17 must-ask exit interview survey questions

When a good employee leaves, it can be difficult for managers to feel anything but disappointment. But employee turnover is a fact of life — and it doesn’t have to be all bad.

In fact, departures can be opportunities for you to learn more about your company’s strengths and weaknesses. The information you gather can help you change your workplace for the better and even reduce future employee churn.

An exit interview is one of the best ways to talk with an outgoing employee about how they view your company culture, managerial style, and work processes.

To help you make the most of an exit interview, we asked some business experts for tips on how to approach these conversations and what to ask. Below is a roundup of their recommended exit survey questions and best practices.

17 meaningful exit survey questions

Try asking these questions to find out ways your company can improve the employee experience.

1. What are you most anticipating about your new job?

This question reveals the gap between what the employee is looking for and what they’re missing in their current job. By identifying these elements, you might be able to determine what you can change that might address similar feelings among current employees.

“By inquiring about what a departing employee values most in a new job, you will determine what your organization’s offer for top-tier applicants lacks,” says Kathryn Smithson, chief marketing officer at Path Social.

2. How can our organization enhance its training programs?

When you ask about training and educational initiatives, you gain insight into the learner’s point of view. “To retain talent in your organization, you must demonstrate an interest in employee growth,” says Abdul Saboor, a full stack developer at The Stock Dork. “During the leave interview, inquire about the comprehensive training evaluations and what you can do to better fulfill the demands of future employees.”

3. What led you to pursue other opportunities?

“This question can provide a lot of insight into what may be missing for your employees,” notes Ann McFerran, CEO of Glamnetic. “You might realize that employees are looking for more room for advancement or better benefits. You can use this valuable information to reevaluate what you offer to your employees and find ways to keep your best employees satisfied for the long term.”

4. Did this company recognize your accomplishments?

This question gets to the heart of employee satisfaction. Tim Davidson, president of Car Title Loan Lenders, says, “When employees are aware that their efforts are recognized and valued, motivation increases, productivity increases, and turnover can be reduced.”

5. Would you refer this company to a friend? Why or why not?

People look out for their colleagues and friends, so their answer to this question can give you an honest assessment of their experience with your company. “Former employees can be wonderful recommendation sources, even if they finally choose to quit your organization,” says Edward Mellet, director at WikiJob.

“In a perfect environment, every departing employee would respond affirmatively to this question, but in reality, there may be some who were so dissatisfied with their experience that they would feel uncomfortable referring their contacts. Identify the problems and implement corrections as soon as feasible,” says Mellet.

6. Did you have the necessary tools to accomplish your work effectively?

Kavin Patel, founder and CEO of Convrrt, says, “This is a common source of frustration among top performers. They are upset because they lack the processes, resources, and even the freedom to perform their duties effectively. If HR departments can quantify the cost to human capital of not investing in resources, their advice to invest in new systems or extra administrative assistance will carry greater weight with top leaders.”

7. Do you think the company supported your career goals?

This question shows empathy for the former employee’s larger goals. “When answering this question, employees, in my opinion, may show their employer how [the organization] met their expectations and assisted them in their professional path,” shares Lachlan de Crespigny, cofounder and co-CEO of Revelo.

8. What characteristics would you look for in someone who might replace you?

“Asking the employee who is leaving the company to describe the perfect person to take their place is one method to gain insight into the sort of individual who would be most successful in the role,” says Robert Warner, head of marketing at Virtual Valley.

9. Do you believe that, since you were hired, your position has changed?

Ricardo Pina, founder of The Modest Wallet, shares, “The shifting demands of the department or the business frequently result in job role changes. By learning how a role has changed, you may include important information in the position description to make absolutely sure your next candidate is prepared for these new requirements.”

10. Is the company true to its core principles and mission?

“If you truly appreciate your purpose and the principles you established when you started your small business, it may be distressing to learn that your employees do not believe you have adhered to these,” says Anthony Mixides, managing director at Bond Media. “However, discovering where you need to make changes can be a wonderful eye-opener.”

11. If you could go back in time, would you still accept our job offer? Why or why not?

Loredo Rucchin, CEO of Jukebox Print, says that this “gives an indication of whether the employee’s overall experience was good or bad. If employees would still accept the job offer, it means we are doing something right.”

12. Are there any ideas you might provide to boost staff morale?

“Employees are the ones who are exposed to and watch other people’s morale,” notes Sonya Schwartz, founder of Her Norm. “By questioning them, you may get the truth about what drives people at work.”

13. What could the company have done to make you stay?

Ruth Novales, marketing director of Fortis Medical Billing, notes, “This question is not as intimidating as ’Why did you decide to leave?’ — which may unleash negative responses. Instead, it elicits replies that veer toward ways the organization can improve.”

14. Have you shared your concerns with your colleagues?

Ashley Amor, cofounder of PeopleFindFast, encourages a look back to make sure your employee felt understood and supported in their role — and to see whether they communicated misgivings to others. “I practice compassion at the exit interview survey so that employees can share honest feedback that helps us improve our working procedure,” she shares.

15. If, at your next job, you were involved in hiring, would you hire me as your employee?

“I love asking this question because it’s the best way to find out what your departing employee thinks of you as a professional and as a person,” says Marina Vaamonde, owner and founder at HouseCashin.

16. Is there anything no one else is telling me that you’d like to share?

Kristina Kelly, brand manager at iHire, likes to ask this question at the end of any exit interview or exit survey. “This question can get to the heart of challenges that others may be fearful of sharing,” she says.

17. Were you able to share your ideas freely here?

“A work environment that encourages the sharing of ideas and even celebrates them is one that is progressive and highly engaging,” says Azmaira Maker, Ph.D., founding director of Aspiring Families. “The answer to this question helps you identify if your organization belongs in this category.”

Exit interview best practices

One thing to note about exit interviews is that you shouldn’t consider them mandatory. “Leave these surveys optional and administer them either on an employee’s last day or even following their departure from the company,” advises Josh Snead, CEO of Rainwalk Pet Insurance. “Exit interviews are only useful if the employee feels empowered to be totally honest.”

At the same time, says Claire Randall, human resources director at Heat Pump Source, “Don’t wait too long to conduct the survey. This will help you get more accurate feedback.”

Randall adds, “Make sure you’re using the right platform—one that’s easy to use and that your employees will be able to access.” Jotform’s customizable, easy-to-use survey templates make gathering this type of feedback easier — especially when an employee may have already left your office.

To avoid seeming aggressive in any exit survey, Scott O’Brien, head of sales at PPC Ad Lab, says to “begin by congratulating the employee on their new position.” Asking exit survey questions is an opportunity for your company, so be sure to be respectful and keep the focus on the former employee and their opinions.

“Confidentiality should be reinforced to encourage transparency,” says Dean Lee, head of marketing at Sealions. “The knowledge that any information shared with you would be treated in strict confidence is likely to bring the employee some measure of comfort.”

Remember to keep things simple and tidy, as well. Cath Garcia, head of HR at Skill Success, shares, “As much as possible, we want to ask questions that are straightforward.” If you construct them with care, she notes, “Exit interviews can offer a steady stream of considerate feedback.”

Your business can and will go on after employees leave, as long as you continuously try to grow and improve. By making the most of each departure — and asking the right exit survey questions each time — you can be certain your business will continue to evolve and appeal to highly qualified applicants in the future.

This article is originally published on Sep 20, 2022, and updated on Nov 18, 2022.

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