When an employee decides to leave your company, it’s often your last chance to pick up some (often quite candid) wisdom, and leverage it to improve the workplace for your current and future employees. That’s where an exit interview comes in.
Exit interview questions are a valuable tool for improving the employee experience. By collecting feedback from departing employees, your organization can pinpoint areas of improvement, leading to better retention rates and a stronger overall workplace culture.
This isn’t just a theory — there’s data to back it up. A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 77% of organizations use exit interviews to improve the employee experience, and 48% reported that they have led to changes in the organization’s policies or practices.
Given the value of exit interviews, it’s crucial your organization takes full advantage of them. This means asking the right questions, ensuring you’re downloading actionable feedback from departing employees.
Here, we’ll discuss what makes truly exceptional exit interview questions, and provide 10 examples to inspire your own approach and help improve your employee experience.
What is an Exit Interview?
An exit interview is a conversation between an employee who is exiting an organization and a representative from the organization (usually someone in HR). The purpose of the exit interview conversation is to gather feedback from the departing employee about their experiences working for the organization, both positive and negative.
Because the employee has already committed to leaving, there’s often an opportunity to receive more candid feedback about aspects of their experience at the company they may have been hesitant to share prior. This means you can take a clear look at your company culture and pinpoint opportunities for growth.
Exit interviews have been a common practice in organizations for several decades, and they have evolved over time to become an essential tool for managing employee retention.
Historically, exit interviews were mostly used to gather information about the reasons for an employee’s departure, such as better pay or superior benefits. But thanks to targeted exit interview questions, today’s exit interview is more comprehensive, focusing on the employee’s overall experience working for the organization.
An exit interview can be conducted in-person, over the phone, or through an online survey. The format and questions used in the interview can vary depending on your organization’s needs and goals. However, since the primary goal of an exit interview is to gather honest feedback from the departing employee about their experiences working for your organization, 1-on-1 meetings are often the most effective way to collect this information.
What Makes Good Exit Interview Questions?
In order to get the most valuable feedback from an exit interview, it’s important to ask the right questions. Good exit interview questions should be primarily open-ended, non-judgmental, and designed to gather honest feedback.
It’s also important to ask questions that are relevant to the employee’s experience and to the organization’s goals, and can ultimately be leveraged to affect positive change.
One of the most important aspects of good exit interview questions is that they are open-ended.
These types of questions allow your employee to provide detailed, specific feedback about their experience with your organization. Open-ended questions are typically phrased in a way that makes it easy for your departing employee to share their thoughts and feelings in their own words, rather than providing a simple yes or no answer, which can’t offer much context.
Here’s a few examples of how companies conduct exit interviews with open-ended questions for your next exit interview:
- What did you enjoy most about your time with the organization?
- What could we have done differently to improve your experience?
- What suggestions do you have for improving the organization?
These types of questions encourage your departing employee to provide detailed feedback and can help you gain a deeper understanding of their experience with your organization.
While open-ended questions are important, it’s also essential to ask focused questions that dive into specific areas of interest to your organization. Focused questions can help you identify specific areas where you may need to make changes or improvements.
Examples of focused questions that could be used in an exit interview include:
- Did you feel that you had the necessary resources and support to do your job effectively?
- Were you provided with opportunities for growth and development during your time with the organization?
- Did you feel that your contributions to the organization were valued and recognized?
These types of questions are specific to the employee’s experience with the organization and can help you identify areas where you may need to make improvements to retain top talent.
By using a combination of open-ended and focused questions in your exit interviews, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the employee experience.
When conducting an exit interview, it’s important to ask non-judgmental questions that allow the exiting employee to share their honest feedback. If they feel judged, or fear retaliation for being candid, the responses they provide will be guarded and offer far less value.
A few non-judgmental exit interview questions that might shed some valuable insight include:
- What motivated you to accept a position with another organization?
- What factors influenced your decision to leave the organization?
- Is there anything we could have done to change your decision to leave?
When you approach these conversations without judgment, you’ll allow the employee to share their reasons for leaving in a non-confrontational way, offering deeper insight into factors that contribute to employee turnover.
By asking non-judgmental questions, you can create an environment where the employee feels comfortable sharing their feedback, even if it may be critical of your organization.
It’s important to remember that the goal of an exit interview is not to persuade the employee to stay with the organization, but rather to gain valuable feedback that can be used to improve the employee experience.
Lastly, you’ll want to ask questions that are relevant to the employee’s experience as well as the organization’s goals. For example, if your organization is focused on improving diversity and inclusion, it’s important to ask questions about how employees feel about the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
10 Impactful Exit Interview Questions
Naturally, every person is different, and their exit interview will need to be adjusted to accommodate their personality and individual experience at your organization. But while every organization and person is different, there are certain questions that are universally effective in uncovering insights that can help improve your overall employee experience.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the employee’s departure, some questions may be more appropriate to ask than others — it’s up to you to tailor your approach, using these as a fundamental reference. It’s also important to ask follow-up questions to clarify your employee’s responses and get more context to truly understand the nature of their feedback.
By asking these 10 impactful exit interview questions, you’ll gain valuable insights into the employee experience, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately improve retention rates and overall employee satisfaction.
1. What was your primary reason for leaving the company?
This question is first on our list for a reason — it helps you understand why employees are leaving your organization. If you’re seeing a trend of employees leaving for the same reasons, it may be a sign that there are systemic issues that need to be addressed.
2. Did you feel that your work was valued and appreciated by your supervisor and colleagues?
Feeling valued and appreciated is a huge key to job satisfaction. If your employees don’t feel their work is valued, they’ll be more likely to leave for a company where they feel more appreciated. This will also give you a sense of how camaraderie is maintained in your workplace, and allow you to do a pulse-check on your organization’s team building success (or lack thereof).
3. Were you given enough opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge?
Providing your employees with opportunities to grow their career skillset is absolutely crucial for employee engagement and retention. If your employees feel like they’re not learning or growing in their current role, they will be more likely to leave. This question not only helps you get a sense of general growth culture, but also how effective the existing training modules you offer are.
4. Did you feel that you had the necessary resources and support to do your job effectively?
Your team needs access to necessary resources and support to do their job effectively. It’s essential to their success and satisfaction in their role. Without the proper tools, training, and support, employees will struggle to meet expectations, leading to frustration and job dissatisfaction and ultimately a drop in retention.
5. How would you describe the company culture? Did it align with your values?
Company culture plays a huge role in employee satisfaction and retention. By asking departing employees about their perception of the company culture, you can identify areas you need to improve on to create a better workplace environment for new hires as well as your existing team. You can also ask them to describe the impact culture had on their decision to leave. Are they heading to a company they feel has better culture? What factors define that for them?
6. Did you receive enough feedback and recognition for your work?
Feedback is closely tied to growth. People don’t like to feel they’re working in the dark, and often prefer critical feedback that helps them improve to no feedback at all. If employees feel like their work is going unnoticed or unappreciated, they are going to be more likely to seek other opportunities.
7. Did you feel like you had a good work-life balance?
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is an increasing focus for top-talented employees. If they feel like their work is impeding on their personal life, they are naturally going to be drawn to companies that offer them a better balance.
8. Were you satisfied with the opportunities for career advancement at the company?
Most professionals want an opportunity to move up in their career. That’s why offering career advancement opportunities is an essential factor for employee engagement and retention. If your employees feel like they’re not able to grow or advance in their current role, they may be more likely to leave for a company that provides more opportunities for career growth.
9. Were there any policies or practices at the company that you found problematic or frustrating?
Asking departing employees about specific policies or practices they had negative feelings towards can help you identify areas where you need to make changes to improve the employee experience. This is also a question employees that aren’t exiting might find more difficult to answer honestly, so an exit interview is the perfect time to ask it.
10. What could the company have done differently to keep you as an employee?
Finally, don’t forget to ask departing employees what the company could have done differently to keep them as an employee. This feedback can help you identify specific areas where you need to improve to retain future employees.
Improve Your Employee Experience with Omni
Exit interviews are an important tool for improving the employee experience and reducing turnover. By asking the right questions, you’ll gather valuable feedback that helps you make positive changes in your organization.
At Omni, we understand the importance of employee feedback and are committed to helping organizations improve. Our employee feedback platform makes it easy to collect actionable insights from your team , and leverage that feedback to make positive changes within your organization.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Omni can help you improve your employee experience, book a demo with us today.