7 Tips for Asking Good Exit Interview Questions

by Deputy Team, 9 minutes read
HOME blog 7 tips for asking good exit interview questions

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a survey that is completed by an employee who is leaving a company. An exit interview gathers feedback from the employee about key areas of their employment – for example, management style and work culture. The overall purpose of an exit interview is to use the information provided to develop a better working environment and to reduce turnover.

Benefits of exit interviews

It’s an inevitable part of a business that employees will leave. Irrespective of whether the employer provides excellent training, great collaboration, and career development opportunities, employees will seek employment elsewhere for a variety of reasons. Employers should regard employees leaving their job as an opportunity to improve their business. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, exit interviews are one of the most effective ways to reduce employee turnover. Although exit interviews provide a high level of value, research shows that most employers fail to implement exit interviews into their retention strategies.

Exit interview questions

In order for employee exit interviews to be effective, employers must collect, analyze, and act on the information received. Exit interviews become a ‘tick box’ exercise where there’s no meaningful change as a result of the feedback from employees. Although exit interviews are voluntary, employees should be encouraged to be brutally honest for the company to improve its performance and employee satisfaction.

Different ways to conduct employee exit interviews

To encourage participation in exit interviews, employers should offer different options for the convenience of employees. The following methods can be used to conduct exit interviews:

  • Face-to-face – Ideally, someone from HR will meet the employee to ask them exit interview questions in a one-on-one setting. This form of exit interview provides the opportunity for HR to ask follow-up questions. The downside to meeting in person is that employees may not feel comfortable giving honest answers to the exit interview questions. Additionally, unless the exit interview is recorded, it may be difficult for the HR representative to make accurate notes while listening attentively to the employee.

  • Telephone – Companies can use HR representatives or an independent agency to conduct telephone exit interviews. The advantages of using the phone are that the interviewer can ask follow-up questions. Phone exit interviews are also more convenient to schedule than face-to-face interviews. The disadvantage of phone exit interviews is that employees may still be reluctant to be open about their experience.

  • Written – This is where employees are given a form with the exit interview questions to complete. The benefit of handwritten exit interviews is that employees may be more willing to give honest feedback. However, a disadvantage of paper-based feedback is that the process of transcribing, entering answers into a system and analyzing responses is time intensive.

  • Online – In this case, exit interview questions are administered through an online management system. Employees may prefer responding to exit interview questions online because it’s less time-consuming than in-person and phone interviews. Additionally, online exit interviews also require less time to track and analyze.

Exit interview tips

Given that the benefits and the methods of exit interviews have been explained, here are seven tips to help your business ask good exit interview questions and to achieve the most benefits from this process:

1. Provide an explanation – Make it clear to the employee who is leaving why an exit interview is important. Explain how their feedback will be valuable in improving conditions for their colleagues.

2. Be selective – If an employee has been unproductive and hasn’t been an asset to your business, you should conserve resources and refrain from conducting an exit interview with them. However, it may still be useful to hear the views of a difficult employee because they may offer different perspectives on how your business operates.

3. Choose the appropriate personnel – Exit interviews should be conducted by someone with no direct supervisory responsibility for the employee. Avoid using supervisors and immediate managers to carry out exit interviews. This is because the supervisor or manager may be the reason that the employee is leaving. If possible, choose a HR representative to ask the exit interview questions.

4. Emphasize comfort – The exit interview can be of huge benefit to your business and the employee may not get much in return. As a result, provide different methods so that the employee can choose the one they feel the most comfortable with. If an employee chooses to conduct the exit interview in person, ensure that this is done in a private setting on a one-on-one basis.

5. Ask for a summary – You should provide the employee with the opportunity to summarize their employment in their own words. Allowing the employee to express their point of view before asking predetermined questions will encourage a free-flowing response and provide more useful information.

6. Include open and closed questions – Ask questions that will make it simpler to identify patterns and trends. Providing multiple choice questions is an easy way to collate and analyze responses. At the same time, ask open-ended questions to provide more context for the employee’s answers.

7. Make changes – Exit interviews are only useful when used to effect meaningful change that prevents productive employees leaving. Time should be spent implementing training and measures to address the issues raised by employees in exit interviews.

Sample exit interview questions

The following tips are sample exit interview questions that can be asked in any industry:

  • What has influenced your decision to leave the company? There are a number of reasons why an employee would choose to leave your company. This question enables you to find out whether your business practices (or the work environment) had a part to play in them leaving.

  • Based on the job description, did the job match what you were expecting? Employees are likely to leave if the job is different from what they believed was advertised. Answers to this question will enable you to review your job description and interviewing process.

  • Do you feel you had the proper equipment and resources to carry out your job effectively? Inadequate equipment and resources can leave your employees frustrated. Asking this question enables you to decide whether to allocate additional budget for more resources, such as software and training.

  • What are the negative aspects of working for this company? Asking this question enables you to identify the areas that require review and, if necessary, improvement. Listen empathetically to what the employee says and, if appropriate, express regret that particular aspects of your company fell short of acceptable standards.

  • What are the positive aspects of working for this company? This question gives the employee a chance to balance the negative feedback that they have provided. This exit interview question allows you to determine what is working well for your company.

To personalize exit interview questions for your company, consider amending the questions above and formatting them in an exit interview template.

The interview questions above are suitable for most industries. Here are some tips that specific industries can use to ask good exit interview questions:

Healthcare exit interview tips

There’s an ongoing problem of high employee turnover in the healthcare industry. Healthcare companies face challenges in employee retention due to factors such as changes in the healthcare system, acquisitions and mergers and lack of employee engagement. Asking the right exit interview questions and taking action based on the findings could help to address high turnover rates in the healthcare industry.

Exit interview questions

The following tips will help healthcare companies ask good exit interview questions and gain the maximum benefits of exit interviews:

  • Ensure that all answers are confidential and anonymous – Healthcare employees are more likely to provide truthful answers about their experiences if they remain anonymous. Additionally, reassure your healthcare employees that, as well as being anonymous, all information collected during exit interviews will be kept confidential.

  • Focus on simplicity – Your healthcare professional has already left your employment, so the last thing they will appreciate is to go through a long and complicated process to leave feedback. Employees may already be experiencing disengagement, so it’s recommended that exit interviews are kept as simple as possible.

  • Be purpose-oriented – As well as the generic purpose of improving your healthcare practice, you should find out about problem areas and formulate your interview questions to gain a deeper understanding of these issues. Have a goal of addressing a particular challenge and gear your exit interview questions to find out how employees feel about the issue and what suggestions they have to address them.

Restaurant exit interview tips

Despite how efficiently you run your restaurant and whether you use effective scheduling software to keep your employees happy, people will still leave your restaurant. Exit interview questions are a way of showing your restaurant employees that you value their work and appreciate their opinion. The following restaurant exit interview tips will help you to formulate the best questions and receive the best outcomes:

  • Plan your exit interview at the correct time – It’s recommended that you plan the exit interview as near to your employee leaving as possible. Arranging the exit interview too early may reduce the likelihood of the employee giving honest answers. For example, if they have negative feedback about a manager, they might withhold this information if they have to continue working with this manager. Ideally, exit interviews should be scheduled on the day that your employee is leaving your restaurant.

Exit interview questions

  • Be prepared to listen – When asking your restaurant employees exit interview questions, be prepared to really listen to what is being said. If you’ve encouraged your employee to be honest, be ready to hear things that may surprise you. For instance, your employee might inform you of practices that negatively affect customers. If these revelations are made during a one-on-one exit interview, resist the urge to interrogate your employee. Ask further questions, but avoid making the employee feel like they have done something wrong by exposing negative behavior.

  • Avoid making assumptions – Restaurants normally consists of close-knit teams. If the person conducting the exit interview is part of the team, they should avoid thinking that they know everything that is happening in the restaurant. This attitude reduces the exit interview to a token practice with no tangible benefits.

Retail exit interview tips

Research has shown that retail employees have the highest turnover rate (65%) of all hourly employees. This level of turnover affects profits and employee morale. Like any other industry, retailers can take advantage of exit interviews to retain quality staff. The following tips could assist retailers in formulating meaningful exit interview questions and to utilize the results to become an exception to the high retail turnover rule:

  • Be consistent – Despite the number of retail stores you own, your exit interview process should remain the same. They should be conducted in the same way, using the same level of personnel. For instance, you should avoid using an HR representative to conduct an exit interview at one store and a manager at another store.

  • Remember workplace culture – Due to the high turnover in retail, it can be difficult to establish a specific culture. However, exit interviews should be used to find out about the type of culture that has emerged at your store. Questions should be asked about whether the retail employee felt appreciated and respected or whether they were treated like someone who was disposable because of the likelihood that they would leave.

  • Analyze your data – Consider using an external agency or someone who is impartial to evaluate the exit interview. Getting someone who is removed from the retail store will provide you with an objective analysis of the exit interview.

Exit interview questions

While you can’t stop employees leaving for personal reasons, you can reduce the likelihood that they will leave due to workplace culture. Book a demo and talk to one of our reps about how Deputy can help to implement fair and effective scheduling that will help your employees feel appreciated.