Exit interviews – six important exit questions to ask

Woman holding papers wearing glasses looks at another woman only half in shot


Talking to employees who have decided to leave your team is important. It will help you understand if there are issues you need to address – yet only around a third of employees ever complete an exit interview.

We look at what you can learn from an exit interview and the best questions to ask…

Most organisations are focused on creating a good environment for their employees, so that they stay for the long term and develop their careers. Understanding how colleagues feel about the workplace is a big part of improving it.

If you’re looking for honest feedback about the pros and cons of working at your organisation, an exit interview is an excellent route. There are lots of questions you could potentially ask, but these are the most informative…

What are the best exit interview questions?

What led you to look for a new job?
People rarely just leave on a whim – something will often trigger a decision to start looking for work elsewhere. It might be a clash with a manager or team member, a lack of promotion prospects or something negative about the role they were doing. All of these are issues that can be addressed.

What are you looking forward to about the new role?
Not everyone who looks for a new job takes it. This exit question gives you an insight into what your colleague is looking for at work. If it’s not something you can provide, perhaps it should be.

What could your manager have done better?
Poor management is a very common reason for people to leave their jobs. If you have a particular manager with high turnover in their team, it’s important to scrutinise the reason why. It may be that training or coaching can improve the situation.

What could we have done to keep you?
Note how well the answer to this question matches up to the response to question 2. If they are similar, the employee was clearly missing this element in their role. The issue might be related to pay, benefits, career prospects, respect at work, fair treatment… all of which are very important for your organisation to improve if you want to stay competitive.

Do you think that your job description is a fair representation of the role you were doing here? If not, how would you change it?
Once this employee leaves, you will need to replace them. It’s helpful to know whether the job description (JD) you’re using is accurate. Listen carefully to the answer and consider whether you need to update the job profile as part of the recruitment process. It’s helpful to have a copy of the JD with you in the exit interview, ready for this question.

Would you recommend our company to a friend or relative and why?
This is the ultimate litmus test of whether your employee feels good or bad about the organisation. If they would recommend a friend to join you, there probably were no major issues with the company culture or organisational values. If they wouldn’t recommend you, the reason why will be a good indication of what needs to be addressed.

Make exit interviews the norm

The key to making exit interviews really work for your team or organisation is to make them the norm. It’s less about making knee-jerk responses to comments from a single employee, and much more about identifying recurring themes from a number of exit interviews.

Remember that one person’s view may be the polar opposite of someone else’s – so it’s crucial to identify common opinions before deciding on the action to take.

Exit interviews are an invaluable tool to get a better understanding of how your organisation can improve. They also convey a significant message – that every member of the team is valued and listened to… even if they are leaving.

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