Exit Interview Questions


Adios. Farewell. The Goodwill and Good Management of Exit Interviews

What makes employees leave one job for another?

Better compensation is an enticing carrot to be sure.

Career advancement. Yup. No doubt.

Getting away from a toxic work environment?

An untenable boss who micromanages?

More and better growth opportunities?

A better corporate culture with a commitment to corporate social responsibilities?

Yikes. Maybe not what your organization wants to hear, but things that need to be said, heard and acted on.

That is, if your organization cares about employee retention and engagement.

Exit interview questions open the window to views of the organization you may never have seen before or bring clarity to issues that may have seemed small and insignificant in the grander scheme.

Some say employees who voluntarily quit have nothing to lose and bare their souls with complete and utter honesty.

Others argue honesty gets couched in evasiveness because departing employees want to avoid burning bridges and retain references for the future.

It’s when the same things are being said by different people, that the dots start to connect.

Never Close Doors

How you handle exit interviews and what you do with the information can get to the bottom of why employees are leaving and where your organization can make changes to improve retention.

Employees who chose to leave can offer powerful feedback if exit interview questions are right and the process is well managed.

Remember everyone is different; retirees, disgruntled employees and top stars deserve different approaches, thoughtfully planned and prepared in advance.

Organizational shortcomings surface and highlight opportunities for change.

Candid perceptions identify training and development opportunities to improve manager skills.

Insights from employees about their jobs, the organization’s culture and where they see problems helps managers figure out how to improve individual and team collaboration, motivation, and overall effectiveness.

Sharing exit interview data and trends with key people in your organization keeps retention and culture issues front of mind among those with influence and the authority to make changes.

Information can become the foundation of action plans to reduce turnover and increase engagement.

These sessions also tend to generate competitor intelligence in areas of compensation, benefits, recruiting and corporate culture.

Handled with respect, sensitivity and gratitude, the right exit interview questions can help people leave on a positive note to become employee alumni and some of your organization’s best ambassadors.

What to Ask and Why: 15 Key Exit Interview Questions

Several sources, including the Society for Human Resource Management, offer lists of questions.

The following is a compilation of 15 key exit interview questions and some of the actions they can lead to, provided data is collected and analyzed, be it through exit interview surveys, documented discussions or a bit of both.

1. What do you like most about working here?

A general question to spot trends – keep a watch for common themes.

2. What did you like about your job? Were your skills used completely?

Here’s where you’ll get information pertinent to recruiting and filling the soon-to-be-vacant role.

3. Were your own expectations for the job met?

A reflection, to a degree, on the overall recruiting process in terms of how accurately your organization and the job on offer were presented.

4. What do you like the least about working here? Were there any special problem areas?

Frank and forward to illicit a frank and forward response and gain an idea of where opportunities for improvement exist. As always, watch for trends.

5. How would you describe the culture of the organization?

Use this important general question to identify common perceptions and words around the organization’s vision, mission and value; watch for upward or downward trends and flag any patterns.

6. What improvements can you suggest to the organization, to your division/department or to your job – to make it easier, more challenging and more interesting?

This question is an opportunity for the employee (and in turn, you) to flag issues and ideas.

  • On a macro level, suggested improvements for the organization may start to fall into themes.
  • On a micro job level, information that comes up may be pertinent to recruiting and filling the position being vacated.

7. Were you and your supervisor able to work together effectively?

Responses may surface personnel problems and potential skill upgrading opportunities.

8. How could your supervisor have helped you more on the job?

Ditto #7

9. How would you describe your supervisor’s management style?

Ditto #7

10. How would you describe the management style of your division head?

Keep in mind the trickle-down effect.

How a higher-up leader manages, impacts management styles down the line.

If the departing employee has little or nothing to say, there may be an underlining communications issue. Dig deeper.

This is a good trending question to monitor and track individual divisions or departments.

11. How would you describe the management style of the organization overall?

Another trending question, be sure to monitor and measure responses and share with leadership if a pattern – negative or positive – becomes apparent.

12. What factors contributed to your decision to leave? What might have been done to prevent you from leaving?

Perhaps some of these concerns, if different from others already expressed, can be addressed prior to recruiting and filling the role. Again, watch for thematic patterns.

13. How did you learn about the job opening for the position you’ve accepted?

Track to find out if competitors are poaching your people, if headhunters are tapping into your workforce, or if employees are choosing to leave of their own volition.

If it’s the latter, your exit interview questions thus far should suggest where and how retention problems can be addressed.

14. What makes your new job more attractive than your present job? What led you to accept this change?

Here’s an opportunity to find out about competitors vying for the same talent pool.

Are their compensation packages richer?

Maybe they’re offering career development opportunities you’re not?

Then again, maybe it’s a personal commuting choice that cuts the employee’s travel time from home to work to home.

15. Would you consider returning to this company if a position were available in the future?

Why burn bridges when you can build them?

This is an excellent exit interview question to conclude with; acknowledging the employee’s valued contribution, expressing gratitude and leaving on a high note.

Another organizational alumni ambassador in the making.

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