12 Exit Interview Questions To Ask Departing Employees

12 Exit Interview Questions To Ask Departing Employees

Ranee ZhangJul 05, 20226 mins
What is an exit interview?

If you are asked the question, “who gives the most honest feedback about a company’s work culture?”, what would your answer be? 

‍You might want to say senior managers or current employees, but that would be far from being right. Think no further. The answer is leaving employees. Yes, no one gives more honest feedback about a company than employees who are leaving, whether to a different company or not.

‍The reason is this: departing employees provide more honest feedback because they often have nothing to lose, unlike current employees, whose judgment may be clouded by their desire to retain their position at the company.

‍Hence, companies seeking honest feedback about their structure and mode of operations should look to those leaving. How? By conducting what is known as an exit interview

‍Asking the right exit interview questions can help gather valuable feedback that you can use to improve your company’s work culture and increase employee retention levels. 

‍This article has distilled some of the best questions you can ask at exit interviews. They will help gather insights into what employees think about your company and what needs improvement. 

What is an exit interview?

Simply put, an exit interview consists of a range of questions you ask employees who are leaving your company or organization

‍It focuses on questions that allow departing employees to provide constructive feedback about their work at the company, their thoughts on the work environment, and other important details that may point to why they are leaving.  

Exit interviews are usually conducted by the human resources team at a company. It can take the form of an in-person or virtual interview and alternatively, a survey form that the departing employee would be required to complete. 

‍The duration of exit interviews should typically be about 30 minutes to an hour. You can ask a departing employee between 5 to 10 questions. Feel free to ask for follow-ups as they help substantiate points earlier made.

‍Companies or organizations should pay more attention to exit interviews. By interviewing departing employees, they can learn why employees leave and what improvements can be made to encourage employee retention.

Exit interview questions to ask departing employees

Do you have an employee who’s in the process of leaving your company? Here are some important exit interview questions you should ask as part of the offboarding process.

‍These questions are not role-specific, so you can ask any employee whether they’re entry-level, senior associate, or a manager. Feel free to tweak some of them to suit your specific needs

What led you to look for another job opportunity?

This question is an excellent way to kickstart your exit interview. Usually, answers to this question will vary according to the employee. This is because employees often have unique reasons for leaving a company.

It may be because they’re moving to a different city, switching from one industry to another, or perhaps pursuing higher education. These are pretty valid reasons, and you shouldn’t be bothered with them because they’re somehow beyond your control.

You should be concerned when employees are leaving for reasons such as higher pay or better bonuses, better career advancement opportunities, and better work culture. You might want to consider increasing your pay, revisiting strategies for promotion, and improving your work culture.

Under what conditions would you consider rejoining this company?

If the employee is leaving on good terms, then there’s a possibility that they could return to the company if certain things were improved. This is why asking this is a great way to discover what areas need improvement in your company.

The employee’s answer to this question could indirectly give an insight into why they’re leaving. Perhaps the managers do not treat them well, or the upper leadership doesn’t treat employees with respect. Fixing these drawbacks may not bring the employee back, but it can limit employee turnover

What did you like best and least about your work here?

You can learn about the employee's experience at the company by asking this question. What is the best part of their work here? What do they look forward to the most? And at the same, what do they detest most about working with you? Is it the fact that managers often micromanage or they’re often overburdened with work? 

Whatever their answers are will help you discover what your company should do more and do less. If the common theme with departing employees is that they feel they’re often overworked, you may want to consider your strategies for employee work-life balance.

Do you feel you were adequately groomed or managed by your manager?

Managers are responsible for training and grooming employees to become top-notch professionals. One-on-one meetings, performance reviews, constructive feedback, and periodic training are some options managers utilize for this purpose.

When employees feel like they’re not receiving the right amount of attention needed for their growth and development, they may be pushed to seek greener pastures. Thus, asking this question can help you learn if the managers are not doing their job well. 

Do you feel your job responsibilities have changed since you were hired? If yes, in what ways? 

The demands of a role sometimes evolve with time. Employees may begin to feel that they’re much more than the job description states. Or perhaps, the changes in the role require a higher skill set than what was originally required. 

Situations like these can make an employee feel overburdened or less enthusiastic about their job, especially if there’s no increase in their remuneration proportional to the increased job demands. 

Ultimately, this question can help discover if there’s a need to update the job description for the role to ensure that your next hire is well befitting. Also, it signals that you may need to increase the remuneration for that position.

How well do you think you were recognized for your contributions? 

As simple as saying “Thank you” and “Well done, you did a great job” is, it carries more power than you can imagine. Recognizing and showing gratitude for the contributions and achievements of employees is pivotal for employee retention.

If employees feel like their achievements constantly go unrecognized, they wouldn’t feel valued. And it wouldn’t take long before they start seeking better work opportunities. 

Therefore, you must ask this question during your exit interview. The answers can reveal if your management is doing a poor job at recognizing and rewarding top performers. 

What do you think about our work culture here?

If your company holds skip level meetings, this question may have popped up in one of them. However, an employee’s answer to that question during a skip-level meeting may have been impaired by fear. Hence, the answer may not be sincere.

But with departing employees, you can trust that feedback is more likely to be honest. This is why it’s advisable to ask this question during exit interviews. 

You will be able to learn what employees genuinely feel about the work culture at your company. With the feedback, you can implement changes to improve your culture, if necessary.

What could change your mind about leaving?

This is another subtle way of finding out the exact reason for the employee’s departure. The answers you’ll get will be very valuable. They will pinpoint exactly what the employee is seeking in a different company.

The answers could range from a better salary structure, and good work-life balance, to more opportunities for career advancement. If you wish to retain the employee, you can negotiate by promising some of these benefits. If not, you should note their reasons for leaving and make changes to prevent other employees from leaving on the same grounds.

What would you suggest the management improve?

With this question, you can elicit general feedback on your company. Departing employees can help point out areas of improvement. It may range from poor employee management, weak work-life balance, or non-competitive pay. 

Whatever feedback you get should be carefully examined. It may just be a pointer to where your organization is lacking. 

Would you recommend this company to a friend? If yes, why? If not, why?

This is a very important question. While an employee has decided to leave the company for whatever reasons, they may still feel your company will suit someone else. This means that the company is not entirely bad and perhaps the employee’s reasons for leaving are more personal and don’t have to do so much with the state of the company.

Where the employee answers in the negative, then you should pay attention to the reasons. Referrals matter and what people say and think about your company can go a long way. Therefore, examine the reasons why the employee is leaving, and strive to address critical concerns as soon as possible.

Did you share any of these concerns with any member of the management before deciding to leave?

Before ending the exit interview, ensure to ask the departing employee this question. It goes a long way to show your company’s attitude toward employee feedback.

If the employee’s answer is yes, then it may signal that the company, especially managers, are treating employee feedback or complaints with levity. It may also mean that the company is not requesting feedback from employees enough.

Where the answer is negative, you should reflect on your company’s work culture to see if the environment is safe enough for employees to feel comfortable and confident voicing their concerns without fear of negative consequences. 

Is there something else you’d like to add?

A good way to wrap up your interview is by asking this question. There may be specific areas that were left untouched. Asking this question provides the avenue for such issues to be addressed. 

It’s like a final chance for the employee to say what is on their mind. It could be positive or negative. Just ask, to ensure no stone is left unturned.

Are you considering implementing exit interviews into your company operations? Are you looking for ways to improve your exit interviews? 

Besides asking the right questions, having the right tools to conduct your meetings is crucial. With Airgram, you can improve the quality of your exit interview (if it’s virtual). 

‍It allows you to effectively schedule meetings, create a meeting agenda, and note down feedback from the employees during the interview. 

Ranee Zhang

Ranee is the Head of Growth of Airgram and has rich experience in the SaaS field. She developed a passion for writing as a young girl and believed the written word could unlock doors as well as the imagination.

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