The Best Exit Interview Questions to Ask and Why?

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What is an Exit Interview?

If you’ve never heard of an exit interview or aren’t well versed in them, this article is exactly what you need to start implementing them successfully in your company.

An exit interview is an interview or survey held with an employee that is on their way out of the company.


What are the main goals of an exit interview?

The exit interview process has a few main objectives:

1. Get a better understanding of the employees’ reason or reasons for leaving your company

2. Get an idea of what their experience was like working there and how it aligns or misaligns with your perception of what it should be like

3. Provides actionable information, insights, and issues within your company that you may not be aware of

These goals work together to provide you with a platform to act, making the necessary changes and additions to your company to ensure it becomes a better place to work in the future.


The benefits of exit interviews

If you own your own company, manage a team, or work in HR you know that hiring is expensive, really expensive. This is why so much time and effort is put towards better employee retention and turnover reduction.

Inevitably, some employees will eventually part ways with your organization, for one reason or another. Depending on the size of your company the number of employees leaving on an annual, monthly, or even weekly basis may be significant.

The most common mistake organizations make in this regard is that they don’t act on the opportunity presented by employee turnover. There’s tons of information you can extract and use to help improve your company from talking to departing employees.

This information can be used to improve your company, help to eliminate unnecessary turnover caused by internal issues and increase overall employee satisfaction. This is where exit interviews become extremely useful.



10 Great Exit Interview Questions

1. Why did you start looking for a new job?

If we’re being honest this is the question on everyone’s mind when someone announces their intended departure.

So why not ask them? The answer to this question should vary greatly depending on who you’re asking.

People look for new jobs for all kinds of reasons and they’re not always because of a negative association with your company.

Common answers may include relocation, looking for something new, changing career paths, and career advancement. These are just a few common external motivations for an employee leaving your company.

Concerns should arise when you begin to see common themes and trends among answers. For example, if “higher compensation” begins to come up more frequently, it may be a sign for you to readdress your current compensation packages to ensure they are fair and competitive with industry standards.

Just keep track of the answers you receive and look for similarities and trends to decide what needs to be acted on.

2. What would it take for you to consider returning to this company?

This is a great way to get insight into how to better the company for your employees. Often the answer they give you is the same reason they are currently moving to a different company. 

A returning high-performing employee is a welcome opportunity for smart employers, uncovering what could possibly bring them back in the future will often prevent other current employees from leaving for the same reason. 

Hiring a returning employee is also generally less expensive than a brand-new recruit as training time should be much faster.

Remember that just because the employee may know what works best for them, it won’t always be the same for others in your organization. So be careful to not switch policies, without having a solid base understanding of how the majority of employees feel. 

3. Do you feel your achievements and contributions were adequately recognized and rewarded?

This is one of the most important questions in an exit interview or survey. Underappreciated employees are likely to be the first to leave regardless of how much they enjoy their job. 

Be careful though as hollow attempts at recognition and rewards can do more damage than good, it is important to always be sincere. 

This question is a great way to discover if your recognition efforts are meaningful and appreciated or worthless to your employees.

Use this as an opportunity to have a discussion and garner ideas about recognition and reward processes in the future.

Find out the root causes of the dissatisfaction from the employee. Where did the lack of recognition stem from? Was it intentional? Was it caused by a misalignment of expectations between employer and employee?

Discovering what caused the lack of recognition is immensely helpful in ensuring it doesn’t happen again.

4. Were there policies, procedures, or systems here that you didn’t fully understand or felt could be improved?

Companies often run on a set of policies and procedures that have been in place for decades and it can be easy to credit the modern success of your business to these dated policies.

Times change and so should your policies, your principles and values should remain constant but the tools you use and resources you utilize should be updated as they advance. 

Some employees may feel they were held back by certain limitations presented in your policies and procedures.

Refrain from taking things personally during this question as it may feel that way, just because your way has and does work, doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved.

You may think that your employees understand your procedures the same way you do which usually isn’t the case. Certain employees are using these processes/procedures every day and have a deeper understanding of what is and isn’t working.

If you ask people to strictly adhere to policies without a discussion, they may not always be maximizing employee potential. Think of this question as a way to optimize efficiency in your organization. 

5. Do you feel your job description has changed since you started?

It’s almost inevitable that job descriptions will change and shift over time, especially for employees working longer stints with your company.

It takes time to understand your strengths and weaknesses in a role and how you choose to achieve results may differ from the person in the role before you.

A job description doesn’t evolve predictably, at least not usually.

Asking the outbound employee how their job description changed is important to set their replacement up for success.

You may also discover a change in title or an adjustment in pay is required, should the job description be far off the original mark.

6. Did you feel you could be honest and open with your communication and criticism within the company?

Establishing open and safe communication channels is crucial to the success and advancement of any organization.

It isn’t uncommon for criticism and opinions differing from the “norm” to be suppressed and frowned upon in the workplace. This can be dangerous as criticism and the ability to share it can often spark important discussions surrounding the success of the company and the direction it’s heading.

If you notice a trend of exiting employees stating, they didn’t feel like they could be honest when discussing work matters this should be a huge red flag. Address it immediately.

A work environment that fosters communication is essential to boosting results, productivity, and satisfaction in the workplace. 

7. What can the company improve on?

This question should be intentionally vague. The answers will vary from employee to employee, but it gives them the opportunity to discuss whatever they wish.

This will reveal hidden issues that may not be directly addressed by other questions in the exit interview/survey.

This question may also be viewed as an “if you were in charge what would you do differently?” While this may elicit an emotional response from either party it is important to understand and listen to different perspectives and ideas.

This question, like most, may invite a more candid answer should you choose a survey as your exit interview medium. 

8. Did you feel you were properly equipped to complete the job?

This can be related to many aspects of the role including tools used, training provided, goals set, any onboarding process, and more.

If there is a focus on something that hindered an employee’s ability to perform well, then more emphasis should be placed on this aspect of the role/training in the future. 

Without the right training and tools, it can become extremely difficult or even impossible to reach the intended outcomes set by managers and bosses.

Make sure your team is ready to do their best, by ensuring they have everything they need to do so.

9. What was the best part of your job here?

Not every question has to focus on things you’re doing wrong or that other companies are doing better than you.

Asking what someone’s favourite part of working with your company was, is a great way to see what you’re doing right.

You can uncover what people value when they work for you and get a better sense of your organization’s strengths.

Perhaps your company’s flexibility is what draws people in, or the ability to work from home twice a week, maybe it’s the sense of doing something meaningful. Whatever it is, you may wish to highlight it on future job postings or your website.

10. What was the team/culture like?

It’s important to have a team that not only functions well but is enjoyable to work with. This question aims to discover what the environment is like for day-to-day operations in your company.

This may also give insight into specific points of friction in departments and where that may be coming from. It may also highlight an exceptional employee’s impact on the team and company.

If you notice people continue to address a certain department in a negative way further investigation is warranted. If you notice lots of positive feedback directed to a specific team member/leader then you may wish to reward their performance.

What type of exit interview is best for your company?

There are typically two ways you can conduct an exit interview. The first is a formal interview style approach, whether online or in-person the effect is usually similar.

While effective these interview-style approaches can tend to make some people uncomfortable and they mainly refrain from giving candid or fully honest answers.

This can be a big deal if you aren’t able to hear real criticism and only hear half-baked answers of praise. Remember the exit interview is not meant to find out how great your company is but rather how much better it can be.

The second approach and one that is often considered better is the survey approach. Online surveys used as exit interviews tend to have more candid and honest answers provided. They also tend to be easier to administer to larger groups of exiting employees and require fewer resources.

Exiting employees feel more comfortable writing their feedback down rather than discussing it in person with someone they may seek a reference from in the future.

This also allows people to really think through their answers and articulate their thoughts as the pressures caused by in-person interviews are non-existent.

The problem with exit interviews and inaction.

An exit interview is useless if you aren’t prepared to act on the information you receive. If you go into this process without goals and a plan you will be met with disappointment. 

If you are going to fight change and stay stuck in your ways then exit interviews are NOT for you, they are a waste of time for you, your company, and your employees both remaining and departing.

If, however, you are looking to better your company then conducting proper exit interviews can be the key to long-term company success, increased employee satisfaction, and high retention rates.

Final tips on conducting effective exit interviews

Make sure it is unbiased and not emotionally charged. References should be unphased by the answers given by the employee. Your opinion CANNOT be influenced by the honesty within answers given.

Given the nature of such an uncomfortable situation be sure to let the employee know they can pass on any questions and be as vague as they would like but the specificity is appreciated to help make the company a better place to work in the future.

The importance of providing a quick summary at the end of an interview. Take some time to restate what you have listened to during the interview ensuring that you have correctly recorded key points throughout.

Try to get exit surveys/interviews completed during the window when the employee has declared they’re leaving but before they are gone. Chances of completion drop significantly after employees physically leave.

Keep the length of the survey or interview in mind. Although ideally, they are still on the payroll when completing they may lose motivation if the process drags on forever.

Make sure the surveys are consistent and comparable that way you can track trends and implement changes based on the data and answers you receive.


Exit interviews are an effective tool for businesses to gain insight into how employees feel about their job, their working environments, and the overall atmosphere of the business.

This feedback can be invaluable for businesses looking to improve and make changes that can positively impact employee morale and satisfaction.

They can also provide employers with data to help inform hiring decisions, improve management strategies, and identify areas of improvement for the business.

Ultimately, exit interviews can help businesses better understand their workforce and make needed changes to foster an environment that encourages employee engagement and productivity.

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Frequently Asked Questions


Why do companies do exit interviews?

Exit interviews are often conducted by companies when an employee is leaving the organization, and they serve several purposes:

  1. Feedback: Exit interviews provide an opportunity for the departing employee to provide feedback on their experiences working at the company, including positive and negative feedback. This feedback can help the company identify areas for improvement and make changes to address issues that may have contributed to the employee’s departure.

  2. Retention: If an employee is leaving due to issues that could have been addressed, the feedback provided during an exit interview can help the company take steps to address those issues and improve the retention of other employees.

  3. Legal protection: An exit interview can also help protect the company from legal issues. For example, if an employee was leaving due to discrimination or harassment, the exit interview can help the company identify and address any issues related to these concerns.

  4. Brand reputation: Conducting exit interviews in a respectful and professional manner can help to maintain the company’s reputation, as it demonstrates a commitment to listening to and addressing employee concerns.

Overall, exit interviews can provide valuable insights and feedback for companies, as well as help to improve employee retention and maintain a positive brand reputation.

How long should an exit interview be?

The length of an exit interview can vary depending on the organization, the reason for the employee’s departure, and the amount of feedback the employee wants to provide. In general, most exit interviews last between 30 minutes to an hour, although some may be shorter or longer depending on the circumstances.

It’s important for the interviewer to be respectful of the employee’s time and ensure that the interview does not drag on for too long. Additionally, the interviewer should focus on asking open-ended questions that allow the employee to provide meaningful feedback without feeling rushed.

In some cases, the employee may not have a lot of feedback or may not want to spend a lot of time discussing their departure. In these situations, the exit interview may be relatively short. On the other hand, if the employee has a lot of feedback or concerns, the interview may take longer.

Ultimately, the length of an exit interview should be guided by the goal of gathering valuable feedback and insights, while also being respectful of the employee’s time and comfort level.

When should an exit interview be conducted?

Ideally, an exit interview should be conducted as close to the employee’s last day of work as possible. This allows the employee’s experiences and feedback to be fresh in their mind and ensures that the interview is conducted while the employee is still an active part of the company.

However, it’s also important to be sensitive to the departing employee’s schedule and availability. If it’s not possible to conduct the interview on the employee’s last day, it’s important to schedule it as soon as possible after their departure.

In some cases, the company may choose to conduct the exit interview before the employee’s last day if they are leaving due to a negative experience or if they are being terminated. In this situation, the company may want to conduct the interview earlier to address any concerns and attempt to resolve any issues before the employee leaves.

Regardless of when the exit interview is conducted, it’s important to approach the process with sensitivity and respect for the departing employee. The interviewer should be prepared to listen to the employee’s feedback and concerns, and should work to create an environment where the departing employee feels comfortable sharing their experiences.

Should I do an exit interview or survey?

Whether to conduct an exit interview or an exit survey depends on several factors, such as the size of the organization, the number of departing employees, the resources available to conduct the interview or survey, and the company culture.

Exit interviews tend to be more personal and can provide more detailed feedback than a survey. They can help build relationships between the company and the departing employee by showing that the company values the employee’s experiences and feedback. Additionally, exit interviews can allow for follow-up questions and further exploration of feedback, leading to a deeper understanding of the employee’s experience.

On the other hand, exit surveys can be more efficient and easier to administer to a larger group of departing employees. Surveys can also provide more standardized data that is easier to analyze and compare across multiple employees. Additionally, surveys can be conducted anonymously, which may encourage more honest and candid feedback.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to conduct an exit interview or an exit survey will depend on the goals of the company and the resources available. Some companies may choose to conduct both, using surveys to collect quantitative data and interviews to explore qualitative feedback in more detail.


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