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Ask these 11 questions during an exit interview to fuel retention

Posted by Celene Robert

January 18, 2022

An exit interview is a conversation between a business and a person who is separating from the organization. Employers may opt to conduct these interviews in person, over the phone, by videoconference or through a written or online survey.

Companies conduct exit interviews primarily to:

• Determine the reasons behind an employee’s resignation.

• Derive information that can help you better understand employee turnover.

• Gather constructive feedback for improving the work environment.

• Determine underlying problems to avoid letting problems fester.

To keep your top performers and attract more of them, it’s essential to understand why an employee is departing and what might make them stay. A properly conducted exit interview gives you an opportunity to hear their honest feedback and a chance to improve on areas such as:

• Job roles and responsibilities.

• Training and development opportunities.

• Leadership and communication across the team.

• Company culture, mission and policies.

• Work-life balance.

• Benefits like compensation, paid time off and retirement.

Here are the best questions to ferret out the employee’s reasons for leaving so you’re better-positioned to encourage others to stay.

Q1: Why did you join our company, and what prompted you to look for a new job?

This question helps you home in on both what attracted the employee and what drove them away. The latter could be anything from issues with their team to work culture, from personal problems to a higher salary or myriad other reasons.  

Q2: What made you accept the new job?

The answer to this question helps you understand their criteria for choosing a new employer. It’s a chance to gauge what your competitors are doing better than you from an employee’s perspective. For example, work-from-home and other flexible work arrangements have become the new normal. Are you meeting these expectations?

Q3: What were your accomplishments and challenges? 

Documenting the positive experiences of a departing employee is just as important as identifying the negatives. You want to hear about their positive experiences and what made them feel stressed and anxious.

"I would encourage it to be a dialogue about the highs and lows of the job, rather than focusing on the end point," said Anna Oakes, Quartz’s head of people.


Q4: How would you describe our company culture?

Companies with a great work culture are better at employee retention. This question helps you assess your company’s culture from an employee’s perspective. You may also specifically ask about diversity and inclusion, and about remote-work policies.

Q5: Did you receive proper training and career growth opportunities? 

If you want people to stay for the long run, you need to provide the tools and development opportunities for career growth. Asking this question should elicit whether the departing employee found the role’s growth opportunities acceptable and on par with industry standards.

Q6: Did you have access to the technology you needed?

The answer to this interview question can help you optimize the technology your employees have access to. If employees don't have the digital tools required for effective work or communication, they may leave due to the fear of becoming unmarketable. 

Q7: Did you have any challenges working with team members?

People enjoy working in a team when their opinions and viewpoints are heard and considered. It may turn out that in this employee’s view, your company doesn’t allow space for staff to grow or is dismissive to employee perspectives, which is actionable information for you to improve retention.

Q.8: Do you feel your work was valued and recognized?

Getting constructive feedback and feeling appreciated are key to employee satisfaction. By analyzing the response to this question, you can improve your engagement efforts and recognition strategies. You can also ask whether they received timely feedback about their work and appreciation for their contributions.

Q.9: How is the company’s work-life balance?

Since the pandemic set in, employees have increasingly been seeking a better work-life balance. Many employees are ready to resign or find a new job if they can’t manage their personal life with work. These follow-up questions can help further assess work-life balance:

• Did you often stay late or take work home?

• Do you find the leave policies fair and inclusive?

Q10: Do you have suggestions for how we can improve?

Companies that maintain good terms with departing employees may have a chance to rehire them once they glean deeper insights about the market and competitors. This should be an open-ended question. Avoid being defensive, and gently ask for suggestions for improvement. 

Q11: What factors might convince you to stay or work for this company in the future? 

Asking this question at the end of the exit interview could elicit other factors not touched on already. 


Celene Robert
Celene Robert

Celene heads up the marketing at Escalon. Passionate about helping companies grow their business, she spends her days finding new ways to bring essential business services to startups, SMBs, and growth-minded companies. Based in the PNW, she’s the proud owner of 8 pairs of Birkenstocks and a sassy, cuddly cat.

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