What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is a discussion between your organization and a departing employee, usually during their last few days of work. Questions in exit interviews provide opportunities to ask employees about their reasons for leaving and gain feedback about their experience working with the organization. Some questions for exit interview questions are broad, but others narrow down to gain insight into specific topics.
- Reason for leaving
- Job responsibilities
- Pay and compensation
- Job satisfaction
- Team or colleagues
- Work environment and culture
- Organization as a whole
Why are exit interviews important?
In addition to closing the employee relationship in an amicable and organized manner, the broad purpose of an exit interview is to better understand what factors contribute to employees’ decisions to resign. This insight can help your business identify flaws in its processes and make meaningful changes to its long-term strategy.
Exit interviews can provide the following benefits:
- Work-life balance: Gauge how employees feel about work-life balance options such as remote work options and schedule flexibility
- Company culture: Learn about communication or behavioral factors contributing to a toxic or healthy company culture
- Management: Reveal how management communicates with and supports employees
- Employee support: Analyzing onboarding and training procedures that support employee development
- Performance: Improve factors related to job satisfaction, leading to higher employee motivation and performance
- Retention and turnover: Determine if employee departures are due to flaws in your business or unrelated factors, identifying opportunities that can improve retention and turnover rates as well as hiring and training costs
10 exit interview questions
Asking the right questions will help get you the best value from exit interviews. Ensure that you phrase questions with neutral and nonjudgmental language to encourage honest answers and narrow the focus of some questions to get feedback across specific roles, tenure and demographics. If an interviewee’s answers are short or vague, ask them to expand by providing additional clarification or examples.
1. What prompted you to search for another opportunity?
Begin the exit interview by asking the employee why they’re leaving. Employees sometimes leave their positions because of family needs, retirement, moving or other life events, but it’s important to know if their departure is directly related to their experience at your organization. Their answers can help guide the discussion and spark ideas for follow-up questions.
This question can also help you determine which opportunities, benefits or perks your company could be offering to attract and retain top talent. For example, if you notice departing employees frequently report there wasn’t enough opportunity for advancement, it might indicate that managers aren’t properly addressing employees’ development needs.
2. Do you feel your manager supported your success?
Managers have a responsibility to make sure each of their team members have the tools and feedback they need to excel in their role, including training, one-on-one meetings, performance reviews and development opportunities. This exit interview question can reveal if employees feel underserved in any of these areas so it can be addressed with their manager.
3. What were the best and worst aspects of your job?
This exit interview question helps you identify what future candidates may enjoy or dislike about the role, as well as how to set the right expectations for the position.
For example, if a departing employee says they were unhappy with how often their role required travel, you can ensure your business’ recruiting and hiring process communicates frequent travel requirements for job candidates and future hires in the same roles.
In contrast, learning what employees liked best about working for your business can reveal which job satisfaction strategies are most effective. These positive insights are important to highlight in job descriptions, interviews and ongoing job satisfaction strategies.
4. How has your job changed since you were hired?
Job roles often change based on the fluctuating needs of the department or the company. Sometimes these changes demand different skills or responsibilities than the position initially required and can make current employees less enthusiastic about their work or unhappy about their compensation. Hearing how a role changed provides you with critical details to include in job descriptions to make sure your next hire is well-suited for these new demands and that compensation is adjusted as necessary.
5. Do you feel valued and recognized within the company?
Feelings of recognition and value are among the main drivers of job satisfaction. Recognizing your employees’ contributions and value can boost motivation, fuel productivity and improve retention rates, but feeling unrecognized can be a factor in an employee’s decision to leave.
This question can open up discussions around when employees did or didn’t feel valued, providing insight into which employee recognition methods are effective or missing from your business.
6. What suggestions do you have for the company? How could we improve?
Whether suggestions about management style, compensation and benefits or which snacks the kitchen stocks, all types of feedback and comments are important. Although it isn’t realistic to make changes based on all suggestions, knowing what employees find important can help determine how to support job satisfaction and workplace morale, which in turn can improve employee loyalty and retention.
7. What factors could have influenced your decision to leave or stay with the company?
This exit interview question is purposefully direct and can help you get to the crux of why employees choose to leave. If any factors were deal breakers in their decision to stay or leave for another organization, they might be worth examining further. For example, if an employee says they may not have quit if the company offered more flexibility, it might be time to explore a remote work policy, flexible start and finish times, unlimited vacation or other flexible work options.
8. Would you recommend this company to a friend? Why or why not?
Even though they ultimately decided to leave your company, former employees can be excellent job candidate referral sources. In an ideal world, every departing employee would answer “yes” to this question, but there may be some who are unsatisfied enough with their experience that they wouldn’t recommend your company to their peers. In this case, it’s important to delve into the employee’s reasons to identify and correct any significant workplace issues.
9. Did you share any of the concerns we discussed today with the company before deciding to leave?
Asking this exit interview question can reveal whether employees feel safe and comfortable voicing their concerns and opinions in the workplace. If they didn’t report their concerns to anyone, it could be a sign that your company is lacking a culture where employees feel confident expressing their concerns without fear of negative consequences or retaliation.
If they did report their concerns but they were unresolved, it may mean your business doesn’t encourage and support employee feedback the way it should. In this case, you can respond by implementing employee satisfaction surveys or employee suggestion boxes to measure how your current employees are feeling and identify issues that can help prevent future turnover.
10. Do you have any other comments or issues you’d like to address?
Even if your exit interview questions were thorough, employees may not have had a chance to fully discuss their experience. Best asked at the end of exit interviews, this open-ended question invites employees to comment on topics or issues that weren’t addressed in previous questions. Although this question can have potentially volatile results, any feedback from employees can usually offer helpful insight.
Exit interview questions FAQs
How many questions should you ask in an exit interview?
An exit interview generally shouldn’t have more than 10 questions over 30 to 60 minutes. If your exit interviews end quickly and don’t provide enough information, try using your exit questions as points of discussion to expand upon.
Can you conduct exit interviews online?
Exit interviews are typically conducted in-person to facilitate organic discussion and candid answers. If your teams are largely remote or you need to streamline your exit interview process, you can also deliver exit interviews over virtual meetings or online surveys.
Are exit interviews mandatory?
Although many employers may prefer to have an exit interview with departing employees, exit interviews aren’t mandatory for either party unless you’ve include exit interview obligations in employees’ contracts.