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20 Exit Interview Questions You Must Ask: Experts Guide

Company Culture
July 5, 2022
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People’s career aspirations tend to be fluid; People start a job, progress to other roles (internally or externally) and grow in each one, just like chapters in our lives. Talent mobilisation is perfectly normal and turnover can be really healthy, but, what if there was a way to help better retain employees? 

Understanding organisational culture is at the heart of this. One way to understand the employee experience is by  developing and carrying out exit interviews.  

You might be reading this and think ‘but surely we want to be proactive not reactive’ and you’re right.  The exit interview could be seen as “too little too late.” However, research shows that the exit interview process provides a safe opportunity for people looking to move on, to be really open and honest, and in doing so, this can provide immense knowledge as to why people leave and what could be adjusted to prevent future employee turnover.  

By performing due diligence when people do decide to hand their notice in, you can equip your organisation with what insights it needs to keep a happy, healthy and engaged workforce. Or, you can work to pre-empt employee turnover with the aid of employee wellbeing tools that offer insights in real-time with regard to employee mood. 

They also provide resources so that employees can better support their own mental wellbeing to reduce the chances of quitting in the first place. 

Here, we’ll cover the purpose of exit interviews, exit interview questionnaires, and touch on how employee wellbeing tools can make all the difference.

What is an Exit Interview?   

An exit interview typically takes place 2-4 weeks prior to the employee’s last working day with a particular team / organisation. It is a meeting between an employee and representative of the organisation’s management team. 

The purpose of an exit interview is so that employees can gain a better understanding as to why an individual is choosing to leave / take an internal move to another team.  With this information, the best next step is to take actions and address the issues to prevent turnover in the future whilst also providing opportunities to understand internal workplace culture if it is an internal move.

Whilst exit interviews prove to be incredibly valuable, the information gained might just be a little too late; however, it can provide proactive ways to boost future employee engagement, support their team members better, and gain insight into how they feel about their work, their life, and their work/life balance. Employee wellbeing platforms are a great initiative to deliver this solution.

Why is an Exit Interview Important?   

Exit interviews are valuable when employees do choose to leave. They are important for both employees and employers. They provide a formal setting for employees to request letters of recommendation. They also allow for employees and employers to part ways on good terms. 

Just like a first impression during the hiring process is crucial, the last impression when an employee leaves also is of value, especially when their future hiring manager calls on you as a reference. 

To help you along, we’ve compiled some of the top exit interview questions.

1. Why did you start looking for a new job?

Oftentimes, this is an uncomfortable question to ask because employees may not want to offend the organisaiton. However, it’s necessary to know because it gets to the core problems that employees face. Some common reasons why people leave jobs include: inadequate compensation, feelings of anxiety and stress, being overworked and burned out, or needing more autonomy. 

2. Did you feel equipped to do your job well?

Employees may seek another job because they are lacking the resources they need to perform this job well. That’s why it’s really important to conduct regular check-ins to make sure that employees feel supported in all aspects of their work, from having physical resources to having mental/emotional support. 

3. How would you describe the culture of our company?

Company culture tends to be a priority amongst job seekers, and for good reason. Most employees will show up more engaged and excited about work if they believe in the company’s mission and goals. At the same time, the company’s values must be reflected for employees in the workplace, too. 

4. What could have kept you employed here?

Sometimes, this is a tough question to answer because it’s not always easy to pinpoint one thing or the other. However, by positioning it in this way, you get to know what employees prioritise when considering staying or leaving a job. For example, if they say that they want more pay, you may need to look at your salary and benefits packages. Or, it could come down to simply being recognised and rewarded for a job well done.

5. What would you change about your job?

The company culture and fit could’ve been perfect, but the employee’s actual role may have been the problem. Perhaps, they wanted more staff training and development for growth opportunities. Or, they were in need of more support from their direct managers and never got it. Finding out about these bottlenecks and challenges can help to rectify them for the next employee.

6. How did you feel about your workload?

Many employees silently suffer at work when they are reaching their maximum output levels. However, they may be afraid to push back, say no, or set boundaries in fear of being fired. How would you know that your team members are feeling overwhelmed by their workload? 

Without an employee wellbeing tool in your organisation, it would be very unlikely that you would ever know this is how your employees are feeling. But, with an employee wellbeing platform, you would have access to such insights and identify in advance that there are areas where more support and solutions are needed. 

7. Did you share concerns with anyone at the company prior to choosing to leave?

This question is huge. It tells you whether or not employees feel seen and heard and by whom. If the answer is no, then you need to look at your systems in place to attain employee feedback. 

From running consistent employee surveys to check-ins or open forums, employees need to know that they can express their needs and concerns. But, the truth is, even when you offer these modes for communication, some employees may fear speaking up. 

This is why employee wellbeing tools are so valuable. They give employees the freedom to choose when to check-in. Since they have questions that are expertly-devised, they remain unbiased and open the door for employees and employers to honestly assess employees’ mental wellbeing. 

8. Were you satisfied with the way you were managed at work?

Finding a good balance for managers and employees often looks a lot like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. While some employees prefer hand holding and more micromanagement, others thrive off of autonomy. That’s why it’s necessary for managers to understand their employee’s preferences and offer support as needed.

9. Did you feel you had clear goals and objectives?

People with clear goals, objectives, and measurements of success are more likely to be engaged at work because they know what they are working towards. If the answer is no, then you’ll want to make sure that you are communicating how employees’ roles play a part in the larger purpose. If employees lack connection with their work, then they will be likely to look elsewhere to find purpose.

10. Did you receive constructive feedback to help improve your performance?

When employees feel at a loss and don’t get the support they need, it can lead to frustration, feelings of worthlessness, and stagnation. Employee wellbeing tools offer access to anonymised and aggregated trends in mental wellbeing so that HR and management teams can provide support to departments that need it the most. 

This way, you can address their challenges with them in a timely manner, rather than allowing their frustration to grow and lead them to the extreme of having to quit.

11. How can our company improve its training and development opportunities?

Training and development programmes are not just for new hires. Existing employees want to know that they can progress and improve their skills. If this is a reason why your employee is walking away, then by asking this question you get to know what could’ve been different and make changes.

12. Would you recommend working for this company to your family and friends? Why/Why not?

Sometimes, the job just isn’t a good fit for a certain individual. It doesn’t always mean that the company was lacking anything at all. In these cases, previous employees could be excellent referral sources to fill positions. That’s if they answer yes to this. If not, then you are also opening the door to better understand what should be done differently to improve employee satisfaction.

13. Were you given opportunities to develop in your role? What were they?

Along with the staff and training question, this one gets more into the nitty gritty of how employees feel supported to grow. It can offer a deeper understanding of what might be missing from the existing staff training and development programme. It provides a way to see whether the current methods are actually supporting employees in getting to the next step.

14. Within your immediate team and working environment, did you feel the culture was supportive?  Why / Why not?

Team culture and dynamics are an important part of an employee feeling a sense of belonging. When we focus on team culture, it should feel like a family - team dynamics, values and purpose are factors which should be worked on to ensure that teams collectively work towards being high performing.  

15. Did you feel your work was recognised? Why/Why not?

91% of HR professionals believe that an employee would remain in a job if they receive sufficient rewards and recognition for their efforts. It makes sense that this matters so much. People who work to the best of their abilities should be lauded for doing so. While it is of course what they are being paid to do, the recognition goes a level deeper and touches on an individual's psychological needs. 

16. Do You Feel Like Your Health and Wellbeing Were Taken Seriously?   

By asking this question, you get to see how and where you may be able to improve the workplace environment with regard to employees’ physical and mental health. This covers essentials like resources and healthcare benefits, but also drills down into how a workplace cares for its employees overall mental wellbeing. 

By prioritising mental wellbeing, organisations can support healthier, happier, and more engaged employees. As a result, you can proactively minimise the chance of turnover in some instances.

17. What Qualities Do You Think We Should Look For In Your Replacement?

When you first hired the employee that is leaving, you may have defined the skills necessary for the job. But, in the time from when they were hired to now when they are leaving, the role and expectations likely have shifted in one way or another. Asking this question helps you to develop a more accurate job description to hire a fitting replacement.

18. What Was The Best Part Of Your Job?

Every person values different aspects of their job to their own degree. But, you may begin to notice patterns over time and the replication of responses here. By knowing this, it can help you to promote these upsides during your recruitment process.

19. What Was The Worst Part Of Your Job?   

Similarly to the insights you gain from the prior question, the same can be said here. If you’re seeing repeated answers, then you know there’s an issue that must be addressed and resolved. Be sure that you allow employees to express their answers without judgement or defensiveness here. 

20. How Would You Improve Employee Morale?

Employees, even those who leave, are your best resources in understanding the day-to-day of the workplace. Be sure to find out what they think about employee morale because it’s a huge factor in employee retention.

By Medienstürmer from Unsplash

Wrap Up 

There are so many different exit interview questions to choose from. You can pick those that you feel are most valuable to your organisation. Be sure to realise that the reasons why employees leave your organisation serve useful to you only if you choose to listen and take action to better the workplace environment in reaction. 

And, if you’re looking to breed a positive workplace environment and be proactive in understanding how your employees are faring day-in and day-out, to reduce employee turnover and maximise employee happiness, then consider using an employee wellbeing tool to benefit everyone in your organisation and strengthen your team’s mental fitness.

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