7 Must-Ask Exit Interview Questions

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You know the saying “Ignorance is bliss?” Well whoever said that was wrong. It should actually read “Ignorance is bliss for a moment, then it bites you in the ass.” There’s no place where this is truer than HR professionals discovering the true culture of their company. In a perfect world, the corporate culture standards we set would trickle down to every employee and every aspect of the business, but that isn’t usually the case. While it’s imperative that we know our company from top to bottom, inside and out, HR professionals sometimes aren’t privy to what employees don’t want us to know.

It may be that employees could be reprimanded for what they don’t want you to know, or it may just be that they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. No matter what the reason, what we don’t know can hurt us and our company. The culture of your company may seem to be sunshine and rainbows, but may actually be an F5 tornado. When employees provide honest feedback, we can learn from it and improve.

One of the best ways to get honest feedback is to ask employees who no longer rely on you for their livelihood. Exit interviews can reveal powerful insights that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. You can conduct exit interviews face to face, use a service like Survey Monkey, or encourage company reviews on Glassdoor. To make the most of exit interviews, utilize these seven questions.

Why did you begin looking for a new job?

Asking this question opens up the opportunity for a variety of answers. You may see that an employee simply needed a job closer to home, or it may point to a specific instance or situation that sparked the search.

What ultimately led you to accept the new position?

This question will allow you to contrast your company’s position with a different organization’s. The key to this answer is actually in what you don’t see. For instance, if an employee indicates that they are leaving for higher pay, this could mean that your compensation package isn’t competitive enough.

Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well?

If you want a direct way to better retain the employee who fills this position next, ask this question. Be prepared for tales of technology woes, inadequate training and more, but also be prepared to gain valuable knowledge of what you can do better next time.

How would you describe the culture of our company?

This question isn’t probing for specific examples, but instead will help you identify trends. As you keep track of employee exit interview, watch for trends throughout to help your identify real concerns. Identifying trends can also help you separate legitimate concerns from personal opinion of employees who are emotional or feel negatively about the company.

Can you provide more information, such as specific examples?

Your natural reaction may be to shy away from asking for specific examples, but this follow-up question, which is beneficial throughout your survey, may reveal personnel problems or other things that are easily fixed, preventing the loss of another employee.

What could have been done for you to remain employed here?

There is no question more direct than this one. Often, a frank question will give employees an opportunity to open up where they were afraid to before. Obviously this question isn’t aimed at fulfilling their request in order to keep them employed there, but it will help in the future.

If you could change anything about your job or the company, what would you change?

Though you’ll likely gain a lot of insight throughout the exit interview, this question will help the employee to focus in on the biggest or most important reason they’re leaving your company. This is also a non-confrontational way to encourage them to reveal the real reason they’re leaving, as it isn’t asking what they didn’t like, but what they would change. It shifts their answer from a complaint to a suggestion, which many people feel more comfortable providing. Often, just the way we ask a question can make all the difference.

What questions would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Author: Jessica Miller-Merrell

Author and workplace technology strategist. @blogging4jobs

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