Exit interviews can give you insightful information about your company culture and help you reduce turnover and improve employee retention—if you ask the right questions.
And asking the right questions is only one part of the equation. Your departing employees must give you honest feedback, which can only happen if you set up the right “conditions” for the exit interview.
Related reading: Employee Offboarding: How to Conduct an Exit Interview
Read on to learn the very best way (and the second best way) to conduct exit interviews, including which exit interview questions to ask and who should be asking them.
When to ask questions for an effective exit interview
The ideal time to schedule an exit interview is towards the end of the employee’s notice period, after they’ve finished their final projects and documented their processes.
The exit interview should take place face-to-face, observing social distancing, or over video conference. However, if the departing employee isn’t comfortable with either option, you can offer to do the exit interview over the phone—but note that you’ll miss out on important facial cues.
If you want to share the questions before the exit interview, put them in a survey format rather than just sending them over email. This way, you can follow up during the exit interview and ask for clarifications.
That said, if you want candid and raw answers, you’re better off asking your questions only during the exit interview.
Who should ask the questions in an exit interview?
To ensure confidentiality and anonymity, someone on your Human Resources team should conduct the exit interview. If your company doesn’t have an HR team, appoint a senior executive or a manager from a different department to interview your departing employee, or outsource the task to an agency that specializes in exit interviews.
The purpose of an exit interview is to gain honest constructive feedback from employees that have chosen to leave your organization. If you ask their manager or supervisor to conduct the exit interview, you’re jeopardizing your chance at genuine feedback.
If the employee has a sour relationship with anyone in their department, they will gloss over it in the exit interview or give a sanitized version of events. Or, if the employee has a good relationship with their manager, they’ll want to preserve it by not bringing up any issues during the exit interview.
Related reading: Boomerang Employees: What You Need to Know Before Hiring One
Remember, your departing employee is concerned about not burning any bridges and having good references from your organization.
A roundup of the best exit interview questions
When soliciting feedback from a departing employee, use as many open-ended questions as you can—questions that can’t be answered with just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Paraphrase the employee’s answers before writing them down to confirm you captured their meaning. Read out your notes to give the employee an opportunity to amend or add to their feedback.
Without further ado, here are some of the best exit interview questions to ask:
- What made you want to look for a new opportunity?
- How well did you get along with your team members? How about your manager?
- How well did your role match the job description?
- Is there anything you wish you had known about the company before you started working here?
- What’s your best advice for the next person in your role?
- How much do you feel your contributions were noticed and appreciated?
- If you had the opportunity to work here again, what would you say?
- How would you describe our company culture?
- How would you describe your manager’s management style?
- Do you see any opportunity for improvements within the company?
- What did you enjoy most about working here? What did you enjoy least?
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