The 15 Best Exit Interview Questions [Free Download]
When an employee leaves your business, an exit interview provides a rare opportunity to glean 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—comes with significant risks to employee retention. Yet this is all too common. In a survey of executives, Harvard Business Review found that fewer than one-third of executives could identify a specific action taken in response to exit interview feedback.
To help, we've put together 15 of the best exit interview questions to ask, which will help you uncover hidden patterns, identify potential problems, and protect employee retention.
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Why Do Exit Surveys Matter?
While negative feedback can be hard to take, employees who are willing to share their genuine thoughts offer invaluable opportunities for improving your organization.
Unfortunately, poor exit interview questions often get in the way of this. As a result, your organization might be missing key opportunities to improve the employee experience and boost employee retention.
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, this interviewee's employer wrongly assumed that they didn't need to improve the employee experience to retain talent.
But don't assume that all employees will be forthcoming. Employees who leave your organization may not express their true thoughts for a variety of reasons. If employees leave on negative terms, they may be unwilling to offer their feedback because they have a “good riddance” attitude. Others may be worried about burning bridges with former managers.
With the right exit interview questions and the proper approach to the conversation, you can find gems of useful feedback that allow you to correct problems.
The 15 Best Exit Interview Questions
Reasons for Leaving
- Why did you begin looking for another job?
- If you could change anything about the organization, what would you choose?
- Did you voice your concerns to anyone else at the company?
Employee Experience Questions
- Did you think your work goals and responsibilities were clear?
- Did you feel you had all the resources you needed to do your best work here?
- What did you think of the way you were managed?
- Did you receive frequent, constructive feedback from your manager and peers?
- What benefits or programs did you feel were missing from the organization?
- How would you describe the culture of our company?
- What did you appreciate most about working here?
- Is there anything we could have done to make you want to stay?
- What are the biggest risks for our company that you see?
- What advice would you like to give to your team? To the executive team?
- What would make this a better place to work?
- Would you ever consider working here again?
- Would you recommend others apply for a position here?
Looking for an Exit Interview Template?
How to Conduct an Exit Interview: 5 Expert Tips
Whether you decide to ask all or only some of these questions, it’s vital to approach exit interviews with the right mentality and a defined plan of action.
At BambooHR, we focus on five key tactics for conducting effective exit interviews:
- Make the experience as positive as possible.
- The interviewee should feel like you have their best interests in mind—personal development above company interests.
- Help the interviewee feel completely free and encouraged to give candid input without repercussion.
- Be grateful for the perspective and for the relationship. Even though this is an exit interview, it’s not an exit interview for the professional relationship. You never know who you’ll end up working with again.
- Treat them, for the moment, like an expert on your business. Listen authentically.
Once you’ve set the right tone and encouraged honest employee feedback, it’s up to you and your organization 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 did or did not take based on their feedback, it certainly matters to the employees who are with your organization right now. If an employee leaves your organization because of a specific pain point—such as a toxic culture or a lack of growth opportunities—it’s likely that others feel the same way.
Unless you address these pain points, it’s only a matter of time before that employee leaves. If your organization earns an uncaring reputation, you can get stuck in a cycle of turnover.
To break out of the cycle and boost retention, listen carefully during exit interviews, 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.
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.