Exit Interviews Unveiled – Top 10 Exit Interview Questions to Gain Valuable Insights & Drive Organizational Improvement
Table of Content
- Importance of an Exit Interview
- How to Prepare for an Exit Interview
- Exit Interview Themes
- Exit Interview Questions to Ask
- Wrapping Up
Employers mainly neglect conducting exit interviews, they believe that when an employee is already leaving an organization, there is no need to ask them about the reasons for their resignation. It is true that when an employee leaves the organization it costs twice an employee’s salary to find a replacement, but even on the last day, an employee could be a resourceful asset for an employer. They can provide them with insights into the organization’s weaknesses, which could be taken into regard in the future.
What is an Exit Interview?
An exit interview is basically a discussion between a departing employee and an HR professional. An exit interview aims to find out why that employee is leaving the organization, which can provide the employer with valuable insights about the organization’s drawbacks so that those issues could be solved by the HR professional in the future.
However, it is not necessary that every employee that leaves the organization leaves because of some weakness or drawback, they might be leaving because of some other reasons, such as shifting to a new location, exploring opportunities, expanding their career, eager to gain experience from different organizations, and so on. To find out the actual reason, exit interviews are needed.
An employee can give various suggestions and ideas for improving policies or strategies, but they might be restricted while they are working for the organization. Since they are already leaving the organization, they can give their opinions on several matters. Employers have a golden chance to ask questions to know the perspective of a departing employee, and those insights could be used for the development of the organization.
Importance of an Exit Interview
Even though an exit interview formally ends the relationship between an employer and an employee, it also gives the employer the tools to identify areas for improvement within the organization. There are various reasons why an exit interview is important for an organization, and they include:
Retaining Existing Employees
One of the most important reasons for an exit interview is that they help in retaining existing employees. As the employee is more likely to speak freely with the employer, the employee can even provide solutions to the employer for better employee retention strategies which could be implemented for existing employees. Several issues can be highlighted through this, such as issues regarding organizational culture, lack of communication, leadership roles, etc.
Understanding Why Employees Leave
An employee either leaves with a good impression of an organization or a bad one, and to know which side they are on, an exit interview is conducted. When employees are given a platform, they can provide the employer with information on how their experience was in the organization. This information could help the employer in working on employee retention strategies in the future.
Uncovering Employee Issues
When an employee is already working in the organization, they generally don’t talk openly with the employer. Even if they have issues regarding organizational culture or their coworkers, they remain silent or try to ignore those issues thinking it might jeopardize their career when raising such an issue. However, when an employee is leaving the organization, they are more comfortable in addressing the issues and more open on giving their opinions. They can even talk about any conflicts occurring among employees.
Maintaining Positive Work Culture
Conducting exit interviews is a great practice for maintaining a positive work culture. When departing employees will be treated with utmost respect and gratitude, the existing employees will feel positive about the workplace. This ultimately increases employee satisfaction and employee engagement.
Parting on Good Terms
Negative words spread out faster than positive comments, the same is the case with a departing employee. If an employee is leaving the organization with a bad impression of it, then it is the employer’s duty to make things right, and conducting exit interviews is the perfect way to do that. When an employee is given the chance to express themselves, and the employer values their thoughts and perspectives, then there is a high chance that the employee is going to feel valued by the organization. Thus, the risk of employees speaking negatively about the organization reduces.
How to Prepare for an Exit Interview
Different exit interviews will gather different valuable data, but the purpose of all the exit interviews is the same, i.e., gathering valuable insights. Employers need to make sure that the exit survey is clear and easy to understand, and in order to prepare an effective exit interview, one should follow the tips stated below:
The employer must ensure that the exit interview is conducted one week prior to an employee’s departure. It shouldn’t be too early or at the last moment. The employee should also be given the questions prior to the interview so that they could prepare themselves for giving effective answers.
Neutral Party Involvement
When the interview is conducted by a neutral party, the employee gets a platform to speak more freely. However, if a direct supervisor is conducting the interview, the level of frankness could not be the same, because if the employee wants to highlight some negative points about them, it wouldn’t be easy for them to do so. Many organizations also use external companies or consultants to conduct the interviews, that way the employee can speak freely and comfortably.
Exit interviews don’t have to be frigid all the time, if an employer wants to show that the contribution of that employee mattered to the organization, then he needs to connect with their issues on a personal level. An exit interview has to be open-ended and not overly structured, as that makes the employee feel nervous or anxious.
During an exit interview, the employer needs to actively listen to the employee. The employer has to understand each word they are saying, and could even note it down, these expressions will make the employee feel that their feedback actually matters to the organization.
To make the offboarding process more efficient, the employer could even ask the departing employee to fill out a written survey. The written survey could include graphical rating questions, multiple-choice questions, detailed questions, etc. The purpose of a written survey is to let the employees reflect over their replies in advance, and this also helps the interviewer to prepare questions according to the responses received.
Confidentiality of Feedbacks
Even though the employee is leaving the organization, on many occasions the employee doesn’t feel comfortable sharing something with the employer. In such cases, the employer should conduct confidential feedback, so that the employee doesn’t have to worry about any future comebacks.
Exit Interview Themes
Some of the common exit interview themes are:
Exit Interview Questions to Ask
A well-structured exit interview is helpful for both parties. A perfectly created exit interview will allow the employee to share their experiences and opinions, and it is also helpful for the employer to gain valuable information.
The first rule while conducting an exit interview is to not make it look scripted, and the meeting should always be attended with proper preparation. The employer should compile a few interview questions beforehand for guidance, and they also need to make sure that their conversational tone is casual and friendly.
Some of the questions that could be asked in an exit interview are:
Question 1 – What led you to start searching for a new job?
Reason to ask – This open-ended question is a great way to start the interview. The answer to this question could either focus on what the organization they are currently working in lacks or what other organizations have to offer. In either case, the employer could get a clear picture of the employee’s situation. This question directs the conversation to the employee’s biggest concern, which could lead to several other questions as well.
Question 2 – What did you like best and least about your job and this company?
Reason to ask – This question includes two answers, the first part invites positive feedback, while the second part invites negative feedback. The first part reflects on what the organization is good at, and the second part reflects an answer that could be the reason for the employee’s departure. If the employee highlights the good part, then the employer needs to stay focused on that and stick with it. On the other hand, for the negative part, whatever the employee’s answer is, the questions asked after that should be related to that only.
Question 3 – Do you feel you were given adequate support, resources, and tools to succeed in your job?
Reason to ask – Since an employee is already exiting the organization, it is important to ask them that were they supported by their managers or supervisors or not. This question points to a major area of potential improvement for the organization. With an issue like this, the employee generally has an answer to it as well, so the employer could even ask them about the solution to that problem. Having information on this question can help the existing employees tremendously.
Question 4 – Do you feel that your contributions have been recognized and valued?
Reason to ask – In today’s world, every employee wants to be recognized and valued, and when organizations don’t make employees feel that way, then employees are likely to search for alternatives. Asking this question makes the employer realize whether the employees are appreciated enough or not, so that they could initiate new strategies to solve the issue. Employee morale is considered very important for a productive work environment, and if employees are facing morale issues, it could lead to turnovers, which ultimately leads to bigger problems.
Question 5 – Were your working conditions flexible enough?
Reason to ask – This question is an incredibly important concern for a lot of employees. Even though after Covid-19 remote working conditions have become quite popular. However, flexible working conditions are a lot different than remote working situations. Flexible working conditions include benefits such as schedule flexibility, paid time off, flexibility for sabbaticals, etc. Flexible working arrangements have become a priority for employees, and if companies fail to do so, then the employees are likely to search for alternatives.
Question 6 – How would you describe the company culture?
Reason to ask – This is a must-ask question for employers. A currently working employee is not going to complain about the company’s culture, but a departing employee will surely point out all the flaws in it. Creating an organizational culture and implementing it are two different things, and employers need to be mindful of their approach. Employees are the ones that experience the culture on a regular basis, and taking their opinions could give the employer a fresh perspective on understanding the company’s culture.
Question 7 – How effective was your manager in supporting your professional growth?
Reason to ask – Asking this question from a departing employee gives the employer an idea that whether the company has a management issue or not. A manager-employee relationship is a very strong relationship, because managers have direct control over employees, however, if this relationship is bad, it could lead to high employee turnover. There could be two reasons for bad management:
Firstly, a particular manager’s leadership style could be flawed, which could lead to employees leaving the organization. If the employer finds the root cause of this issue, they could eradicate the problem, which would eventually decrease employee turnover as well.
However, the second reason for bad management could be the organization’s management style. The entire organization might have been following the same management style, which in some sort would be affecting employees’ productivity, which would have been leading to a high employee turnover. If the employer finds out the real issue with the organization’s management style, then it could help the productivity of existing employees to increase.
Question 8 – What do you think the company could have done differently to retain you?
Reason to ask – This is a make-or-break question of the interview, which gives the employee a chance to dive deeper into the issue and provide its solution. For many employees, this question might not be necessary, such as a retiring employee, but this question needs to be asked from other employees. This question has to be asked at the end of the interview so that the employer gets a full picture of the issue, and could find any potential solutions to the root cause. Through this question, the employee gets a chance to be very general, and they could give a detailed answer on what could attract them and what could not.
Question 9 – Were there any specific policies or procedures that you found particularly challenging or frustrating?
Reason to ask – Just like company culture, company policies also have to be right in order to have a productive work environment. The goal of an organization shouldn’t be to order employees and make them work like robots, instead, it should be to create an environment that automatically enhances productivity and creativity. This particular question helps the employer to identify the specific company policy that is creating an obstacle for the employees, and this constructive feedback could be incorporated in the future to fix the particular problems. As said earlier, employees are the ones that encounter policies and procedures regularly, and taking feedback from them could solve several pertaining issues.
Question 10 – Do you have any more suggestions for how we could improve as a company?
Reason to ask – Every exit interview lacks one or two questions, but asking this question allows the employee to highlight all the issues they have faced while working in the organization, and they could also give relevant solutions or feedback that could help the employers solve those issues. This question needs to be asked at the very end of an exit interview, and if the employer misses out on this question, they could also risk missing out on vital information that could help in the improvement of the organization. This question also encourages the employee to talk about their experience while working in the organization, which could cover any further bases the employer might have missed.
Exit interviews are a powerful tool for improving businesses and retaining employees. Asking the right questions and getting accurate answers can help employers initiate new strategies, understand the employees better, enhance workplace culture, increase productivity & employee engagement, and most importantly reduce turnover.
Exit interviews are also a great way to attract the departing employee. When the employee notices that the employer is considering their feedback and looking to solve them in the future, then the employee might not leave the organization and stay with it. Therefore, an exit interview is considered as a last shot at retaining the departing employee.