10 Best Exit Interview Questions to Develop a Better Business
Exit interview questions can help a business evolve and retain its best performers. With an increasing number of people leaving their jobs, employers are beginning to understand the need for employee feedback by implementing exit interviews. Moreover, high staff turnover can negatively impact workplace culture. Employee uncertainty increases stress levels, and losing team members adds to the issues.
Wiley Edge published the hidden costs of onboarding graduate talent report. Data gathered from 500 UK businesses with high staff turnover revealed that 63% of the companies experienced a deterioration in workplace culture. Moreover, 23% received complaints about a shift in company culture from the remaining employees. In addition, a further 23% observed a significant change in the company culture that deviated from company values and mission statements.
As companies struggle with employee engagement and retainment, the Wiley Edge report states that 22% of businesses said a culture change led to an increase in long-term employees leaving the company. Above all, a destabilising culture can become self-fulfilling as employee resignations increase. In addition, the costs of recruiting and onboarding new employees can be prohibitive.
This guide explores how to implement exit interviews and offboarding employees with the best exit interview questions. It’s essential to gather honest feedback to help a company implement changes to improve employee retention.
- Choosing the Right Employees for Exit Interviews
- How to Create an Exit Interview Format
- Top 10 Best Exit Interview Questions
- #1 What made you want to look for another job?
- #2 If we can address the reasons for you leaving, would you consider staying with the company?
- #3 Did you feel your contribution to the company was appreciated, and if not, why?
- #4 Did you feel you had sufficient training and resources to do your job effectively?
- #5 What was the best part of your job?
- #6 What was the worst part of your job?
- #7 Do you have ideas for how the company could improve employee morale?
- #8 What attracted you most about your new job?
- #9 Could you describe the perfect person to replace you?
- #10 Is there anything else you would like to add?
- Conclusion: 10 Best Exit Interview Questions to Develop a Better Business
Choosing the Right Employees for Exit Interviews
The primary reason for exit interviews is to receive feedback from employees resigning from the company. Sometimes, a powerful set of exit interview questions can identify resolvable issues without the employee leaving.
If you have had to fire an employee for misconduct, the situation may not be conducive to a successful exit interview. The employee may be feeling angry and emotional or fearful of becoming unemployed. Likewise, they are less likely to cooperate positively with the exit interview questions. However, it’s best to make a decision based on each individual.
How to Create an Exit Interview Format
Planning is essential to gain maximum benefit from exit interview questions. Firstly, outline an offboarding strategy that includes the exit interview. Secondly, make it part of company policies so that employees can mentally prepare when they hand in their resignation.
Designate someone detached from the employee to conduct the exit meeting. The objective is to encourage the employee to be honest about their experience of the organisation and the genuine reasons for leaving. For example, employees may cite a lack of growth opportunities in their resignation letters. However, the real reason for leaving could be a conflict with a manager or team leader. Subsequently, an employee’s direct line manager is the worst person to conduct the exit interview.
The perfect scenario is to utilise a staff member from the human resources department, a person detached from the situation.
Ideally, allow the employee to choose the exit interview with a man or a woman. Why? Suppose a female employee has experienced sexual harassment. She hasn’t told anyone in the company, but that’s the real reason she is leaving. A woman is less likely to disclose this information to a male. Likewise, male employees may be happier having the exit meeting with another man.
When to Conduct an Exit Interview
If the employee gives four weeks’ notice, the ideal time for the exit interview is in the middle. In this case, it’s two weeks before they leave. Above all, they’ve had time to let their colleagues know about their decision and are still involved in the organisation’s work processes.
How to Conduct an Exit Interview
If the employee works remotely, suggest a phone call or video meeting. If they are office-based, set aside a private meeting room for 30-60 minutes. It’s unlikely to take that long, but if the employee has a lot to get off their chest, it’s important not to rush the exit interview questions.
Before the interview, let the employee know that they are under no obligation to answer the exit interview questions. Moreover, try to put them at ease and focus on listening to their answers.
If the employee says something you find offensive about the company, a colleague or the founder, refrain from becoming defensive and expressing your opinions. Remember, the objective of the exit interview questions is a fact-finding mission.
If the interview becomes heated and you don’t know what to say, try clarifying the employee’s remarks. For example, suppose the employee says, “Mr Jones is a total idiot. He’s the reason I’m leaving, and I hate him.” Instead of reacting, take a breath and deflect the question to the employee, “I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had these difficulties, John, and we’re sorry it made you want to leave us. If you’re comfortable sharing details, it will help me understand more what has happened with you and Mr Jones and hopefully prevent it from happening again.”
Conflict in the workplace can be tricky to manage. Everyone is different. Likewise, people often have opposing views, opinions and patterns of thinking and behaviour. In the case of Mr Jones, it could simply be a conflict of personalities between him and John. However, working through issues exposed from the exit interview questions could prevent workplace problems like bullying or discrimination.
To make the most of the meeting, create exit interview forms so you can record and assess the information.
Top 10 Best Exit Interview Questions
The format for exit interview questions should follow a linear structure to lead to an open discussion with the employee.
#1 What made you want to look for another job?
Primarily, exit interview questions can open Pandora’s box. Therefore, the interviewer mustn’t rush the employee through their answers. There is unlikely to be only one reason for leaving, and it’s essential to discover those reasons so the organisation can improve employee retention rates.
A few reasons for employee resignation: –
- Lack of career progression
- Poor work culture
- Salary too low
- Bullying or discrimination
- Job description changes
- Cannot work remotely
- Conflict with colleagues or management
- Lack of training (and onboarding)
- Head hunted by a competitor
- Flexible working not available
#2 If we can address the reasons for you leaving, would you consider staying with the company?
Changing jobs is stressful. Employees must start over, get to know new team members and leaders and learn to fit in with the new company culture. Quite often, the grass is not greener on the other side.
Losing top-performing employees is a blow for any organisation, especially if they are leaving to join a competitor. It’s not just the cost and hassle of recruiting, onboarding and training a replacement; there is a real shortage of skilled professionals.
If you have clarified the reasons for resignation in question #1, there is a greater chance that the employee could reverse their decision. If not, the data collected helps the company better understand employees’ needs. After that, the company can implement strategies to improve working conditions.
#3 Did you feel your contribution to the company was appreciated, and if not, why?
It’s easy to tell employees what they are doing wrong, but positive reinforcement is essential for employees to feel valued. Ask the employee for examples of times they felt appreciated and times their efforts went unnoticed.
Many organisations may think that happiness is overrated and employees should do what they are paid to do and be happy about having a job. That’s an archaic attitude that will lead to high staff turnover. In adition, feeling valued has little to do with salary and bonuses and is more about receiving positive feedback, a thank you for a job well done.
When an employee does their work well, and without issues, it makes the company run efficiently. Everyone is an essential cog in the wheel of productivity and profit. Occasionally surprise staff with an impromptu meeting to tell them how well they are doing and how much their efforts are appreciated.
After intensive periods of working on a project, organise a staff thank-you get-together, a meal, a party or whatever is within the budget.
It is better not to assume what makes people happy in the workplace. Ask the person leaving what the company could do better to make employees feel appreciated.
#4 Did you feel you had sufficient training and resources to do your job effectively?
If the employee answers that training is insufficient, clarify the areas of weakness. Ask the employee what training the company could offer to improve the situation. Most employees appreciate regular training if it improves their skills and increases the chance of promotion.
Every workplace environment could be open to improvements. It could be as simple as providing ergonomic workstations, updating computer software or installing a better heating system, air conditioning, drinks station or improving the toilets.
The power of this exit interview question is finding out what the company needs to do to improve employee job satisfaction.
You can prioritise the necessary changes if you hear the same things repeatedly in exit interviews.
#5 What was the best part of your job?
This exit interview question determines what the organisation is doing right. You may discover that employees love the work culture, working remotely or flexibly, team bonding or anything else. After hearing the positive aspects of working for the company, you can highlight these things when interviewing future candidates and add them on job descriptions and the website.
#6 What was the worst part of your job?
Duality is part of our lives. Question #6 could be one of the best exit interview questions that will enable the company to improve its employee experience significantly.
Some employees may be reluctant to open up about the worst aspects of their job. Be considerate of their unwillingness, reassuring them that the reason for the question is for the company to make improvements where needed. Tell them how much their honesty is respected and appreciated.
Examples of why employees hate their jobs
- Overworked and under-appreciated
- Poor company culture
- Poor leadership
- Lack of autonomy for their work
- Micromanaged by team leaders
- Lack of cooperation from coworkers
#7 Do you have ideas for how the company could improve employee morale?
Does the organisation have a positive team spirit, or is employee morale deflated in the workplace? Workers discuss these things, but often the message doesn’t reach management levels. Subsequently, team spirit deteriorates, gradually eroding workplace culture, which results in more employees leaving.
Take time to expand on this question, exploring areas of the company experience, such as: –
- Working with specific line managers and team leaders
- Experience working with teams
- Satisfaction with compensation packages
- Whether the company respects diversity
- What changes could lower stress levels
Listening to what employees want and need to feel happier at work can help the company to take steps to improve morale.
#8 What attracted you most about your new job?
Few employees take a sideways move to a new company. This exit question is ideal for uncovering the core issues in the organisation, causing low retention rates. Does their new job offer a better compensation package, remote or flexible working? Is the employee moving to a leadership role or advancing from the position with your company? If it’s the latter, ask the employee if they would remain with the company if that promotion opportunity were available.
Exit interview questions such as this can be an indirect route to getting the employee to respond more proactively about their experience with your company. It deflects the emotional attachment to the answer. Employees can indirectly say what they want and need instead of discussing what they don’t have with their current company.
#9 Could you describe the perfect person to replace you?
Hiring managers are human, so they don’t always hire the right person for the job. Moreover, that could be due to incorrect information on a resume or other reasons. Asking the employee leaving to describe the right candidate is a perfect opportunity to identify the attributes and skills required in the job description. For example, the job role may have changed over the time the current employee has worked for the company.
Perhaps applicants need more skills in sales, negotiation, social media or customer service. Likewise, the job may require personal attributes such as coping under stress, communicating with teams or stakeholders, or working remotely without supervision.
#10 Is there anything else you would like to add?
This exit interview template is an excellent start to preparing for exit interviews. Still, there are undoubtedly more subjects that may arise. If the employee says they have nothing to add, you can ask a few more questions if you feel the previous questions failed to expose genuine issues.
At this point, reassure the employee how much you value their feedback and how important it is to learn from their departure. If they are a valued staff member, remind them how much the company appreciates their contributions.
If relevant, there’s no harm in telling the employee the company would be happy to employ them again if the new job doesn’t work out. In addition, wish them the best for their future, and conclude the interview.
Conclusion: 10 Best Exit Interview Questions to Develop a Better Business
No organisation wants its high-performing employees to leave, and low retention rates can be demoralising. Employees have their reasons, of course, and it’s crucial to find out why a company cannot retain its best employees.
It’s easy to assume that all the cogs are working well if employees aren’t directly complaining. However, if the staff turnover is high, something is wrong. Meanwhile, an influx of resignations can leave a company feeling blindsided. However, it presents an opportunity to discover what is happening. After that, implementing positive organisational changes can result in happier and more productive employees.
If your company does not have an offboarding process, it’s time to consider creating one. Meanwhile, a short-term alternative is to place an “opinions” box in the building. For remote workers, ask them to complete an anonymous survey.
Once a month, ask a specific question, such as: –
- How can the company improve workplace culture?
- What would make it more pleasant to work here?
- What ideas do you have to improve the company service?
Collate the answers, and if you can make the requested changes, report back to the workforce to show employees they have a voice in the organisation.
Jan is a SEO copywriter, brand advisor, content strategist & case study specialist writing for crypto, recruitment, and SaaS companies. Jan lives in the Cotswold's UK with two rescue dogs. Since 2020, Jan has written hundreds of SEO articles for various crypto companies including CB Recruitment & Coin Bureau.
Why Employee Benefits Are Important To Retain Your Workforce
Why are employee benefits important? Since the great resignation of 2021, employees have become sign...
10 Popular Time Management Interview Questions: How to Answer
Why do companies ask candidates time management questions? Effective time management in the workplac...
How to Find the Best Recruitment Consultant (2023)
When looking for a reliable recruitment consultant, you may be concerned about whether they genuinel...