It’s rare to receive honest feedback about your business from your current employees. Most of them don’t want to jeopardize their bread and butter to blurt out the bad and the ugly.
How about employees who are about to leave? What’s left to lose when they no longer rely on you? You will gain valuable insights into how to improve your management, culture, staff engagement, and more by conducting exit interviews with these employees.
Use 30 sample exit interview questions below to make the most of those conversations. You can also download a PDF at the end of the post.
What are good questions for an exit interview?
- They encourage honest and detailed answers rather than a simple “Yes” or “No”. You can ask employees to elaborate their answers instead of accepting generic responses such as “It wasn’t a good fit.”
- They offer insights into the company’s positive aspects so you can strengthen them and the negative aspects so you can fix them.
- They encourage sharing rather than making employees feel like they’re being interrogated.
Tip: Approach exit interviews with an open-minded, non-judgmental, and professional attitude. A hostile, defensive, and take-it-personally attitude may deepen the negative experience of the employee (if that’s the reason why that employee leaves), or discourage them from sharing honest and valuable thoughts about the position and the company.
30 best exit interview questions to ask your leaving employee
1. Why did you start looking for a new job?
There might be a variety of reasons why an employee decides to leave. Maybe the workplace is too far from their home, they had unresolved conflicts with coworkers, or they’re going through a specifically difficult situation.
Asking this question will reveal any event, quarrel, or problem that led to the employee’s departure. You may discover the shortcomings or problems you were not aware of and find solutions to them.
2. What made you accept the new job?
The new job should offer certain advantages that make the employee pick the other company over you. Take this opportunity to figure out what they are.
You are looking to see if you need to adjust your offers, such as raising salaries or adding perks. This is crucial if you want to attract potential candidates and retain current staff.
3. When did you start looking for a new job?
Having an idea of when employees start to consider leaving can provide insights into turnover trends. Why do many employees start looking for a new job after 3 months working at the company?
4. What did you like most about this job?
You don’t have to dig up only the negative things. Ask about the good stuff as well. Whether it’s the job responsibility, teammates and coworkers, or working hours, you should strengthen those aspects and mention them in future job descriptions to attract suitable candidates.
5. What was the worst part of this job?
Answers may vary. Too many meetings. Being micromanaged. Clunky company procedures. If the employee leaves in an unpleasant situation, this question may provoke negative responses. You need to consider carefully what the real problems are with a calm and constructive attitude.
6. Can you tell us about one of the worst days on the job?
Instead of frankly asking about the negative aspects of the job, you can let employees tell their own stories. This way, they share their experience rather than shying away and worrying about what they should tell and what not.
7. Was there an event or person that caused you to leave?
Employees may be reluctant to be honest out of fear that they’ll end up in unnecessary quarrels or unexpected problems. You can assure them that the conversation will be completely confidential and their identity won’t be revealed.
At the very least, if you sense that they’re too uncomfortable to talk, it may indicate that there’s something you need to observe and investigate further.
8. Did you think that you were well equipped to do your job?
This is one of the best exit interview questions to evaluate the resources you have to provide for the position. Employees are more likely to leave if they aren’t given adequate technological devices, training and educational programs, or a supportive team, etc.
9. Did you have enough tools and resources to succeed at your job?
You might think that you have already provided employees with all the tools they need to succeed. But you’ll never know if you don’t ask. This question can help you improve the workplace environment from the simplest thing—air conditioning, work equipment, cleaning tools, uniforms, etc.
10. How can the company improve employee morale and engagement?
The best way to improve employee morale and engagement is by soliciting ideas from your employees, especially those who aren’t satisfied with what you are offering.
11. Can you talk about it in more detail? Any specific example?
These follow-up questions will help you get to the root of the problem if you think the previous answer was too vague or generic.
For example, the employee may say they don’t get on well with coworkers, but avoid mentioning the why, who, and how. You can encourage them to share more, but don’t be too pushy.
12. Is there anything we could have done to keep you here?
An employee who enters an exit interview has already made their decision. There’s very little chance to turn their decision around. But still, this can be the last chance to offer solutions that keep them on staff. You can offer better pay, more resources, more flexibility in working time, more opportunities for work-life balance, or a chance to move to another team/role.
Even if the employee doesn’t agree with any offers or you can’t afford their requests, this question may help spark some insights into what you can offer the next employee.
13. How would you describe our company culture?
This question will help you identify trends and concerns among your employees. You may spot what makes them feel negative or inadequate, which leads to leaving the company.
If many employees give similar answers, that might be the aspect you need to improve. Negativity and emotional outbursts can affect their responses, so keep that in mind.
14. What would you change about the company’s management if you could?
Ask employees about their supervisor and management styles. This question can be intimidating if you’re the manager. Employees may shy away from it because no one wants to create conflicts with bosses, especially those who are influential in the field. You can rephrase the question and ask for suggestions instead.
15. What changes would you make regarding the company or the position if you could?
The focus of this question doesn’t lie in the negative reasons why the employee leaves, but more about what they want to change.
The position might contain unpleasant aspects that make them unattractive in employees’ eyes. You may want to adjust the responsibilities, environment, compensation to avoid future turnover due to similar reasons.
This isn’t a question seeking complaints, yet it encourages employees to give constructive feedback.
16. Did you have someone in the company to talk to before you leave?
You can use this question to examine your company culture and see if your employees can feel safe enough to talk to someone else in the company. If they’re afraid to raise their voices, there might be something going on that you don’t know.
And if they talk, chances are other employees have similar concerns. To avoid other people leaving, you’ll need to adjust your retention strategies.
17. Do you feel comfortable talking to your manager?
This question can reveal information about the manager and the employee, especially when there are lower-level managers in your business.
The answer can suggest changes to how management gets along with employees and make them feel comfortable enough to work with. You can also know what types of employees suit your company’s management better.
18. Did you feel like an important part of the company?
If many of your staff don’t feel like they’re an important part of the company, you may need to change your engagement strategies. Employees who are proud of their company and their job engage more and deliver better performance.
19. Were you satisfied with our goal-setting framework?
Asking about goals and objectives can reveal powerful insights into how you set goals for employees and support them in their career development. Employees don’t simply look for pay anymore. They now look for growth opportunities, too.
20. Do you think you were given specific and practical goals/objectives?
This one is quite similar to the previous question, but it’s more personal and specific. Your goal-setting framework can be acceptable, but the employees may have particular concerns regarding their goals and objectives.
21. Did you receive enough feedback to improve your work? Was it constructive enough?
Employees without adequate and timely feedback may feel lost, stuck, and stagnant, which is one of the biggest reasons for their exit.
Employees may not get enough constructive feedback to see what went wrong and what they can do to improve. The feedback sometimes appears offensive and destructive, too. Here’s a question that will help you improve your performance review process and make it more constructive.
22. What can be added to our training and development programs?
If you provide training and development programs, you can ask this question to see if they need changes, updates, or better ideas.
23. Was the position what you thought it would be?
Many employees quit because they think, “This is not what I signed up for.” The job duty may be too different from what they expected. They may apply for a barista position and end up working as a server, dishwasher, and cashier. They may opt for a full-time schedule and find out the assigned shifts aren’t enough to make ends meet.
24. Do you feel your job description has changed?
Some employees become dissatisfied with the job because the responsibilities are different from the ones they applied for. If the position has changed in a way that is different from your initial job listings, it’s time to update outdated job descriptions to find relevant and suitable candidates.
25. What skills, qualifications, and qualities do you think are vital to this position?
You’ve written the job descriptions or copy them from templates, so you think you know exactly what you should look for in candidates. But employees who have worked in the position can give you ideas on what qualities and skills are actually necessary for the job. Subtle qualities such as perseverance, interpersonal skills, for example.
Some bullet points on the initial job descriptions might not match with reality. Employees may be required lots of communication skills, but the position doesn’t require that much interaction and calls for more technical skills instead. You can adjust the job descriptions to fit the position better in this case.
26. Would you consider returning to work here in the future? In the same position or another?
Employees sometimes leave for better opportunities regarding salary or experience. They may consider returning if future work opportunities are attractive. Asking this will let you know if they’re interested in available roles in the future.
27. Can we contact you in the future to discuss the reason for leaving?
You can wait until the employee has settled into the new position before learning the actual reason why they left. At that point, they’ll be more likely to share further. You can ask this exit interview question to make sure they’re open to discussion in the future.
28. Would you recommend this position to a friend?
It would be a deep sigh of relief if they said yes. Or maybe they’re just being polite? You’ll want to dig deep with this question to make sure employees don’t leave with a negative attitude, which could lead to your reputation being damaged.
29. Were you comfortable with your working time?
This question can be used if your business has a flexible working time policy. Some employees may leave because they have to work too many hours, too few hours, or the work schedules interfere with their personal lives. You may need to apply different employee scheduling strategies or find a better scheduling system to avoid future turnover.
This question opens many directions for the employee to talk about. Other valuable ideas that cannot be sparked by specific exit interview questions may come to you.
Start asking the right exit interview questions today [Free PDF]
When exit interviews are handled properly, you can resolve employees’ misunderstandings and negative concerns, thereby keeping them in your talent pool. Asking the right exit interview questions will also open up valuable insights into how your company is doing and how you can improve it.
Download the free PDF below and use them in your next exit interviews with employees.