Every story has an end, and sometimes, you and your employees must part ways. Try not to take these departures personally. Instead, use them as an opportunity to understand how your business can create a better experience for your next new hire.
To uncover potential areas of improvement, schedule exit interviews with your employees before their last day at your company. Departing employees have often reflected on their time with your business, and they tend to be forthcoming about what they liked and where your business could have done more to meet their expectations. Collecting and acting on this candid feedback can help you build a stronger organization.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what an exit interview is, why they’re important, and effective questions to ask in them. Plus, we’ll share an easy-to-follow exit survey template you can use to gather helpful information from your departing employees.
What is an exit interview?
While stay interviews ask current employees why they enjoy working at your company, exit interviews ask departing talent to share why they decided to leave and what changes could enhance the employee experience at your company.
These conversations typically follow the completion of an exit survey, which asks employees to respond to a series of questions to collect quantitative data about their time with your business. The exit survey is a type of employee survey that allows your team to collect quantifiable data from exiting employees, while the exit interview is your chance to dive deeper into their answers and gain more qualitative insights into their experience at your company and the decision to leave. While these conversations are most valuable when held in person, your HR team can conduct them virtually for remote employees.
Why do companies use exit interviews?
Exit interviews can help your business:
- Identify areas of improvement
- Take swift action to address negative feedback and decrease employee turnover
- Collect data to understand attrition patterns within teams, departments, demographics, etc.
- Learn what your competitors are doing right to win over talent
- Turn departing employees into advocates for your business
Exit interview template
Ready to kick off your first exit interview? Follow this exit interview template to lead productive and successful conversations with soon-to-be leaving employees.
1. Log important details
Firstly, you’ll want to take care of some administrative needs. This includes making a note of:
- The employee’s name
- Their title
- Their manager’s name
- The interviewer’s name
- The date of your conversation
- The last day of their employment
Should you need to reference anything from this exit interview in the future, this bookkeeping will help your team stay organized and quickly find past records.
2. Note their main reason for leaving
If this wasn’t already covered in an exit survey, have the individual share the main reason for their departure. If this was a voluntary departure, ask them whether they’re leaving your company for another opportunity or stepping back from the workforce to continue their education, retire, or prioritize personal endeavors. For involuntary turnover, be sure to note the reason for the employee’s dismissal: their position has been eliminated, your company had a layoff, they were underperforming, or they were found guilty of misconduct.
3. Ask questions
Next, ask any questions you have to the employee and document their responses. You can ask them to clarify any of their responses on the exit survey or ask them to share more details about specific areas of their experience with your business. Wondering what to ask? We’ll share sample exit interview questions in the next section.
4. Leave the door open
Lastly, thank the employee for their time, and wish them well on their next chapter. Ending your conversation on a positive note leaves the door open should their new role not meet their expectations. They can always rejoin your team at a later date.
Exit interview questions
Once an employee has completed their exit survey, you’ll want someone on your team to review their responses and prepare a few questions for a follow-up exit interview. Asking specific, detailed questions in the exit interview will provide insight into the employee’s experience working at your company and the factors that led to their decision to leave.
To help you assemble this list, we’ve gathered a few common exit survey questions and categorized them for your convenience.
Even if some of the following questions are included in your exit survey, you might want to follow up on them in person to learn more about your employee responses. By drilling down into their survey answers or asking more broadly about their experience, you can use these questions to kick off your conversation and gain a deeper understanding of their time at your business and whether they’re leaving on good terms or bad. Employees sometimes boomerang back, so be sure to remind them your door is always open if their new role doesn’t meet their expectations.
Here are a few examples of general exit interview questions:
- What does [Company] do well?
- How could [Company] improve?
- What factors impacted your decision to leave?
- What was the main reason you decided to leave [Company]?
- On a scale of 1 to 5, what would you rate your experience at [Company] overall?
- Would you recommend [Company] as a place to work to a friend or family member?
- Is there anything we didn’t cover that you would like to touch on?
Money matters. A ConsumerAffairs survey found that 47% of employees say they would leave a job for higher pay. Asking questions about your company’s compensation package and that of an employee’s future employer can help your business understand how your pay stacks up against the competition.
- Did you feel fairly compensated for your role and performance?
- What does your new company provide that we do not?
- Are there any benefits we don’t currently offer that you believe we should?
When employees don’t feel supported or set up for success in their roles, they may get fed up and look elsewhere for a work environment to help them succeed. Including exit interview questions about resources, training, and workload can help your business ensure the next individual in this role has the support they need to thrive.
- Did you feel the role you applied for accurately conveyed your current responsibilities at [Company]?
- Did you feel properly supported by your manager throughout your time at [Company]?
- Did you feel you had the right tools, resources, and training to be successful in your role? If not, what did you feel you needed?
- Did you feel your role’s workload was too light, too heavy, or just right?
- What changes to your role, if any, might have convinced you to stay?
- Did your role have clear performance expectations?
Employees crave growth. According to the University of Phoenix's Annual Career Optimism Index 2022, 40% of employees do not see a clear path to advance their careers with their current employer. If your employees can’t imagine a promising future with your business, they may leave to find the role or title they seek elsewhere.
Wondering if a lack of internal growth opportunities is pushing your talent to leave? Ask these development questions in your exit interviews:
- Did you feel [Company] was invested in your development? Why or why not?
- Did you believe there would have been good career opportunities for you at [Company]?
- What were the biggest challenges hindering your development within [Company]?
- How frequently did you receive feedback from your manager or peers?
Most organizations function from the top down, with senior leaders and executives communicating priorities and setting goals. Strong leadership can help the company flourish, while weak leadership can negatively impact employee morale and push employees to run for the door.
Ask these questions to understand whether your senior leadership contributed to an employee’s decision to leave:
- Do you feel the leaders at [Company] keep people informed about what is happening with the business?
- Did the leaders at [Company] communicate a vision that motivated you?
- How could our leadership team improve?
Liking the people you work with is a big driver of workplace happiness and why many individuals stay at a company. If your employee didn’t feel connected to their colleagues or like they could speak up in a team setting, your business should understand why so you can ensure this doesn’t happen to a future hire.
Here are a few questions you can ask about team relationships and any issues that might be preventing employees from feeling supported by their teammates.
- Did you feel connected to your team? Why or why not?
- Did you feel you could speak openly to your team and be your true self at work?
- Are there any pressing issues impacting employee morale on your team? What are they, and do you have any suggestions about how they could be improved?
- Did you feel your team welcomed communication and collaboration?
- Did you feel comfortable approaching your manager with issues and feedback?
- Did you feel you were a valued member of your team and of [Company]?
Streamline exit interviews with Culture Amp
If you’re looking to introduce exit interviews at your company, Culture Amp can help. In addition to automating exit surveys, Culture Amp allows interviewers to view the employee’s responses and capture any notes in preparation for their conversation. These responses and notes can be easily printed out and brought to the exit interview, or the interviewer can add notes directly to Culture Amp during or after the meeting. This ensures all information stays in one convenient spot, so your business can safely store and reference survey and exit interview data as needed.