Love it or hate it (we know, you hate it), you’re going to lose employees every now and then.
And, while turnover can be a somewhat brutal pill to swallow, there’s still one last thing you need to take care of before that team member packs up his or her desk and walks out the office door for good: the exit interview.
Groan, right? Employers and employees alike seem to dread these final sit-downs where you hash out what went well and what could’ve been better. But, as an employer, you also know that there’s really no better opportunity to gather valuable feedback that you can use to improve moving forward—provided you know exactly what to ask.
Fortunately, we can help with that last part. Here are 10 exit interview questions you should be sure to ask employees before you bid them your final, bittersweet goodbye.
1. Why Are You Leaving?
This is one of those nuts and bolts questions that you might already know the answer to by the time the exit interview rolls around. However, before proceeding to other questions, you want to make sure you’re clear on exactly why that employee is leaving his current position.
Was he offered a better opportunity (or higher pay) elsewhere? Does he need to relocate for personal reasons? Did he want to make a career change entirely?
Starting with this one simple and straightforward prompt will arm you with the context that you need to successfully move through the rest of the interview.
2. What Was the Biggest Factor That Led You to Accept This New Job?
While this question is similar to the first, it takes things one step further and helps you to identify if there’s one specific area where you need to step up your game in order to improve your retention efforts.
Perhaps that employee mentions that this job offered an opportunity for advancement that she didn’t think was possible in your office—meaning you need to make internal paths for growth and development more explicitly clear. Or, maybe she explains that the salary was too good to pass up—indicating that you might need to take another look at your compensation structure.
The important thing to remember here is that you shouldn’t get defensive or argumentative. If you ask the question, you need to be willing to receive the honest answer.
3. What Did You Like Most About Your Position Here?
While exit interviews can often feel like ruthless feedback-gathering sessions, there’s nothing wrong with sprinkling in a little good news and positivity by discovering what that employee enjoyed most.
This information will give you some insider insight into the highlights of that particular position—which can be helpful when you’re creating the job description and recruiting new candidates.
4. What Did You Dislike Most About Your Position Here?
The converse of that question might not be as fun to ask, but it can be equally as valuable.
Did that employee feel that too much of his time was spent on administrative work or bureaucratic headaches? Or, did he have too many leaders or managers giving him directions—that oftentimes conflicted with one another?
Your employee’s answer to this question will give you the information you need to determine if there are any adjustments that should be made to that position—before you take steps to fill it.
5. How Would You Describe Your Relationship With Your Manager?
You’ve likely heard that people leave managers, and not companies. So, it’s important that you get some insight into what that employee thought about the dynamic with her department leader.
This question can be one of the toughest for the employee to answer. In order to ease any nerves, make it clear that the purpose of this inquiry isn’t to throw anybody under the bus. Instead, you’re aiming to gain an understanding of what your leadership team is succeeding at—as well as what they can improve upon in the future.
6. Do You Think You Were Adequately Equipped to Do Your Job Well?
The most successful employees are the ones who feel supported, encouraged, and educated in their positions. For that reason, you need to find out how your company is measuring up in that regard.
Did that team member feel like he wasn’t provided thorough training and was instead tossed to the wolves, so to speak? Was he frustrated by outdated technology or an uncommunicative supervisor?
Again, this is important information for you to have so that you can make the transition for any new employees that much easier.
7. How Did This Job Match Up With Your Skills and Qualifications?
Did this employee feel as if her position fit well with her own experience and competencies? Or, did she feel as if she had certain skills or areas of expertise that were completely ignored or under-utilized?
In addition to focusing on the actual qualifications of the job, you can also dig a little deeper to find out if this job matched her personal goals and interests. That way, you can uncover if there are steps you need to take to better understand your employees—and then adjust their career paths accordingly.
8. What Three Things Could This Company Do to Improve?
While all of these questions help to dig up areas where your company could make some adjustments, this prompt gets straight to the heart of it.
Be forewarned that this might be another one that employees are hesitant to answer (particularly when so they’re conditioned not to burn bridges!).
However, you can help to relieve some tension by suggestion an area of improvement yourself first by saying something like: “For example, I think we could be doing a better job of keeping everybody informed of cross-departmental projects and efforts. What do you think? What are three key things you think we could improve?”
9. What Key Skills and Qualifications Should We Look For in Your Replacement?
Nobody has greater insight into what that position requires than the person who filled it. So, make sure to ask what he thinks you should be looking for in the candidate who will step into his shoes.
With this advice, you’ll be able to appropriately tailor the requirements listed on the job description, as well as zero in on the applicants who will likely be the best fit for that open role.
10. Would You Recommend This as a Great Place to Work?
This is a great question to use to wrap up the interview, as it essentially summarizes everything else that was already discussed.
Will you get a truthful answer here? Honestly, there are no guarantees. But, if nothing else, your employee likely won’t give a flat-out “no.” Instead, she’ll hopefully share some details about the types of people she thinks will thrive and excel in your office environment.
Exit interviews can feel awkward at best. But, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re a valuable opportunity to get some helpful feedback from people who are leaving your office.
Keep these 10 exit interview questions handy, and you’ll be able to lead a productive and worthwhile conversation that will empower you to make necessary improvements moving forward (and, as as result, decrease your turnover!).
Photo of exit interview courtesy of Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author