An exit interview is a survey taken by an employee who decide to call it quits. It's a final series of questions where the organization can learn about its employees' opinions and experiences.
Straight up, what are the employee exit survey questions you should be asking?
What made you start looking for a new job?
How was your relationship with your supervisor?
Were you given the tools needed to carry out your job?
How would you suggest your job be changed in the future?
How was your work/life balance during your time here?
Did you like working here?
What can we do better as an organization?
But before you start asking these questions, you need to understand why you’re asking them.
There’s a number of reasons to run employee exit surveys when people leave your company. They’re a great chance to learn about your own organization, and shouldn’t be underestimated. So let’s take a look at the benefits:
You don’t have to stick to “Why are you leaving?”
Think bigger, and get creative. Employees will have a ton of things to share about the place they’ve spent eight hours a day for the last three years—so expect the unexpected, and be open to criticism. It can only make things better.
Did Kelly really believe in the product? Why, or why not? Was management always breathing down her neck?
Employees’ opinions are an ocean, and the exit survey is your fishing rod.
When talented people leave, it’s a bad day for everyone. But all you can do is look ahead. Because after all, you want the good ones to be productive, happy—and stick around.
Get feedback to find what’s missing, and create the best work culture possible.
This is the key for your organization to keep the keepers.
When somebody leaves, it might be the best time to ask the heavy questions. Why? Because when somebody stays put, odds are they’re pretty happy with how things are going at work.
Maybe they have no problem at all with their job. Or maybe the problems aren’t big enough yet to push them away.
Either way, it’s hard to learn about problems from people who don’t have them.
If you’re surveying the people who have already decided to leave, you’ll be speaking to those who have well-formed opinions about the company—opinions that the rest of your staff don’t feel need addressing urgently.
Photo by Pathum Danthanarayana on Unsplash
There is no one-size-fits-all template that any company can use for their exit surveys. You need to think about what your priorities are for continuing to grow as a company and improve as an employer.
This is the best chance you’ll have to get employees’ real thoughts about the company—without getting them drunk first.
We don’t want to leave our readers without offering some direction for their survey.
So here are a few exit survey examples to consider, broken down into topics.
• What made you start looking for a new job? • What made you choose your new job over working here? • What would make you want to return in the future?
Let’s start with the obvious, why is this person leaving?
Try to make the question specific, though. Asking the example questions above gives you much better insights than just “Why are you leaving?”.
Remember: don’t burn bridges. Employee turnover happens in every organization, so don’t take it personally—it could’ve just been a lack of employee engagement. There’s a lot of reasons people choose to change jobs, way more than we could hope to list here.
• How was your relationship with your supervisor? • Is it easy to disagree with your supervisor? • How well did they handle problems? • What do you think about the expectations set by your boss? • Did you ever have a problem with the decisions made by your supervisor? • Did your boss recognize your decisions?
Asking a leaving employee about their direct supervisor is perhaps the most important topic to address.
If an employee has problems with their boss, including serious ones, then it can be very hard for them to bring them up while they’re still at the company. Current employees might avoid reporting problems if they fear a backlash.
No good company has room for toxic management. If it’s taken until an employee quits to discover these problems is a shame—but it would be worse to never find these out.
Asking about the relationship a leaving employee has with their boss could save other employees from similar problems. Or strengthen what already works. It’s important so don’t shy away from this.
• Were you given the tools needed to carry out your job? • Would you say you were well-paid here? • Did your team work together to achieve goals? • How would you suggest your job be changed in the future? • Did your job description or responsibilities change while you were here?
This is the part employees often know the most about, and no one will know it better than the employee themselves.
Ideally, if someone has a problem with the work they’re doing, they should be able to talk about it and suggest changes. And the perfectly run organization welcomes it.
If that’s not the case, however, this is your last chance to find out. So make the most of this opportunity, and learn how things could be better.
• Were you given chance to grow here? • How was your work/life balance during your time here? • How stressed did you feel at this company? • Did you ever feel unsafe while working here? • Did you like working here?
A company is just a big team of people. Productivity is important, but the human side of any organization should never be ignored. Work is a big part of our lives, but we do have lives outside of it.
So if you run exit surveys, and stress, safety concerns or emotional issues keep popping up as answers, then it’s important to know. Humans aren’t worker ants—you should be aiming to run a team of people who are happy to be there.
• What qualifications should your replacement have that the team is currently lacking? • Are there any skills you feel your team is lacking?
The classic mistake companies make when an employee leaves is to look for a carbon copy of the person who just left.
Maybe the company is entering a market that needs a new language. Or maybe you’re launching a totally new product. Or maybe you’re in a new technological landscape and you need someone who can navigate it with certain new skills.
Ask the employee what the team needs moving forward. After all, the new employee should be an even better fit than the last one was.
• Have there been policies at this company that are hard to understand, or that you disagree with? • How does the health insurance or other benefits of this company compare to others? • What can we do better as an organization?
Not everyone in an organization is part of the big-picture strategy. But that’s not to say their opinion isn’t worth learning.
If everyone but the decision-makers can see why things are going south, it’ll be hard to correct the course. It should be no surprise if people jump ship at this point, especially if their voices aren’t being heard.