A comprehensive exit interview is a key part of a successful offboarding process and, when done right, can give HR valuable insights they can use to improve their practices for future business success.
But it’s not as simple as sitting down with your leaver for a quick chat. You need to ask the right exit interview questions to ensure you walk away with a clear understanding of why your (now ex) employee is leaving and what you can do better for future hires.
Why you need to get exit interviews right
Getting exit interviews right allows HR to make decisions based on facts rather than assumptions. For example, a Saratoga Institute study of 19,500 exit interviews found that almost 90% of managers believed that the predominant reason their employees were leaving was for monetary gain when in reality, that figure was 12%.
The same study identified 7 reasons for departure that were much more varied, and significantly more nuanced than simply compensation:
- Limited career growth or promotional opportunity (16%)
- Lack of respect from or support by supervisor (13%)
- Compensation (12%)
- Job duties boring or unchallenging (11%)
- Supervisor’s lack of leadership skills (9%)
- Work hours (6%)
- Unavoidable reasons (5%)
Understanding the reasons why an employee leaves your organisation is the only way to improve future practices. And the only way to get the truth is by asking the right questions!
15 exit interview questions to improve your business
So what are the right questions to ask?
Mostly, they are open-ended questions that allow your leaver to share their authentic experience of working for your organisation. The right question leaves room for interpretation but is focused enough to guide your leaver into giving a specific answer.
Here are our picks for the top 15 exit interview questions HR can use to improve their business practices:
|1. Why did you choose to start searching for a new role?|
Asking your leaver point-blank WHY they’re leaving is an exit interview staple for a few reasons: It gets the ball rolling, allows for your leaver to give a broad overview of their reasons for leaving, and lets HR gather top-level information that can help steer the rest of the interview.
|2. What factors contributed to you accepting your new role?|
This question lets you compare your organization to others hiring for similar roles - your leaver is likely to highlight some of the areas in which their new employer is ‘out-performing’ your own (at least in a recruitment context) so be sure to take notes.
|3. Do you feel that your current job description matches what you do here?|
It is not uncommon for an employee's day-to-day activities to shift away from their initial job description during their tenure. This question will give insight into whether this is the case for this offboardee, how far the role has shifted from what was initially offered, and whether or not the leaver feels positively or negatively about the shift.
|4. Can you recall any specific situations that contributed to your decision to leave the company?|
It can be difficult to speak up about negative situations, particularly if those involved worked closely with your leaver. This is an important question to ask as it gives the leaver a clear opportunity to speak openly and honestly about negative experiences and how they may have affected their experience with your organization.
|5. What is something you enjoyed about your role?|
Remember, it’s not all negative! There will undoubtedly be things that your leaver enjoyed about working for your organization and it is just as important to gather those positive insights so you can replicate them in the future.
|6. What is something you did not enjoy about your role?|
Of course, with the positive comes the negative. This question allows your leaver to be critical of your organization in context - specifically the context of their role. This will help HR to make actionable changes on a team level if they see the same feedback coming in from leavers in similar roles.
|7. Do you believe that our benefits and policies are fair to all employees?|
Asking this question to a leaver will give you a realistic understanding of how your benefits and company policies are received by your employees. Whilst it’s not necessary to action every suggestion, if you consistently see the same negative feedback about your work-from-home policy or your health support benefit, it’s probably time to make a change.
|8. Are we doing enough to support diversity and inclusion in our workplace?|
A commitment to diversity and inclusion is an important part of any modern workplace and an exit interview is a perfect opportunity to get some unfiltered feedback on whether or not your organization is doing enough. This question may also uncover some more personal feedback from your leaver that could be a catalyst for organizational change in the future.
|9. Did you receive enough training and support to excel in your role?
Providing your employees with the right training and support gives them confidence in their role, so it’s good to know whether your leavers feel like you’re ticking the right boxes here. You may even get some great ideas for NEW training modules to add to your existing processes.
|10. Do you feel that your contributions to the company were adequately recognised during your tenure?|
No one likes to feel underappreciated. Whether your leaver feels that their salary didn’t accurately reflect the hard work they put in, or they simply weren’t receiving enough credit for a job well done, it’s important to know if (and where) you’re dropping the ball when it comes to employee recognition.
|11. Were you given the resources and opportunity for personal growth during your tenure?|
The number 1 reason employees leave organisations is because of limited career growth or promotional opportunity, so it goes without saying that HR needs to know whether leavers feel they were receiving the right type of support.
|12. Are you satisfied with the way you were managed during your time here?|
Lack of strong leadership and lack of respect from management are two of the top reasons why employees seek other employment. In an exit interview, it’s important to ensure that your managers are creating healthy relationships with their team members. If you’re getting consistently poor feedback on a particular manager, it’s time to book a meeting.
|13. Are there any circumstances in which you would consider returning to our company in the future?|
According to LinkedIn, boomerang employees (employees who return after leaving a company) made up 4.5 percent of all new hires in 2021, up from 3.9 percent in 2019. With this knowledge in hand, an exit interview is a great opportunity to figure out how you might entice leavers to return to your organisation in the future.
|14. Would you recommend our organization to a friend or family member?|
Creating brand ambassadors who refer potential hires to your organisation is an excellent way to boost your recruitment efforts. Asking this question will let HR know if this leaver is a potential future brand ambassador and may give your leaver the prompt they need to recommend your organisation to their network.
|15. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?|
This may seem like a no-brainer, but allowing your leaver one last opportunity to share anything they weren't able to touch on during the rest of the interview is a nice final flourish that lets them know you are open to what they have to say.
|The final piece of the puzzle|
Too often HR holds exit interviews because it’s a best practice process, only to let the data sit and collect dust. It’s not enough to ask these 15 exit interview questions - you need to take action on the insights gained to ensure poor practices are improved and winning practices are leveraged!
Check out our employee offboarding webinar (on-demand) and learn more about how to go beyond exit interviews and create an effective exit management strategy for your organizations!