turn this not so great situation into one that can provide you with value for current employees and prevent unwanted turnover - and it all comes down to data.

Typically, you can make use of a mix of quantitative and qualitative data when understanding why employees decide to leave. What is nice about a quantitative approach (i.e., an exit survey) is that you can easily visualize the data and create heat maps etc. This alone is not enough though. You’ll also need a qualitative element (i.e. the exit interview), that can reveal nuances that your exit surveys don't capture and help you read between the lines of your quantitative results.

As the name suggests, exit interview is a 1:1 conversation that you have with an employee when they are leaving your company. It can be a sensitive matter for you and the departing employee, so it is best to have a solid plan when going into it. Basically, you want to create a safe place where the employee leaving can share honest reasons as to why they are going and so that you can also gain meaningful insights relating to your workplace, in areas like company culture, processes and workflow.

Generally this is also a good way to end things as it shows the employee you care and value what they have to say. This will increase the chance of the employee spreading good information about you, which ultimately can impact your employer brand efforts. For more information relating to employer branding check out our previous blog, which dives into how you can leverage both your employer branding and recruitment marketing efforts to bring value to your organization.

Why are Exit Interviews Important?

Human capital is arguably the most important resource in your company and systematically learning why they are leaving will play a vital role in the future of your company. Which is why 91% of Fortune 500 companies are conducting exit interviews and using the insights to positively influence:

  • Employee retention.
  • Employee engagement.
  • Employer branding.
  • Recruitment strategies.

But in order to get these valuable insights, you are going to need to know how to conduct an effective interview; Which includes asking the right questions, in the right way.

10 Exit Interview Questions to Ask

Here is a list of exit interview questions are designed to be asked in that final interview and are specific in terms of the information they intend to gather:

  1. In short, why are you leaving? This will provide a broad understanding of the primary reason(s) the employee is leaving (e.g., compensation, toxic culture, career aspirations, etc.). It is an open-ended question and so it is a good way to begin the interview.
  2. What does your new company offer that we cannot? This type of question will pinpoint specific areas where your company could improve on compared to competitors, for example it could be related to pay satisfaction, company culture or work life balance.
  3. What did you appreciate the most and the least about working here? The answer to this question may differ from employee to employee, but overtime patterns may emerge with insight into both the positive and negative aspects relating to the company and the specific role.
  4. Have you been able to develop in a professional and personal capacity during your time with us? Perhaps there are not enough opportunities for employees in your company to grow and develop, which could point to opportunities for upskilling and training - both of which are critical factors for retention. In fact, 93% of CEOs say that upskilling programs have led to an improvement in retention and talent acquisition.
  5. Have you felt comfortable talking with your manager? This question is so important, as stats show that ****50% of employees leave due to poor leadership. Information gained here will allow you to determine if it was just a bad match between two individuals or if there is a bigger problem in your leadership team and management principles.
  6. Do you feel that you received enough resources and tools to succeed in your job? Here you can dig into aspects surrounding whether your employees have been receiving the right support to perform in their roles allowing them to flourish. This could be anything from tools and software, to softer aspects such as context and access to information (i.e., transparency).
  7. Do you feel like you have been kept in the loop on company updates and new developments? Following up on our previous point, when people don’t feel involved or updated in the company affairs, they start to feel disconnected. Information from this question can help to figure out if you need to improve information sharing and transparency across the company.
  8. Do you feel that your contributions have been valued and recognized? Everyone wants to feel appreciated at work and if your employees are not, low morale is sure to follow. If the answer here is negative it may be time to look into ways that you are appreciating/ acknowledging your staff and how you can improve them.
  9. How would you describe your overall, experience working with colleagues? Insights gained here can point to whether your teams are working well together or not. And perhaps even the type of people that you are hiring (or should stop hiring).
  10. Do you have any additional points that you would like to discuss? This question can be asked at the end of the interview as it allows the employee a chance to say anything else not already spoken about. It could also provide vital information on areas that maybe you missed out on.

This list of questions can help you determine what's important part to ask, but remember how you ask them, and the setting you create is just as important. If you do not create a safe space and sympathetic setting you will not get honest feedback from the employee. So it's super important that you adopt a calm, sensitive and empathetic approach so that you gather the constructive feedback you need to improve. And don’t be afraid to spend more time on some questions than others, or even dig deeper into a topic by asking follow up questions. No exit interview is the same, so be adaptive and empathetic when the time comes, and remember that even more negative feedback can still be valuable feedback if you take action on it appropriately.

Having someone leave your team is never easy, we hope that having structured exit interviews can make the process a little easier on everyone involved, and that you are able to use the information to positively impact turnover rate and create a better environment for current and future employees!

Author profile Sally Tarr

Holds a Masters in Industrial Psychology and is currently a Talent Acquisition Consultant at Amby. Writes on culture, employee experience and talent strategies.