12 Crucial Exit Interview Questions You Should Be Asking

Two women sitting at a table while one interviews the other.

Uncovering answers to the golden “why” someone left your company can only come from asking strategic exit interview questions at the right time.

An exit interview is a tool that can be used to find out why the employee chose to leave. It’s an opportunity for you as the employer to learn more about what your employees think and feel and identify areas of improvement in your company culture or management style.

Strategically done exit interviews are crucial because they can give you deep insight into why someone is leaving so that you can correct issues before more employees leave.

In this blog post, we will outline the 12 best exit interview questions you should be asking in these meetings, so let’s get started.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a meeting between an employee about to leave a job and one or more managers, co-workers, or human resources representatives. Exit interview results can benefit both employees who did not plan to leave the company and management that may have done something wrong during a person’s employment with the organization.

Ideally, this meeting will result in changes that improve work life for everyone involved by recognizing problems before they get out of hand. With proper insight from former employees who have left voluntarily rather than being fired, it is possible to identify potential issues within your business. This can give you the insight needed to ensure these mistakes don’t happen again down the road.

Exit interviews can also reveal what positive structures or qualities you organization has. They don’t always have to be meetings revealing the bad.

Some people whom you may want to give an exit interview to include:

  • Employees leaving your company for another company
  • Retiring employees
  • Employees you want to retain (as a last effort before they leave)

Do not try to conduct exit interviews with employees whom you’ve let go. That puts both your human resources team and the former employee in an incredibly uncomfortable position.

Exit interviews also shouldn’t be required. You don’t want to force former employees into saying anything they don’t want to. In most cases, employees will participate in these interviews if they feel at all comfortable with the managers and HR department. If you’re finding that no employee is willing to an exit interview, it may signal a problem of trust between employees and the higher ups at your company.

Why it’s crucial to ask the right exit interview questions

It is imperative to ask the right exit interview questions because you want honest feedback from your employees. The best way to do this is by giving them a survey with several exit questions that they can answer anonymously. You can also conduct these questions in a one-to-one interview to get more honest and raw responses, but not all employees are comfortable with this. You should offer the option for both an anonymous survey and a face-to-face interview so employees can pick the best method for them.

If the right questions are not asked in the interview, it can be challenging to get the insight you need to make essential changes.

The information you get should also assist you when hiring new staff members in the future. Getting answers to these questions will give you insight into how satisfied (or dissatisfied) your staff was at work, perhaps revealing key factors behind their decision.

Effective exit interview questions

Now it’s time to get into what questions you should ask in an exit interview.

The 12 questions we will mention below can help you get the information needed to make your organization a positive place for everyone to work and grow. The answers to these questions can be tough to hear, and there is no one size fits all solution, but it’s important to listen and pay attention when someone has shared their experience with you.

Let’s see what these questions are with an explanation of each.

1. What made you want to explore other opportunities?

This is a very crucial question that will give you insight into why they decided to leave.

Asking what made an employee look outside the organization for other opportunities will also tell you if there is a problem with your managers or something else within the organization. This question can open up more conversation about what’s wrong internally, so try to ask this question sooner in the interview than later.

If the employee’s primary reason is a salary reason, follow up with something like, “Is your decision solely monetary, or is there something else that made you want to look for other opportunities?”

2. What does your new job offer that impacted your choice to leave?

This is a great question to ask. It will tell you what your competition offers and can be part of an ongoing conversation about the industry.

You can then ask, “What would need to change for you to consider coming back?” This can open up a possibility for your employee to reconsider their decision and think again. Valuable employees are an essential asset to any company, and you should make at least one move from your end to make them stay.

3. Is there anything that we could have done better while you were employed here? If so, what?

This exit interview question will help you know what went may have made the employee’s time at your company better. It may be easy or hard for them to honestly answer, depending on how long they’ve been with your company and if they like their job. Even if they don’t answer, figure out why not and address it by toning down your question. You can ask something like, “What is one thing you’d improve about our company?”

It is extremely important to answer this question as it will help you understand and correct some issues in your management. It could also highlight problems with your benefits offered, salary structure, or what your company did to make employees feel appreciated.

4. What did you like the most about your job here?

This is a great question to bring up the good aspects of your company. Hopefully there will be something during their time of employment that resonated with them. This could give you insight to co-workers or managers of the employee made the workplace a better environment. Those are the types of employees you want to keep around.

If they didn’t like anything in particular, try asking them why or what would make it better for them (and others), as we addressed in the last question.

5. What did you like the least about your job here?

It is often more important to know what they didn’t like than what they did as other employees could be feeling the same way. It will help you further understand some of the reasons why your employees are leaving. You might be able to get suggestions that will help you improve your company culture. Was your employee overworked in regards to their job description? Did their team boss mistreat them?

Be strategic and ask the questions that will lead to answers that help keep other employees happier and, therefore, longer.

6. Did you feel you had all the tools/resources to succeed here?

You need to figure out if your company was supporting your employee well enough to do their job. If they didn’t feel like they had enough resources, it could indicate that you need to give more support in that area to your current employees to prevent such things from happening.

7. What could we have done to keep you here?

Perhaps an employee was on the fence about leaving, but after much hemming and hawing, the employee decided to leave. Ask if there was anything you could’ve done to retain them, and it could help you with future employees who may be feeling the same thing. For instance, the employee may have had a poor work-life balance and felt overworked.

You can work on those points the employee brings up so they don’t happen again. It may hurt, but it’s necessary.

8. Would you recommend this company to other job seekers? Why or why not?

This question is important to ask as it gives you insight into how well your company recruits and retains employees. If they say yes and the employee left just to pursue a much higher salary that your company simply couldn’t afford, that’s a relatively positive sign with regards to your company culture.

You can take a “yes” answer with a grain of salt because some employees like playing it safe during exit interviews. If the employee had multiple negative things to say throughout the interview but said they’d recommend the company, there’s something off there. But if multiple employees said they’d recommend your company, you’re probably doing something right.

If the answer to this question is “no,” use this as a learning opportunity for growth in your company. Why wouldn’t they recommend us?

9. How would you describe our company culture?

Asking about the company culture is important as an employer because it allows you to see what the employees think about the behaviors of your company and its employees. Some people may say that they liked the responsibilities and skills of the job but didn’t like the company culture. They could have thought it was a toxic workplace, they felt overworked, or there wasn’t enough employee recognition.

This won’t be the last employee who leaves if your company culture is broken. If you’re having with issues with your company culture, check out Insight Global’s culture-consulting division, Compass.

Woman sitting at a table holding her head stressed while working.

10. Did you talk to anyone at the company about your concerns prior to leaving?

This is important for employers to ask because you want your employees to feel like they can talk about their concerns while employed with you. It shows that the company cares and wants constructive feedback from all their team members. If a departing employee did not bring up any issues before leaving, it may show they didn’t feel comfortable with anyone to bring up these concerns.

Your employees need to know that there’s always an open line of communication within the company so they’re confident issues will be addressed efficiently before they snowball into bigger problems. As a company, don’t hide behind closed doors. Make sure that everyone knows where their superiors are at all times and that they can have an open line of communication. One of Insight Global’s shared values is “Leadership is here to serve.” That means leaders are here to make our employees better people and professionals. If we aren’t doing that, we won’t grow as a company.

11. Did you feel your opinion was valued?

Why would an employee stay with your company if they didn’t feel their voice was being heard? Part of the success of your company is all about making sure everyone feels included and part of a team. If they don’t feel like their opinion matters, then the chances are that they are leaving for other employers who value their voice.

12. Did you get useful feedback that helped you improve your performance?

Any business must provide its workers with constructive criticism from their bosses as it helps drive their performance in a healthy trajectory and results in a healthy work environment. Not all feedback is good feedback, though. Are your managers helping employees growing, or are they just demeaning?

Asking this question can help you judge the current process for feedback. If you improve your processes of giving feedback–and holding employees and yourself accountable to that feedback–then you may be able to retain employees for longer in the future.

Ending an Exit Interview

You should end your exit interview letting the employee have the floor. See if there is anything else about the company and their experience that they want to share that wasn’t addressed in previous questions. (If you’re conducting a written or online survey, leave a blank text box to give the employee space to air what they need to.)

Finally, thank the person you’re interviewing for their time and wish them well on their next endeavors. They didn’t have answer your questions, but they did. Their responses will help you grow as a company.

Conclusion

These 12 questions should be part of every exit interview as they can provide honest feedback that can lead to retaining current and future employees. Don’t waste this incredibly valuable opportunity to learn how to better run the company and how disgruntled employees are feeling.

At first, an exit interview may feel uncomfortable and awkward, but with expert support, they can be an invaluable asset to gaining transparency into the daily life of employees.

If you’ve learned something from an exit interview and are ready to hire new employees, check out Insight Global’s hiring page to meet your hiring needs.

Need help finding talented employees? Visit Insight Global's Staffing Services page to get started.