Are exit interview questions useful?

You bet they are

Why spend time conducting exit interviews? The employee is leaving, so isn’t it time to move on already?

Without an exit interview you won’t know why employees are leaving, or how you could prevent it in future. So you could find yourself stuck with high employee turnover.

By conducting exit interviews for all departing staff, you can compile valuable data on why they like or dislike your workplace. You can use that data to improve your talent management and retention. Here are some of the most common and useful exit interview questions.

What are your reasons for leaving?

The most important question. The tone of your interview should be professional and conversational, never confrontational. But you need to get to the bottom of why the employee is leaving if you’re going to gain useful insights.

Some employees will be evasive when asked the open-ended question, ‘why are you leaving?’ Psychologically, they’ve already departed and don’t want to discuss it. In such cases, you can dig deeper by asking:

  • Were you unhappy with your pay and benefits?
  • Did you have any problems with your colleagues?
  • Did you feel unfulfilled in your role?
  • Were you ever missing the resources needed to do your job well?

What could we have done to make you stay?

This question crystallises the employee’s biggest reason for leaving. The answer also pinpoints something you might be able to change in future to improve staff retention.

What three things would have made your job better?

This question gathers information on how you can improve your workplace and job roles. The employee can give multiple answers, so might discuss anything car parking to staff parties. Over time, this question can reveal trends about what employees dislike about your workplace.

What did you like most about your job?

For good reason, many exit interview questions focus on employees’ negative impressions of your workplace. But by also asking what employees liked, you can expand those aspects of your job roles.

What does your new job offer that your old job doesn’t?

This question makes a direct comparison between your organisation and the new employer. Be prepared for an answer about progression opportunities, pay and benefits, switching to a field the employee is more passionate about, relocation to a new place, or something else. Use follow-up questions to dig deeper into reasons you can change.

Did you have a good relationship with your line manager?

The employee-manager relationship is a key factor affecting job satisfaction. These relationships are often hidden from upper management, so when personality clashes and pettiness happen, they go undetected. Exit interviews are an excellent opportunity to get feedback on line manager performance — the employee can speak freely because they are leaving. Use it wisely.

How would you describe our organisational culture?

Here you’re asking the employee to sum up your workplace in their own words. Answers could identify problems such as low morale and bullying, or positives such as praise for your staff and managers.

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