As an employer, it's unavoidable that employees will leave your business. But a leaving employee can provide you with honest, crucial, and valuable feedback.
Employers should conduct an exit interview to discuss the reasons behind their decision to leave, and how you're performing as an employer. It's important you know what questions to ask to provide you with the best answers. Failure to conduct an interview can lead to you losing your best employees.
In this guide, we'll look at sample exit interview questions you can ask, why they're important, and what to do with the answers you receive.
What is an exit interview?
An exit interview (also known as an exit survey), is an interview held with a leaving employee when they leave your business. This form of interview is a great way to gain insight into why an outgoing employee chose to leave for a new job.
Speaking with departing employees is a great way of finding out how your company runs on a daily basis, and what you can do to change things.
As an employer, you need to be familiar with how to conduct these interviews.
How should you conduct exit interviews?
You can carry out your exit interview survey either in person or online. Some online exit interviews can provide you with more candid feedback than in person.
These interviews should be carried out after the employee has decided to leave, but before their last day of working. You must make sure they are held in private, away from other employees.
Who should carry out an exit interview?
Any exit interviews should be held by a member of your human resources (HR) department, typically during the employee's notice period.
As an employer, you need to become familiar with the benefits of holding an exit interview.
What are the benefits of conducting an exit interview?
The exit interview process allows you to make improvements to your business following the answers given by a departing employee. But there are other benefits that come with conducting an exit interview when an employee leaves.
For example, they help to:
- Identify trends within your company from exiting employees that you may not have been aware of.
- Increase employee engagement and job happiness for current and future employees.
- Increase employee morale and improve the company culture.
- Decrease employee turnover and improve retention in the future.
- You gain valuable knowledge of the working lives of your employees.
- See if your employees are working in line with your company values.
- Help to attract top talent for your business.
How should you prepare to conduct an exit interview?
As an employer, you need to be ready for when employees leave their role. You should create an exit interview template to use when required. This template should be changed as and when you conduct more interviews.
What makes a good exit interview?
When conducting exit interviews in your company, you need to know what makes them effective. By following these next steps, you can ensure yours are:
- Make sure you have a purpose and take the employee right back to when they started working for you.
- Encourage an open dialogue with the employee. You can do this by asking open questions.
- Keep all your questions short and simple to understand.
- Don't always push for specific examples during the interview. This may make the employee feel uncomfortable and pressured, meaning they won't always answer honestly.
- Think twice about asking questions that involve feelings and emotions. They may be hard for the employee to answer.
- Assure the employee that their feedback is confidential and won't be shared with any of their colleagues or managers.
Examples of the best exit interview questions
To carry out a successful and effective exit interview with an exiting employee, you need to know what the best questions to ask are.
You need to make sure the questions you're asking are fair and suitable for the employee's particular position. It's important to remember that the answers given are the opinion of the staff member, and they're not always correct.
So, you shouldn't take their answers personally and react the wrong way. You must act professionally at all times. Let's discuss some of the questions you can ask in more detail:
Questions regarding the role
You should always ask exit interview questions about the role, as this can prove crucial when finding the next hire after the employee leaves. The answers may reveal issues they had with their job role that you weren't previously aware of.
What made you decide to look for another job?
This is a vital exit interview question in finding out why employees are leaving your company. The employee's answer may lead to you discovering an ongoing issue within your company, such as bad management or poor training opportunities.
What were the best and worst parts of your job?
Each employee will have a different answer to this question. But the more answers you get over time, it'll be easier to find a pattern.
For example, many employees may feel they didn't have a good work-life balance during their time with you.
Did you feel the workload was manageable during your time with us?
An unmanageable workload is one of the main reasons why employees decide to look for new employment. This question is great for discovering if this is happening in your company.
An unmanageable workload can lead to a range of issues, such as stress, lack of sleep, and a decrease in quality of production.
Do you feel that your job role changed during your time with us?
It may have been a few years since you were hiring for the position the departing employee is moving on from. So, you need to understand if their day-to-day responsibilities have changed since they started working for you.
This question is important to see whether you need to change the job description or job advert for the upcoming hiring process.
Do you feel you had the correct tools, resources, and working conditions to thrive and develop at the company?
Developing your employees skills and knowledge should be one of your main priorities. Failure to provide the correct tools or resources may lead your employees to seek new employment.
So, it's vital you understand if your current employees feel they were given the best tools to succeed.
Did you find there were enough training opportunities available?
In the modern workplace, employees want to develop and learn new skills. So you must provide enough training opportunities for them.
Failure to do so can lead to your current employees looking for employment elsewhere.
Questions regarding the reasons for leaving
Ultimately, the point of an exit interview is to find out the reasons behind an employee's decision to leave. So, you should ask direct questions to discover what you can do to stop it from happening in the future.
What ultimately led you to taking another position elsewhere?
You may not like the answer to this question, but it's arguably the most important thing you'll ask during the exit interview process. The answer the employee gives may not be the one you're expecting to receive.
Whatever answer they give, you must never react the wrong way. The aim of the survey is to get honest feedback, so don't take that feedback and react unprofessionally. The last thing you want is to end the working relationship with the employee in conflict.
What could we have done better as a company to keep you?
This question may lead to a range of answers, such as more pay, benefits or development opportunities. But they can give you a fantastic insight into what you can do to keep the best employees in your company.
Questions regarding management
As an employer, you put a lot of trust in your managers. So, it can be a shock if you discover the reason why employees are leaving is to do with management. It's important to ask questions regarding this in your exit interview.
Were you happy with the way you were managed during your time in the company?
Asking an exiting employee about how they were managed is vital. Employees should receive constructive feedback regularly from their manager to help improve their performance.
If the level of management isn't what it should be, you can provide training to your senior staff to ensure this changes.
Did you share any concerns you had with your manager?
This question is crucial. You must ensure any concerns that are raised with management are dealt with as swiftly as possible.
If the answer to this question is yes, then you must communicate with your management team to ensure they deal with the issue quickly.
Did you receive recognition to help improve your performance?
Recognition makes up a vital part of employee experience. And your employees need to feel like they're being recognised, this question will go a long way to finding out.
If this isn’t the case, then you can make changes to your business to ensure this doesn't continue moving forwards.
Questions regarding pay and benefits
It's vital you understand if the compensation package you're offering is enough or whether it's the reason behind some of your employees choosing to move on.
Do you feel you were paid enough during your time with us?
Not paying your employees what they deserve can lead to them seeking new employment. You should conduct regular industry research and make sure you're paying your staff correctly.
However, sometimes you may not be able to match the pay demands the employee is giving. So, you may sometimes have to accept them moving on.
Do you feel your benefits package was worthwhile?
Along with pay, benefits are extremely important to your employees. If they feel the overall package you're offering isn't enough, they'll leave.
Find out which benefits the exiting employee used during their time with you and which ones they feel would be advantageous to add.
Questions regarding workplace culture
Poor workplace culture can have a huge impact on an employee's happiness, and this could lead to them looking for new employment. So, you need to ask questions surrounding the culture within your company.
How would you describe the company culture?
Different answers to this question will point to an overall trend. If the same answers start to creep up every time you ask this question, there's clearly a problem with your company culture that needs to be addressed.
For example, you may need to think of ways to improve employee morale like more social events.
Did you ever experience ever harassment or discrimination during work?
If the answer to this question is yes, then you should ask for a specific example. That'll help you to deal with the problem and possibly open disciplinary procedures against the accused.
What should you do with the results of an exit interview?
You should always take any feedback or negative comments from the exiting employee as constructive feedback. Once you have this valuable information, you can work to improve and make changes for your current employees.
Remember, don't react the wrong way during the interview. The last thing you want is to have a conflict with the employee before they leave. This could lead to reputational damages or even a tribunal claim.
As an employer, you should make exit interviews part of your offboarding process when an employee is leaving. You should use them as a way of improving your company as a whole.
Get expert advice on exit interviews from Peninsula
For all business owners, employees moving onto different and new employment can't be avoided. However, not all employers realise they can be a source of valuable and crucial feedback for the company.
You should think about making exit interviews a part of your offboarding process. They are an opportunity to ask the employees leaving about their decision and ways you can improve your business moving forwards.