21 Best Stay Interview Questions to Ask

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21 Best Stay Interview Questions to Ask

Asking the right stay interview questions is crucial if you want to make a stay interview a valuable source of information. In this article, we’ve listed 21 must-ask stay interview questions to help you keep your best talent.

What is a stay interview?
Why should you conduct a stay interview?
How to conduct a stay interview?
Stay interview questions to ask

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is a tool organizations use to gauge why their (high-performing) employees are staying with them. It’s a rather informal conversation between a manager and an employee in which the former asks the latter a predetermined set of questions.

Unlike the term stay interview suggests, it’s not meant to keep employees from leaving, at least not primarily. It’s more about gathering valuable feedback from your employees and continuously improving employee satisfaction and engagement. 

Stay interviews differ from exit interviews in various ways. The most obvious difference lies in the timing of the interview. An exit interview takes place after an employee has resigned, while a stay interview is conducted with current employees.

The exit interview is part of the final stage of the employee life cycle, the offboarding process. As such, it aims to shape the critical last impressions employees will have of the company – and the image they’ll portray to the outside world.   

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In light of the growing headache for companies and their HR departments that is the Great Resignation, the stay interview may quickly become an indispensable tool for organizations in their attempt to keep employees.

Why should you conduct stay interviews? 

We briefly touched on some of the benefits that come with regularly conducting stay interviews already. Here are some more reasons why it’s beneficial to hold them:

Improving employee retention

When asking the right questions, a stay interview can give you tremendous insight into what people love about working for your organization – and what can be improved. 

Let’s say, for example, that 7 out of 10 interviewees feel like they’re not getting enough recognition for their work. Implementing a simple employee and/or peer recognition program might be enough to solve this issue, boost employee engagement and, by extension, improve your employee retention rate.

Especially in a time where up to 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employer this year, it’s these things that can make all the difference.

Getting valuable employee feedback 

Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion is an often-heard quote. And for a good reason, since it holds true for so many things, including your employee experience. 

You may think that you know exactly why people love working for your company; their awesome colleagues, challenging projects, great culture, or maybe even all of the above. 

But in reality, your employees want to stay because of the flexibility they get, the autonomy to make decisions, and the opportunities the company gives them for professional development. 

The fact of the matter is, you simply don’t know until you ask them. So before you start doubling down on something you think people want, it’s best to gather their feedback during a stay interview. 

Boosting employee satisfaction and engagement 

Stay interviews can be a useful engagement strategy. They allow you to identify pain points and areas of improvement before they become reasons for people to start looking for greener pastures. 

There are, however, two conditions for the ‘stay interview engagement strategy’ to work:

  • There needs to be a trusting relationship between the manager and the team member if the latter is to honestly talk about what doesn’t work for them.
  • You’ll need to actually act on the feedback you gather during the stay interviews and change things. Otherwise, people will end up disengaged rather than engaged.

How to conduct a stay interview 

Let’s take a look at some of the practical aspects of conducting a stay interview. Who should be doing it? How long does it take? When is the best time for an interview?

We’ll answer these questions and more in this section. While the initiative of launching a stay interview program will usually lie with HR, it’s often the manager who conducts the interviews. The below tips are, therefore, written from an HR perspective.

  • Start small. You don’t have to conduct stay interviews with every single employee. Focus on your long-term, high performers, and high potentials to begin with. 
  • Make stay interviews a regular activity. Regular can mean different things to different companies, but we’d say try to conduct a stay interview at least once a year.
  • Determine when the interview takes place. There are a few things to keep in mind here. For starters, it doesn’t make much sense to conduct a stay interview with an employee that just started working for your organization; they’re not fully settled into their role and the company yet. Also, don’t add the stay interview to people’s performance reviews but have them as a separate activity. Lastly, try to schedule all stay interviews within a relatively short period of time. This will allow you to gather all the feedback and, if necessary, act upon it without leaving it unaddressed for too long.    
  • Decide who will lead the stay interview. It makes sense for managers to conduct these interviews since they probably have a stronger, more trusting relationship with the people in their team than HR. However, if it’s the manager, bear in mind that they might need to receive a short training on how to hold a stay interview. 
  • Schedule enough time. Typically, a stay interview lasts between 30 minutes to 1 hour. 
  • Structure the interview. Create a stay interview template so that each manager follows the same structure and each employee gets asked the same questions. 
  • Ask relevant questions. As obvious as this may seem, it’s also the core of an effective stay interview. We’ll list some example questions below.
  • Gather all answers in the same place. Eventually, the information gathered during the stay interviews will have to be analyzed if you want to be able to take action. This will be a lot easier if the info is stored centrally and easily accessible, for instance, in your Talent Management System.  
  • Summarize. Before they wrap up the interview, managers should summarize the employee’s key reasons to stay or leave to avoid misunderstandings (you can add this to your stay interview template so you won’t forget).  
  • Look for patterns and trends. Do you detect any reasons why employees stay or leave multiple times? Identify these. This will help you find ways to strengthen the positive and reduce the negative factors.
  • Take action! An exclamation point is in order here. Stay interviews can be instrumental in keeping your employees happy, increasing loyalty and organizational commitment. But, and this is a big but, only if you take their feedback seriously and act when necessary. 

Stay interview questions to ask

By now, you might be wondering what stay interview questions look like. Therefore, we’ve listed 21 of them, including a brief explanation of why they are useful to ask. 

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To make the list less overwhelming, we’ve divided the stay interview questions into 5 bite-sized categories:

  • Questions about the employee
  • The job 
  • The company culture 
  • The work environment 
  • The technology 

Some questions may qualify for several categories, while others may not be relevant for your organization. If, for instance, your workforce is fully remote, you won’t be asking the office-related questions. 

In other words: you can mix and match according to your needs. Here goes!

Stay interview questions about the employee

1. What do you look forward to most when you come to work every day?

Answers here can vary widely. For some, their favorite part may be to work alongside their colleagues, while for others, it will be all about the projects they are working on. 

Over time, however, as you gather more data, you might be able to detect some trends here. 

If, for instance, you find that for most employees, it really is your company culture they like best, you can leverage this in your employer branding efforts.

2. What do you dread about work every day? 

The same thing goes for this question, but then the other way around. Once you spot a trend here, it’s probably time to take action.

3. When was the last time you thought about leaving the company?

A top performer who thought about leaving the company yesterday may need more immediate attention than someone who last thought about going elsewhere a year ago.

4. What situation made you think of leaving?

This question will provide you with employee-specific information. Some people may think of leaving because they don’t find their job challenging anymore. Others will do so because they feel they don’t earn enough or because they don’t feel valued.

Knowing what triggers someone to think of leaving can help you create a more satisfying employee experience for them. 

5. Would you recommend our company to job-seeking friends? Why (not)? 

This is an important question for your employer brand. Jobseekers see employees as a reliable source because they experience firsthand how it is to work for your company. 

If people consistently answer the same things – whether they are related to a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ – you will know what to (dis)continue.

6. What would tempt you to leave the company?

While this question may feel similar to question number 4, there is a clear difference between the two. 

A situation that makes someone think of leaving will often be something that comes from within the company; its culture, the job, a strong disagreement with the direction the business is taking, etc. 

A temptation to leave often comes from outside the company; a job that’s impossible to refuse, a partner that gets a job in another country, the opportunity to start your own business, etc. 

Stay interview question about the job

7. What is the best part of your job? 

People will naturally like different aspects of their job. Here too, though, you will see certain answers that keep popping up over time. 

You can use this data to 1) where possible, give employees more of what they love to improve their satisfaction and engagement, and 2) emphasize the cool parts of the job to job seekers. 

8. What part of your job would you cut out straight away if you could?

As you gather more data, you’ll be able to detect emerging trends. This will help you minimize the not-so-great parts of the job for your current employees.

9. Which of your talents are you not using in your current role? 

This question will give you insights into where an employee might want to go next in their career.

10. What would make your job even more satisfying? 

There are always things that we can do better. This question can help you find out where to start, especially once you see more of the same answers.

11. Do you feel you’re getting clear goals and objectives? 

This tells you something about the way people are managed. If employees consistently answer this with a ‘yes,’ you can praise your managers. 

If not, this needs to be addressed because having clear goals and objectives helps employees see the part they play in achieving the company’s goals.

12. As your manager, what can I do more or less of?

Managers have a significant impact on the way people experience work. Therefore, the information coming from this question can be super valuable in optimizing the employee experience. 

For an honest answer, though, employees need to really trust their manager, and managers need to be humble enough to accept whatever feedback they may get… 

13. What do you think of the L&D opportunities that are available to you?

If you want people to stay with you in the long run, it’s essential to give them opportunities for professional and career growth. To ensure that you can offer them what they need, it’s important to ask this question.

Stay interview questions about the company culture

14. Do you feel valued and recognized in the company?

Put simply, 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 and productivity.

On the other hand, a lack of appreciation can push people to move elsewhere—all the more reason to include this question in your list of stay interview questions.

15. How would you like to be recognized for the work you do? 

Even if you have an awesome employee recognition program in place, there might be ways to make it even better or more personal.

16. What are we currently not doing as a company that you feel we should?

Recurring answers to this question will be very useful in making your company an even better place to work—both for your current and future employees. 

Stay interview questions about the work environment

17. What do you feel we should definitely change about or add to our offices?

As we are slowly moving out of a pandemic, traditional beliefs about the role of the office in our work environment are dramatically changing.

Ask your employee how they feel about this.

18. Are you satisfied with our current work from home policy? If not, what do you think we need to change

Along the same lines, ask people what they think about your work from home policy in a (post) pandemic world.

Stay interview questions about the technology 

19. Do you have enough tools and resources to do your job properly? If not, what is missing?

Whether or not people feel they’re fully equipped to do their job directly impacts their experience – and on how well they do their job. 

Therefore, the answers you get to this question are constructive in optimizing the technology your employees use.

20. How satisfied are you with the tools you use to communicate with your colleagues when working remotely? (video calls, chat systems, shared docs, etc.)

Especially since remote work is part of the ‘new normal,’ the tools your employees have to stay in touch with each other (and with your customers) need to work smoothly.

21. 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 you might be able to say, well, nobody is perfect. 

If, however, this is a system your people need to use on a (near) daily basis, this will for sure have a negative impact on their employee experience, and you should seriously consider other options.

Wrapping up

In a time where a significant part of the global workforce is thinking about leaving their company, taking a thorough look at your employee engagement and satisfaction should be a priority.  
A stay interview can be a very useful tool in gauging why your employees are staying and where you can improve as a company. We suggest you start using it asap.

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