Employees leaving your company can offer a wealth of insight into your employee experience. They can expose potential weaknesses in your company’s processes and company culture. Or provide an evaluation of management and give you ideas for improving employee retention.

Often, employees feel more comfortable giving honest feedback when they’re leaving a company. That makes exit interviews a crucial step in the offboarding process and well worth running.

They are best run by HR, as this helps people open up if their manager isn’t in the room. But it’s important managers do get an overview of what was discussed, so that development can happen.

They’re something all HR teams should be looking to implement for as many leavers as possible.

However, since some exiting employees may feel uncomfortable directly sharing the real reason behind their departure, it’s often not enough to just ask “Why are you leaving?”.

Instead, consider asking a range of questions to discover some of the reasons why an employee is leaving.

Here are a few great questions for exit interviews to help you get the most value from these final conversations.

Questions for exit interviews about why they are leaving

1. What prompted you to begin searching for another job?

Kick off the exit interview by asking the employee why they’re leaving. Their answer can help guide the discussion and spark ideas for follow-up questions.

This question can also help you determine what more you could be offering to land or keep top talent.

For example, you might notice exiting employees often say they’re leaving because there wasn’t enough opportunity for advancement. This could be a sign that managers aren’t properly addressing their employees’ development.

2. Do you feel your manager gave you what you needed to succeed?

From training to performance reviews, managers have a responsibility to ensure their team have what they need to be great.

This is one of the best exit interview questions HR execs should be asking. It can reveal if employees feel abandoned in any certain areas which can be addressed with managers and fixed.

3. What did you like best and least about your job?

This question will help identify what might get future candidates excited about the role and set expectations for the position. For example, if an exiting employee says they were unhappy with how often they had to travel, you’ll want to make sure the next hire is comfortable with that, or change it.

4. Do you think your job has changed since you were hired?

Job roles often change based on the fluctuating needs of the department or the company.

Sometimes these changes demand a different set of skills than the position initially required. This change and can make current employees less enthusiastic about their work.

Hearing how a role has changed will provide you with critical details to include in the job description to make sure your next hire is well-suited for these new demands.

5. Did you feel your achievements were recognized throughout your employment?

Recognition is crucial to the employee experience.

When employees know the company notices and values their contributions, it improves motivation, fuels productivity and can decrease turnover.

If an employee doesn’t feel their efforts were appreciated, this could be part of the reason they’ve chosen to leave.

Questions for exit interviews about changing things for the future

6. What suggestions do you have for us? How could we improve?

From suggestions about management style, compensation and benefits to which snacks to stock in the kitchen, it’s important to consider all types of feedback.

While you may not be able to make all proposed changes, knowing what employees find important will help you determine how to improve workplace morale and prevent other employees from leaving for similar reasons.

Start general, looking at the company, but as the conversation progresses, get specific and ask about their manager, leadership, HR even.

7. Is there anything that would have changed your mind about leaving?

This exit interview question is purposefully direct and can help you get to the crux of why an employee has chosen to leave.

Often, what would have encouraged an employee to stay is also the catalyst behind their reason to move on and is worth examining further. For example, if an employee says they probably wouldn’t have quit if the company offered more flexibility, then it might be time to explore a hybrid/remote work policy, flexible start and finish times, unlimited vacation or other flexible work options.

8. Would you recommend this company to a friend? Why or why not?

Even though they ultimately decided to leave your company, former employees can be excellent referral sources.

In an ideal world, every exiting employee would answer “yes” to this question — but the reality is there may be some who are so unhappy with their experience that they would feel uncomfortable referring their contacts. In this case, identify the issues and make corrections as quickly as possible.

9. Did you share any of the concerns we discussed today with your manager or someone else before deciding to leave?

Asking this exit interview question can reveal whether employees feel safe and comfortable voicing their concerns and opinions in the workplace.

If their answer to this question is “no,” it could be a sign that your leadership/managers need to work on building a culture where employees feel confident speaking up and sharing their concerns, without fear of negative consequences or retaliation.

If their answer is “yes,” it may mean that managers (1) aren’t taking employee feedback seriously or (2) aren’t asking for feedback often enough. Look at tools and processes that help foster a culture of feedback between managers and their teams – a check-in should be your first port of call.

10. What’s the hiring process been like where you’re going? What should we learn from them?

Looking outward is a key survival tactic for all businesses. No one company is perfect, (though some may claim to be) and we can all learn from each other.

Your leaving employee has just gone through a hiring process and has likely noticed some key differences between ‘you’ and ‘them’. It’d be a mistake not to take the opportunity to find out what those differences are.

This question can also spin out into things like first impressions, the employee benefit package, and other key differences between the two companies.

Time to run an effective exit interview

An exit interview offers employers a unique opportunity to get honest and open feedback that can help improve the experience for current and future employees.

Asking these great questions for exit interviews will help you glean valuable information about why employees choose to leave and give you a roadmap for how to improve retention and keep employees happy long-term.

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