You will thank us for these exit interview questions

Last updated:
July 23, 2021
December 21, 2021
min read
Adrie Smith
Table of contents

When an employee is on their way out, it’s essential to accept that their mind and heart are already elsewhere. Getting exit interview questions answered honestly can be tricky. Especially if the employee is leaving because they’re unhappy.

Happy or not, while they’re working their notice period, their focus is going to be on tying up loose ends and handing work over.

If an employee agrees to an exit interview (and they can decline), make sure that it adds value to the employee experience and your company. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.

Carefully consider what information you want from an exit interview and how you’ll use it.

Also, appreciate that the employee is doing you a favor by being honest; they’re no longer invested!

Why conduct exit interviews?

Exit interviews are a concept that HR has taken from their marketing colleagues. The role of HR has dramatically changed and building an employer brand and conducting regular surveys is now the norm.

Exit interview questions should help you understand what motivates your employees to re-enter the job market and to accept other job offers.

If you approach exit interviews correctly, you can implement changes that will help curb employee attrition. If you just have a generic list of questions, you’re unlikely to get employee buy-in, and you’ll learn nothing.

Your exit interview questions should be well thought out and directed at the specific employee who’s leaving and their workplace circumstances. That way the employee feels respected, even though they’re going, and they’ll be more likely to open up.

The do’s and don’ts

Your prime reason for conducting an exit interview is to get feedback on your organization, primarily on what was done well and what wasn’t. The second reason is to acknowledge the person behind the employee, irrespective of why they’re leaving or how you feel about it.

A disgruntled employee who feels slighted can do your employer branding a lot of damage, particularly online. Treat people well, and they’re likely to treat you the same.

Here’s a list of what to do and what to avoid:

  • Do have exit interviews managed by an experienced HR staff member.
  • Do first ask the employee if they’re willing to partake, even if it’s an online survey.
  • Do compile a shortlist of pointed exit interview questions that are relevant to the situation.
  • Do tell employees that their honesty will be appreciated, not judged.
  • Do reassure employees that their comments will be used for statistics and improvement and won’t be widely shared.
  • Don’t allow bias or disappointment to creep into exit interviews.
  • Don’t assume anything; keep an open mind.
  • Don’t subject an employee to an exit interview unless you’re going to use their feedback constructively.
  • Don’t just send an employee an emailed list of generic exit interview questions and expect them to respond.
  • Don’t forget to thank employees afterwards if they do partake in an exit interview.

Looking for trends, weaknesses and room for improvement

Irrespective of how an employee has responded to exit interview questions, once it’s done you have to focus on the information and not the employee.

People leave for many reasons so use the information to make changes and understand why your best employees leave so that you can stop it from happening again.

Honest feedback can identify problem managers or toxic workers who cause trouble and even workplace bullies. It can also pinpoint weak leadership or managers who don’t give their employees recognition and feedback.

Workplace safety can be another concern that could make staff resign. There are many other reasons, but exit interview questions that are answered honestly allow you to take action and implement change to benefit existing and future employees.

Examples of exit interview questions for mixed roles

You can’t ask everyone the same questions because each position is different and people experience the workplace differently. Junior staff and interns have limited work experience so often their expectations are a bit unrealistic.

Conversely, their youth and lack of experience are most likely to make them more open and honest in intern exit interviews.

General staff could be more guarded because they’d like to leave on a good footing, even if there were issues that prompted them to leave. There can be an underlying fear that saying too much could result in poor past employment references further down the line. That’s why the assurance of confidentiality is essential.

Management and executives are privy to far more than anyone else, and they have a good feel for the industry and marketplace. You will want to know what they’re thinking and why they’ve lost faith in the company. A senior and impartial HR practitioner must manage these exit interviews.

Use these exit interview questions as a guide to craft your own list. Remember to allow employees to expand on “yes” and “no” answers by adding “if yes, why” and ‘if no, why”.

Exit interview questions for interns

  • Did your mentor give you the support and training you needed?
  • Were colleagues supportive and did you have all the necessary resources?
  • Was there anything you didn’t like about your internship?
  • Do you think there’s room for us to improve our internship program?
  • How’d you experience our company culture?
  • Is this the type of company you’d choose to work for in the future?
  • List what you’ve learned from your internship.

Exit interview questions for general staff

  • What was the motivation for you to re-enter the job market?
  • Was it something you gave careful consideration to, or was it an impulsive decision?
  • Was your decision motivated more by money or the workplace environment?
  • What salary and benefits will you be getting now?
  • Did you get the tools, resources and support you needed to succeed in your job?
  • Did your role evolve from your original job description and were you happy with that?
  • Did you ever feel that you couldn’t cope with the volume of your workload?
  • Were you given adequate training to keep your skills updated, or for new responsibilities?
  • Was there adequate performance management, and did you get regular feedback?
  • Was feedback, in general, more positive or negative?
  • Were you allowed to respond to feedback and do you think you were heard?
  • Did you ever face any insurmountable challenges because of a lack of support?
  • Were you given the authority and autonomy to meet your responsibilities and succeed?
  • Were you given recognition and acknowledgement for your contributions?
  • Was there anything about your job responsibilities that could have been changed?
  • Was there a clear career development path mapped out and discussed with you?
  • How did you experience the workplace environment?
  • Was communication, collaboration and teamwork encouraged?
  • Was the environment in your department and in the company inclusive?
  • Is our company culture true to how we promote our employer brand?
  • Did you ever feel intimidated or threatened by any colleagues or management?
  • Was there anything in your department or the company that made you feel uncomfortable?
  • Was workplace safety a concern for you at any stage?
  • Was morale good with your colleagues/department?
  • How can we improve the working environment in your department/the company?
  • If we were to take on your recommendations, would it improve employee morale?
  • Are our company policies and procedures easily accessible and user-friendly?
  • Do you think that working here improved your skills, experience and career prospects?
  • What did you enjoy most about working here?
  • Would you refer a friend or family member to work for us?
  • Would you recommend us as an employer of choice?
  • How can we improve the employee experience and engagement?
  • How can we improve as a company?
  • Would you ever consider working for our company again?
  • Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Exit interview questions for management and executives

  • Why did you initially decide to work for our company?
  • What changed and made you decide to look for other opportunities?
  • Were you given the support you needed to meet KPIs and succeed?
  • Was communication, collaboration, autonomy and innovation encouraged?
  • Were you given the authority and autonomy to meet your KPIs and succeed?
  • Were your recommendations and ideas heard and given adequate consideration?
  • How is the morale of the management team and executives in general?
  • Was the salary and benefits package you received competitive and market-related?
  • What made you accept the new job offer to work for that company in particular?
  • Was your decision motivated by money, or by career development?
  • Was there anything that we could have changed to prevent you from leaving?
  • Do you think our company culture and vision has changed since you started here?
  • Were you happy with the changes, if any?
  • Do you think that the company culture and vision has evolved adequately to still be competitive enough?
  • Do you still believe in our company and brand?
  • Did we create a culture that attracts talent we need to succeed?
  • How can we improve our products, service and the company as a whole?
  • Would you recommend our company to anyone else?
  • Would you ever consider working for our company again?
  • Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Conduct interview depending on the situation

If planned and well-conducted, exit interviews can be a hive of valuable information. Be prepared for the potential of unexpected revelations and even some negativity directed at the company or individual employees. Exit interviews aren’t personal, and not everyone leaves bursting with employer brand love. That’s okay; things happen!

The reason that someone is leaving can guide you to problems no one knew existed because most people tend to keep things that make them feel personally uncomfortable to themselves.

Of course you have to carefully consider whether the employee is being honest and there isn’t a margin of revenge in their responses. Investigate accusations thoroughly, and don’t be afraid to take action where necessary.

Using an HR survey tool gives you the metrics and analytics you need to identify recurring trends. Platforms like Checkster can easily be integrated with your HR system and even your applicant tracking system to improve your talent analytics for better future hiring decisions.

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