We Found the 20 Best Exit Interview Questions

When an employee leaves your organization, an exit interview provides a rare opportunity to gain meaningful insights into how your team really feels.

The exit interview questions you ask should encourage honest, in-depth responses—regardless of the circumstances surrounding the employee’s departure.
Skipping exit interviews—or ignoring the insights they offer—can pose significant risks to employee retention.

For example, if an employee leaves your organization because of a perceived toxic culture or a lack of growth opportunities, it’s likely that others feel the same way. And unless you address these pain points, it’s only a matter of time before other employees start to leave.

To help, we've put together 20 of the best exit interview questions to ask, which will help you uncover hidden patterns, identify potential problems, and protect employee retention.

If you're looking for a better way to manage offboarding, BambooHR provides intuitive, award-winning solutions. With BambooHR Offboarding®, you can navigate exit interviews more easily. Our tools will help you end employee relationships on a positive note while ensuring that your business is professional, proactive, and compliant. Learn more today!

What Is An Exit Interview?

An exit interview is held with an employee who is about to leave an organization. Exit interviews typically discuss the employee’s reasons for leaving and their experience of working for the organization.

Why Are Exit Interviews Important?

Exit interviews are important because they offer deep insights into your workplace culture, day-to-day processes and management solutions. They also help you understand why people are deciding to leave your organization.

While negative feedback can be hard to take, without an exit interview in place, your organization can miss out on vital opportunities to improve the employee experience and boost employee retention.

Discover Our Exit Interview Template [Free Download]

People aren’t usually great at goodbyes, and work is no exception. In this resource, we'll share best practices—and precautions—that will help you master the exit interview process.

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The 20 Best Exit Interview Questions

To help you get the most from your exit interviews, we’ve pulled together 20 best exit interview questions. Each have been divided into individual sub-categories:

Reasons for Leaving

Employee Experience

Role-Specific Questions

Forward-Facing Questions

5 Ways to Conduct Better Exit Interviews

Most departing employees are skeptical of exit interviews. That’s because they dread companies playing the blame game or trying to get them to stick around.

The good news? You can flip things around if you set the record straight right from the start.

Here are 5 tips for conducting an effective exit interview:

1. Explain The “Why”

Exit interviews can be awkward and uncomfortable for departing employees, so it’s important to assure them that the interview is nothing to worry about. You should explain that the purpose of the interview is not malicious and that you simply want to understand their motivations for seeking alternative employment.

You should also emphasize the fact that you aim to make positive changes to improve your company culture on behalf of their honesty and constructive feedback. Once employees know the reasons for the interview, they’ll be much more inclined to come forward and share their thoughts.

2. Schedule The Interview At The Right Time

Most employees provide four weeks’ notice, so consider scheduling the exit interview during their last week. At this point in their role, they should be open to sharing their thoughts.

However, some organizations choose to conduct an exit interview after the employee has left the organization. There’s a good chance the employee will have unplugged by then which can lead to a more casual conversation and enable you to have a more honest discussion.

3. Select The Right Person To Conduct The Interview

Most employees don’t quit their job, they quit their managers. So, if an exit interview is run by the direct manager of a departing employee, this could be problematic.

It’s better to put an HR representative or a second-line manager in the driver’s seat and let them conduct the interview. Because both HR professionals and second-line managers are in the buffer zone (e.g., they are one step removed from the departing employee), it’ll allow them to gather more honest feedback. What’s more, they will have the power to introduce changes based on employee feedback.

4. Listen Carefully

When conducting an exit interview, it’s important to listen carefully to what the employee has to say. This makes them feel like their feedback is important to the organization. You should also try to ask them further questions based on the feedback they provide to avoid making any direct assumptions.

5. Ask The Right Questions

Unfortunately, poor questions often get in the way of conducting an effective exit interview. As a result, your organization may be missing out on vital opportunities to improve.

For example, consider this interview published by the Society for Human Resources Management:

“Our HR rep had gotten the impression I was leaving because I was tired of the commute, but there was much more to it. Over the years, my department and the firm itself had deteriorated to a point where I found I could no longer work there. So when he said, with a big smile on his face, ‘I hear you’re leaving because you found a job close to your house,’ well, I took a deep breath and let him have it. I went on for about 20 minutes about what was wrong with the firm, the department, the management, the morale, the lighting, everything.”

Like many businesses, the interviewee wrongly assumed the employee’s decision to leave the company. But, with the right exit interview questions and the proper approach to the conversation, you can better understand an employee’s reasons for leaving.

Asking the right questions can also help you uncover useful insights about your business that will enable you to improve the employee experience and retain top talent.

Next Steps: Level Up Your Exit Interviews

Once you’ve set the right tone and encouraged honest employee feedback, it’s up to you to do something about it. According to Harvard Business Review, organizations have to be willing to change—or exit interviews will have the unintended effect of damaging your business's reputation.

While it might not matter to former employees what actions your organization does or does not take based on their feedback, it certainly matters to the employees who are with your organization right now.

To ensure you’re getting most from your exit interviews, listen carefully, analyze the results, and look for trends. Have several people complained about the same thing? Make a note of it and follow up with your current employees to learn how to improve their experience.

Taking the time and effort to do offboarding right for your departing employees can lead to many benefits down the road.

Always Say Goodbye On Good Terms.

Offboarding employees isn't easy, and BambooHR will support you every step of the way. Most importantly, we'll help you spot trends in departures—so you can stop turnover before it starts.

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