It’s never easy to lose a good employee, especially when they’re choosing to leave your company for another opportunity. This can hurt, and you might initially feel resentful. But rather than wasting energy on feelings of frustration we invite you to channel that energy into conducting a great exit interview so you’re better prepared to keep top performers in the future. Having a standard set of exit interview questions will allow your company to begin compiling information that will ultimately lead to key insights on how you can improve. Your questions for exit interviews will be critical in gathering this data.
This article will break down some important things to keep in mind when conducting an exit interview, as well as a suggested bank of 20 questions for exit interviews that we recommend posing to departing employees. Ultimately the exit interview should be done in a way that fits your company culture, and the questions should be adapted for the employee’s position when necessary.
Conducting an Exit Interview
As the conductor of an exit interview, it is important to clearly understand your role in relation to the goal of the interview. These interviews should be fairly one-sided when conducted properly. The interviewer is there to ask questions and listen. The goal of these interviews is to learn as much as possible about what your company is doing right, and where your company can improve. The goal is not to belittle, attack, or discourage the departing employee. If your company has anyone other than the HR department conduct exit interviews (i.e. managers, executives, etc.) ensure that these people are properly trained before an interview.
Each exit interview question should be asked with the intent to listen, and not with the intent to debate or argue. Some interviewers feel like they, or their company, are being attacked during exit interviews and become defensive or even argumentative. Remember, that is not the goal. The employee has already made the decision to leave. Arguing with them about their reasoning will not prevent this from happening.
More than anything, you need to listen quietly and learn about the reasons why they’ve made this decision. Ask follow-up questions to dig deeper whenever appropriate.
When asking questions, ensure your tone is curious or inquisitive, rather than interrogative or frustrated. Your tone of voice and overall demeanor will play a role in how open employees are to sharing information.
Some companies have been successful conducting a portion of the exit interview through an online survey tool, and managing the rest of the interview in-person. Certain employees may have a hard time expressing anger, frustration, or disappointment with their manager, job, or with the company in a face-to-face setting; however, they may feel comfortable submitting such information over the internet. If your company faces a lot of voluntary turnover, this is something you may want to test to see which method gets better results.
Exit Interview Questions
We like to start with personal questions when conducting exit interviews because these questions are often the easiest to talk about for employees. The following personal questions are designed to understand the mind of the individual, and the process they followed in finding a new position.
- What prompted you to begin looking for another job?
- What were some of the biggest factors that led you to accept this new position?
- How long ago did you start to feel like you wanted to search for a new job?
- Is there anything we could have done to keep you here?
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Exit interview questions related to their job are often the most critical. It’s likely that no one in the company knows the job as intimately as the employee leaving it. This is a great opportunity to find out the good and bad about the job, as well as to ask questions in relation to the manager, the skills necessary to perform, and what to look for in a possible replacement.
- Did you feel like you had the tools and support to do your job well?
- Did you feel like your manager was invested in your success?
- Did you feel like your manager was easy to talk to/easy to work with?
- Do you believe that you were fairly compensated in this position?
- What did you like most about your job?
- What did you like least about your job?
- Did you feel like there were opportunities for career growth/development?
- What skills are the most important to excel at your job?
- If you were hiring your own replacement, what would be important to you in evaluating candidates?
The final category is company questions. These questions can give you real insight into employee morale, company culture, and employee engagement. Oftentimes, if some employees begin to leave because of issues with any of these things, it’s safe to assume that there are other employees in your organization who have similar feelings. Gathering this data about your company can often help you predict how much or how little employee turnover you might expect in the near future.
- Overall, were you happy with the benefits offered at our company?
- How would you describe our company culture?
- What would you change to make this company a better place to work?
- Would you ever consider working for this company again in the future?
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to recommend a friend to work at this company?
- What are the toughest challenges you foresee for our company in the near or long-term future?
- If there is anything you could change about our company, what would it be?
Ending the Interview
After your last question, it may be appropriate to give the departing employee one last chance to say anything they have yet to express by asking something like, “is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?” Once the employee voices any final concerns, you can finish the interview by thanking the employee for their willingness to work for the company and for the contributions they made.
Be gracious when possible. Don’t burn bridges. For some period of time, this employee chose to work for your organization and likely did something worth celebrating.
Now is the time to be positive, affirm their good work, and wish them well in their new adventure. You never know when your paths may meet again, so it’s always best to end on a positive note, even if the exit interview was primarily negative.
Exit interviews can be difficult for both sides. Depending on the situation, you might be saying goodbye to an employee you’ve known for a long time, or you might be speaking to someone you’ve only just met. Either way, be respectful and come prepared with thoughtful exit interview questions.
When you’re equipped with good questions, listen respectfully, and are gracious to your departing employee, you will find these interviews provide critical insights and constructive feedback that your company can build upon. By harnessing this data and making changes based on the information, you’ll lose fewer employees, and build a stronger company culture.