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Why are they leaving? Find out with the right exit interview questions

January 31, 2022 - 19 min read

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What is an exit interview?

Why it’s important to ask the right exit interview questions

19 ideas for exit interview questions

What to do after the exit interview

Saying goodbye to a valued employee is never fun. After all, 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, not knowing what you could have done to make them stay and losing more valuable team members as a result.

Understanding why employees leave is an important part of minimizing employee turnover. This conversation happens during an exit interview with the employee who’s leaving. 

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?

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.

business-handshake-exit-interview-questions

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 it’s important to ask the right exit interview questions

There is a lot of important information that you can gain from an 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. 

Some employee exit interviews might require having a difficult conversation. This is a natural part of the employee offboarding process that you shouldn’t avoid. 

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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.

Better job satisfaction will lead to increased employee morale and employee engagement.

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.

19 ideas for 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.

2. Were you happy with the way your manager treated you?

Management of employees is a critical part of retaining them. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the hybrid work model, managers need new skills to foster inclusive leadership

If employees feel mistreated by their managers, they may not want to stick around in the job. 

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.

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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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

businesswomen-having-a-conversation-exit-interview-questions

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

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Create an action plan for improvement

Based on the information gathered, set aside time for strategic planning to decide what action needs to be taken.

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.

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Published January 31, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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