38 Exit Interview Questions to Ask Employees [Free Download]
As employees transition out of their roles, organizations have a unique opportunity to learn from the experiences and perceptions they’ve formed within the company. This is where exit interviews come into play, providing a platform for departing employees to voice their opinions and experiences. With carefully crafted exit interview questions, employers can gain valuable insights into workplace culture and ways that operations could be improved for future employees.
But what type of questions should you ask during exit interviews? What topics should you address? Let’s explore!
What is an exit interview?
Why are exit interviews important?
Best exit interview questions to gain valuable insights
– About the leaving employee and the company
– About the job
– About the company culture
– About the work environment
– About the technology
– To wrap up the exit interview
Exit interview best practices
Free exit interview questions template (PDF)
You can download our exit interview questions in a PDF format below.
What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is a meeting held between an employer and an employee who is leaving the company. Its purpose is to collect information about the employees’ experiences with the company and their reason/s for leaving. Exit interviews can be conducted in different formats, like face-to-face or virtual meetings or via written or online surveys.
Ideally, the exit interview is part of a well-structured employee offboarding process. A neutral third party, like the HR representative, should conduct the interview to ensure unbiased feedback. Employees may not have a positive relationship with their manager, so having someone else hold the interview can encourage them to be more honest and candid with their feedback.
HR Business Partner
Download our free PDF and get access to essential reports, articles & videos that'll help you become a successful & future-proof HR Business Partner.Get the PDF
The exit interview is crucial to how departing employees remember their time with the company. It’s important to take their feedback seriously and make necessary improvements based on the feedback received. Employees remember their first and last day on the job, so make their exit as positive as possible.
Why are exit interviews important?
Exit interviews offer employers information into employees’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences during their stay with the organization. Implementing this feedback can improve the organization’s overall business decisions, policies, and workplace culture.
Let’s break down the benefits of asking the right exit interview questions.
Getting feedback on employee experience
Exit interviews provide an excellent opportunity for organizations to get feedback from employees regarding their experience with the company, namely:
- their jobs,
- working conditions,
- relationship with managers and coworkers,
- work policies,
- and career growth opportunities.
The feedback should be used to continue existing practices (good feedback) or stop or improve certain processes (negative feedback).
Identifying issues in the employee life cycle
Understanding why employees are leaving and recognizing trends and patterns in their exodus can help organizations identify, anticipate, and address issues in the employee life cycle.
Employees leave organizations due to various reasons: job offers from another company, lack of growth opportunities, low pay, conflicts with peers or managers, relocation, and so on. For instance, if a lot of employees quit in their first year with your organization, you might need to rethink and strengthen your onboarding process.
Lowering employee turnover
Companies should prevent employee turnover because it costs the company time and money to recruit new employees. Not to mention, they will also suffer from productivity losses from the time the employees resign until HR and hiring managers find and hire replacements. Employee morale is also affected when people come and go in the organization.
Exit interviews can help HR identify trends of why employees leave. That enables you to create targeted strategies to prevent unwanted turnover.
Improving organizational culture
Leaving employees are more likely to be candid about their feelings and experiences than while working for the company. This kind of honest feedback can provide a fresh perspective on the organizational culture. For example, employees could feel that organizational values are not reflected in how the management acts or in how they treat their workforce.
By acting on insights gained through exit interviews, you can build an inclusive, productive culture where employees thrive and that also attracts talent.
Strengthening the recruitment process
Exit interviews can provide information about your current hiring, onboarding, and training practices – your strengths and shortcomings.
For example, if there are consistent complaints about the mismatch between job advertising and the daily realities of the job, recruiters can work on making job descriptions reflect the actual responsibilities of the role and discuss them further during job interviews to meet candidates’ expectations.
Gaining insight into how employees view their respective roles and responsibilities can provide valuable information when looking to fill open positions.
From HR Business Partner
Map out your HR Career path. Try our need tool to determine the direction in which you want to progress based on your HR career goals and capabilities.Get Started
Conducting exit interviews is a good way for organizations to show their appreciation for the work that the departing employee has done. What’s more, thanking your employees for their contributions to the company and wishing them well in their new endeavors will help end things on a positive note.
Best exit interview questions to gain valuable insights
To reap the benefits of exit interviews, HR needs to ask relevant exit interview questions. Here are different types of exit interview questions you can ask your departing employees:
- the leaving employee and the company
- the job
- the company culture
- the work environment
- the technology
Some questions may fall under several categories at the same time, while others may not be relevant to your organization. If, for instance, your workforce is fully remote, you won’t be asking office-related questions.
In other words, it’s a pick-and-choose according to your organization’s needs. Simply choose the exit interview questions that will provide you with insight into specific areas of focus and enable meaningful improvements.
Exit interview questions about the leaving employee and the company
1. Why did you start looking for a different job?
The answers you’ll get to this question will vary widely. After all, people start looking for many different reasons. They might want a new professional challenge, a shorter commute, or move cities because of their family.
Over time, however, as you gather more data, you will be able to detect common themes in the answers – and act upon the insights gleaned from the interviews.
“There’s always a moment, the last proverbial straw, that pushes an employee to be open to new opportunities. That moment is key in identifying the gap that you can close to increase your retention,” points out Kate Conroy, a senior consultant at Red Clover HR.
2. What made you decide to leave?
This question may feel similar to the previous one. It isn’t. The reason someone starts looking to switch jobs doesn’t have to be the reason why they end up leaving.
Passive candidates, in particular, aren’t actively searching for a new job, to begin with. When approached by a recruiter with an interesting offer, however, they may leave nevertheless. Reasons can vary from better compensation and benefits to an exciting project, great career perspectives, and so on.
In short, there are factors that are beyond the control of organizations. Perhaps they couldn’t address immediate employee demands, but they can consider them in the future once the resources permit.
3. How was your relationship with your manager?
There is a common saying that employees don’t leave their job but that they leave their managers. While this isn’t always the case, you want people to be able to speak freely. This is why it’s good to have someone other than their manager do the exit interview.
If, over time, it turns out that employees do leave (specific) managers in your organization, you can address the issue directly with the managers involved. On the flip side, if the feedback you get about certain managers tends to be very positive, you can use them as good leadership examples for the rest of the management team.
4. What did you think of your onboarding when you first joined?
Onboarding sets the foundations for your employee-employer relationship. Do it well, and your employees are set up for a lasting, positive journey. Do it wrong, and they’ll end up leaving prematurely.
The exit interview is a good moment to ask people about their onboarding experience, as employees usually feel more comfortable giving honest feedback. Even if these employees joined a while ago, you can reflect together on what’s changed in your onboarding process since then.
5. What are the specific changes or improvements you would have liked to see within the company/team?
This provides a generic overview of what needs to be done from the departing employees’ point of view. It’s important to sound encouraging during this question so employees are comfortable enough to provide honest and constructive feedback.
Caroline Reidy, Managing Director of HR consultancy The HR Suite, notes: “This can give employees more freedom to express their reason for leaving without directly saying the reason. For instance, if they say they would have chosen to work under a different manager, it suggests that the problem was with their manager. It can also help highlight problems that other team members are having and give you a goal to actively work towards.”
You can ask follow-up questions to get more detailed answers. Why would the employee choose a different manager or a team?
6. What is the feedback you would like to provide about the company that could help us improve the employee experience for future employees?
HR should be looking for feedback that can help identify areas for improvement and make the company a better place to work.
This question offers plenty of answers. Exiting employees could provide feedback about the management – employees can suggest ways to enhance manager-report relationships to create a productive work environment. HR could ask for recommendations for employee recognition – employees can provide ideas on how to better recognize and reward current and future employees so they are more compelled to stay.
7. Would you recommend our company to your friends and professional network? Why (and why not)?
This is an important question for your employer brand. Former employees can make or break your organization’s reputation as an employer.
Job seekers see ex-employees as a very reliable source since they experienced firsthand how it was to work for your company. This is why you want them to be ‘happy leavers.’ If people consistently answer ‘no’ to this question for one or more particular reasons, you know you need to fix things.
8. Would you ever consider working for us again?
People don’t necessarily want to leave the company. They may just feel that, at this moment in time, they have no opportunities to advance their career – and therefore leave. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t want to come back in the future when things have changed.
Asking this question, followed by ‘What circumstances would need to change for you to come back?’ can help you improve your retention.
Exit interview questions about the job
9. Did the job live up to your expectations? If not, then why?
This question is very important, especially if you’re facing high new hire turnover (the number of employees who leave the company within their first year). It should give you interesting information about your recruitment process.
If employees answer with a ‘no’, was the job ad inaccurate in describing the actual responsibilities of the role? Or the hiring manager or recruiter painted a too-rosy picture of the job? It’s important to share the feedback with the recruitment team to avoid a mismatch between candidate expectations and the reality of the position.
10. Do you feel your job description changed since you were hired? If so, then how?
To prevent candidates’ unrealistic expectations, it’s good to ask leaving employees this question. If there were major changes in the role from the time of recruitment, the job description must be updated immediately to avoid disappointing future applicants.
Changes can include, among other things, different skills, competencies, tasks, and responsibilities.
11. What qualities should we absolutely look for in your replacement?
Again, the answer to this question can help you optimize your recruitment procedure. If there were changes in the actual job from the one that was posted in the job ad, then you have to adjust your candidate criteria to reflect those changes.
On top of that, the leaving employee is a subject-matter expert when it comes to essential qualities for the job in its current state, so you have to get their input and make updates. Nora Burns, Founder of The Leadership Experts, suggests an alternative version of this question: “How would you describe the perfect employee for this role?”
“This is the one question I ask each and every employee who exits. There is rich information available here from the perspective of someone who has done the job,” explains Burns.
12. How satisfied are you with your workload in relation to your career goals and aspirations?
This question allows employees to indicate their level of satisfaction with their current workload while also considering whether their workload and its contents are aligned with their long-term career goals.
It could help HR understand whether employees feel overworked or underutilized and whether there are opportunities to help employees align their workload with their career aspirations.
13. What part of the job did you like the most?
Everybody is different, and people will naturally enjoy different aspects of their job.
Over time, however, here, too, you will see certain answers that keep popping up. You can use this information to emphasize these attractive role attributes and promote them in your job advertisements.
14. What part of the job did you like the least?
Again, as you gather more data, you’ll be able to detect emerging trends.
Not only does this help you to try and minimize the ‘less attractive’ part of the job, but it also helps you in painting a more truthful picture of what the job is like during the hiring stages.
15. Pertaining to your role in our company, what could we have done differently to make you stay?
While people can answer anything they want here, this question mainly concerns the actual job. Would the employee have stayed if certain parts of their job had been automated? Or were they looking for more variety or challenges in their tasks?
If the data shows that resigning employees desire more diversity in their responsibilities, you may want to consider job enrichment or job enlargement.
16. How satisfied were you with your role in the organization?
Want to know if your employees are happy with their jobs? Ask them directly how happy they are at work.
Job satisfaction varies – it could be having a clear understanding of their goals or if they receive the right support from their managers and peers. Ultimately, job and employee satisfaction can tremendously help you reduce employee turnover because highly satisfied employees are inclined to be productive and loyal to their employers.
Exit interview questions about the company culture
17. How would you describe our company culture?
This is an essential question to get a comprehensive understanding of your company culture and identify differences in perceptions and experience. For example, the IT manager working in the company’s HQ may feel the culture differently from a local store manager.
How leaving employees answer this question will help you steer your employer branding and employee engagement strategies in the right direction. So it’s crucial to gather as much information as you can to ensure that all employees feel the same culture regardless of their ranks and location.
18. What part of our company culture do you enjoy the most?
Every organization is different, and there may be parts of your culture that are unique to your company and enjoyed by most employees. For example, Buffer values honesty and transparency, from sharing employee salaries on their website to encouraging open employee-manager relationships.
Based on recurring themes, you can leverage the good that emerges out of the answers to better present your organization to job seekers.
19. What’s the aspect of our company culture you think we need to change or improve?
No organization is perfect. And management may oblivious to some parts of the current culture that are not working or need to be changed.
If data shows that the majority of leavers feel that the company culture is toxic in some way, HR needs to start digging and change things that are not working.
20. What are we not doing that we should be doing to create a better organizational culture?
The answers to these question can also vary. You should review and implement common suggestions to improve the company culture and create a better work environment for current and future employees.
Joe Coletta, Founder of an engineering and IT recruiting company 180 Engineering suggests asking a variation of this question: What would make this company a better workplace?
“This question empowers the employee to express their reasons for leaving in a non-adversarial way. Especially if this is one of your top employees, asking this question can give you meaningful insights into how you can improve your organizational culture, boost employee morale, and reduce turnover,” explains Coletta.
21. If you were the CEO, what would you change to make this workplace thrive?
“This gem of a question unearths invaluable insights, revealing the underbelly of a company’s strengths and weaknesses,” notes Tara Furiani, “Not the HR Lady” keynote speaker and consultant.
22. Can you describe a situation where you felt unsupported or undervalued in your role? How do you think this could have been improved?
Everybody wants to see their efforts recognized. If your company is good at making people feel valued and giving them the recognition they deserve, this will have a positive impact on people’s engagement. A lack of appreciation, on the other hand, can push people to move elsewhere.
All the more reason to include this question in your list of exit interview questions. Make employee recognition a top priority if you want your workers to stick around.
According to Jonathan Westover, OD/HR/Leadership consultant from Human Capital Innovations, you can also ask this question in a different way. “What could we have done better to support you during your time here?”
“This question provides an opportunity for departing employees to provide feedback on their experience and suggest ways that the company could improve its practices and culture,” says Westover.
23. Were there any specific issues with the company culture that contributed to your decision to leave?
This question boils down to a match or mismatch between the employee’s and employers’ values and beliefs.
For instance, your company operates in a fast-paced, competitive environment. Employees are expected to work extended hours and even on holidays to meet deadlines. If the employee values work-life balance, which means working only on specified hours and expecting weekends to be uninterrupted, it’s just a matter of time before the employee feels burned out and considers looking for other job opportunities.
Exit interview questions about the work environment
24. How would you describe the workplace environment?
Exit interview questions about people’s physical work environment are, naturally, of a more practical nature. The good thing about this is that issues can be relatively easily solved.
Asking this question provides information about the physical environment from the employees’ perspective. For example, is it well-lit and comfortable? Or is it cramped and uncomfortable?
Based on the employees’ answers, you could check into making sure you are creating a work environment that is conducive to making them happy, comfortable, and productive.
25. What do you like most about your work environment/work area?
The answers you might receive from this question will help you highlight the attractive parts of your work environment in your recruitment marketing and employer branding initiatives.
26. What do you like least about your work environment/work area?
People spend a considerable amount of their time at work. Hence, work area design can have a huge impact on employee experience.
If, for instance, it turns out that many leaving employees don’t like the fact that their manager doesn’t sit with them in an open space, you should consider changing this. Or perhaps people would rather not have a dedicated desk so that they’re able to meet other colleagues. This is also something you can address relatively easily.
27. What do you feel we should definitely change or add to improve your work environment/work area?
Workspace modifications depend on your available budget. With the emergence of remote work and co-working spaces, employees’ preferences in their work environment have evolved over time, and it’s crucial for organizations to address these changes.
While your work environment won’t be the number one factor in a candidate’s decision to join your company, it can affect the candidate’s decision to accept a job offer to some extent.
28. How satisfied were you with our flextime/work-from-home policy?
Working from home has become an integral part of people’s work life, and more employees and candidates will expect remote and hybrid work arrangements from employers.
If data shows there’s room for improvement in your flextime/work-from-home policy, consider what adjustments can make.
29. Were there any specific issues with the work environment that contributed to your decision to leave?
Changes in personal circumstances could push an employee to check other opportunities with other organizations.
For example, if the company relocates to a farther location, the employee has to make a choice. Either they will put up with a longer commute, find a new place nearer to the new office, or find another employer.
Exit interview questions about the technology
30. Did you feel you had enough tools & resources to do your job properly? If not, what was missing?
Whether or not people feel they’re fully equipped to do their job has a direct impact on their experience – and on how well they do their job.
Therefore, the answers you get to this question are very helpful in optimizing the technology stack your employees use.
31. When you first started working for us, how easy was it to navigate the various systems and applications?
This question tells you something about the user experience people get. Often, the UX in the workplace is nothing compared to the UX people get in their personal lives.
Especially when someone has just joined your company, the UX plays an important role in how freshly hired employees experience their first weeks at work. So, if you see certain tech issues constantly popping up, you should fix them right away to deliver a better UX experience.
32. How satisfied were you with the tools you used to communicate with your colleagues and/or customers when working remotely? (video calls, chat systems, shared docs, etc.)
There is nothing more frustrating than needing to discuss an urgent issue in a video call with your colleagues only to then deal with technical issues for the first ten minutes.
Especially since remote work is part of the ‘new normal’, the tools your employees use to stay in touch with each other (and with your customers) need to work smoothly and efficiently.
33. What software/tool should we stop using right away?
We all have that one system or tool we’d rather not use at all (often admin-related). If this is something employees only use once or twice a year, then things can stay as it is.
However, if this is a tool your employees use on a daily basis, it will have a negative impact on their digital and overall employee experience, and you should seriously consider other options.
34. Were you happy with the hardware provided by the company (laptop, phone, etc.)?
Some companies provide all new employees with a Macbook, while others give their people a Dell device. Again, if employees have to use the hardware on a daily basis and they’re not happy with it, this won’t help your overall employee experience.
For example, if the data shows that people would like to be able to choose whether they want to work with an Apple or a Dell product, then let them. If your company can’t afford to give everyone an Apple computer, be realistic and offer multiple options of devices so employees can have a variety to choose from.
35. How satisfied are you with the level of IT support you received while working remotely?
It’s critical for companies to ensure tech support is available anytime, anywhere. That way, employees can work without interruptions, whether they’re working remotely or at the office.
If, during the interview, most employees complain that they’re not getting enough technical help when working remotely, it’s time to review your IT policies and workforce so employees can get the support they need to work efficiently.
Questions to wrap up the exit interview
36. Is there anything else you would like to discuss as you depart the organization that has not been addressed?
Kendra Janevski, Managing Director, Human Resources at Vault Consulting suggests asking this question before wrapping up your exit interview. “Offboarding employees generally like to have a clean break. Fully discussing any struggles or seeds of wisdom they would like to leave helps facilitate that and their favorable opinion of your organization in departing,” explains Janevski.
37. If you were speaking to the founders/owners instead of me, what advice would you give them?
“This could be a comment or suggestion for improvement, a compliment, or a complaint,” says Lucas Diegues, HR Business Partner at a hiring platform Revelo.
“This question gives the employee a safe space to communicate their thoughts and usually prompts people to open up fully; their answer usually demonstrates what’s most important to them within the company and can be extremely telling.”
38. What advice would you give us on how to improve the offboarding process?
According to Richard Nolan, Chief People Officer at Eposnow, the offboarding process can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to learn and grow as a business. “This question will provide insight into what aspects of the process worked well for employees and which areas need improvement,” explains Nolan.
Exit interview best practices
It’s sad to see employees go.
However, you can turn it into a good experience by following a few best practices to help you conduct an exit interview that is effective and satisfactory for both HR and employees:
- Make exit interviews a part of your employee exit checklist to ensure you conduct one with every departing employee.
- Clearly communicate the purpose of the interview and limit the discussion to work-related topics only.
- Ask open-ended questions so employees will have the space to express their opinions and provide feedback. To remain objective during the interview, don’t ask suggestive questions that could skew the employees’ answers in a certain direction.
- Use an exit interview template to ensure consistency and obtain relevant insights.
- Document the conversation by taking notes or recording and transcribing the interview with the employee’s consent.
- Be prepared for negative responses, as employee feedback will not always be pleasant. Avoid being defensive or judgmental to get honest answers.
- Ask where the employee is going next. “This is useful for networking and building an alumni group. If the departing employee is a regretted loss, make sure they know the door is always open,” advises Amira Kohler, Director of Performance and Change at a performance management software company Appraisd.
- End the interview positively by thanking the employee for their time and insights. Communicate to them how you plan to use their feedback so they know it was taken seriously and appreciated.
- Analyze the employee feedback and compare it with other data sources (e.g., your employee demographic data and stay interviews).
- Share your findings with the right decision-makers. One way to do so is if HR leaders hold, for instance, quarterly update meetings with the organization’s executives, during which they present exit interview data and trends.
- Take action based on the feedback. Based on the patterns that have emerged from the answers to your exit interview questions, devise strategies for what to improve. This can be, for example, your recruitment process or onboarding, training and development program, or compensation and employee benefits policies.
Free exit interview questions template (PDF)
We’ve gathered the exit interview questions from this article in a downloadable PDF. You can use it as a guideline or simply as inspiration for your own list of questions.
On a final note
Good exit interview questions are key to collecting and analyzing relevant information that will help your organization improve the overall employee experience and ultimately reduce unwanted turnover.
Ask exit interview questions that are relevant to your organization and enable you to obtain unique insights into how your employees perceive your company.
Are you ready for the future of HR?
Learn modern and relevant HR skills, online