Exit interview questions can reveal a lot about a company and its culture as those leaving the organisation are probably not hesitant to reveal the problems they noticed and experienced. Exit interview questions need to be well thought out and open-ended, allowing the responder to provide as much information as they want. 

Every company develops its own culture. However, each team within the company can have its own culture on a smaller scale. Even though the company’s environment affects the teams, some could have lower turnover than others, with fewer complaints and absences. The human resource team can use the feedback from the exit interview to assist each department in improving its own culture. This is why exit interview questions should not be seen as a mundane task but as an opportunity to help the company improve its communication and environment.  

Planning your exit interview questions

Before diving into what questions you need to ask, it’s always important to start by defining the goals. What do you want to get out of the interviews? Are you already aware of an issue? For example, if you see high staff turnover as an issue, you could focus the interview on addressing complaints and reducing your staff turnover by 2% by the end of the year. The goals will depend on the company, size, industry and how many employees it has. 

If you think that issues such as power harassment or sexual harassment are taking place in your company, make sure to bring them up during the interview to check if the employee has experienced something negative. Bullying, harassment and discrimination could go unnoticed for long periods of time so it’s always advisable to see if employees are leaving for the ‘right reason’. 

Here are some exit interview questions you could ask:

1. Why are you leaving?

Straight to the point. This might be a hard question to ask and might make both the HR manager and the employee uncomfortable. However, it can give a lot of insight into how the company and the teams work. Even if the reason is due to financial benefits, if this is a recurring answer, it can encourage a review of the current salary paid to employees. However, if the employee didn’t feel included or wasn’t treated fairly by their manager, you may need to check how other employees are feeling with their team to establish whether this is an isolated situation or not. 

2. How do you feel about your time here?

Exit interview questions may touch on sensitive topics, which is to be expected. Try to make the employee feel at ease and ensure they don’t feel judged at any point. While a lot of people won’t be hesitant to share how their experience was, others may be afraid of burning bridges. Ensure that your tone encourages them to share their mind and that you don’t look judgemental. That way, they are more likely to discuss their experiences in detail and what problems they had with the company (if any) and its culture. 

3. Was there any reason you considered staying?

This question can provide some information about the strengths of the company. While knowing weaknesses is important, knowing the strengths of the organisation is also crucial as it lets the team know what they are doing right so they can continue doing it. If the employee responds by saying the work culture is ideal, everyone is friendly and welcoming and they felt appreciated and recognised for their work, this shows that the company is taking a step in the right direction. A negative response can point to things that will need to be improved to create a more positive work environment. 

4. Did you feel like you received a lot of support?

This question checks how employees felt about the support they received in their role and also the support they received during difficult times. It can reveal whether or not the business has enough resources to help its employees through different stages in their lives. Did they feel like they could talk to their manager if they needed to? A lot of the time victims of bullying or harassment might not speak up as they feel bad for putting another person in a difficult situation. Exit interview questions are great for seeing how supported employees feel for all aspects of their time in the company. 

exit interview questions

5. Did you experience any discrimination, harassment or unfair treatment during your time here?

As mentioned, harassment and discrimination may go unnoticed and may not be reported because of the fear of retaliation. As an employee is leaving, they might be more comfortable sharing any aggressive or unethical behaviour they were victims of. This will help uncover any issues the company is experiencing that could affect the overall culture. If you have noticed a high turnover rate, similar questions may be necessary to uncover a negative work environment and improve it. In 2021, 34% of employees surveyed said that they left their job due to harassment issues.

6. Did you feel appreciated and rewarded for your contributions?

Do you acknowledge the achievements of your employees? Are they recognised for the effort they put into the work? How do you do that? Employees who are leaving the company can give insight into whether the company is doing enough or if more initiatives need to be introduced to increase employee morale. If employees don’t feel valued, this can affect your workplace and its overall productivity. 

7. What do you think of our company culture?

Every employee may experience the company culture differently. However, it is important to see how the company culture affected the decisions employees made and whether it was a deciding factor in them leaving. Employers shouldn’t dismiss answers to this question, rather, they should encourage the employee to share as much as they are willing to. If the employee replies with something unexpected, that’s actually positive as they gave them new information to consider. 

For example, the company may think that it fosters open communication and enables employee growth. However, that may not be the case from the perspective of employees. Exit interview answers may challenge the current beliefs a company holds. Building a strong work culture with clear core values and expectations can prevent many issues for the business. 

8. What would you tell a new employee coming into the company?

The answer to this question can not only help with improvements in company workflows, communication and culture but can also help in creating a better on-boarding process. The employee leaving might express something that they had wished they knew when starting to work for the company. Something that could have been missed during the on-boarding that would have been useful. For example, the employee might express that they weren’t aware of all the company policies and they didn’t know where to find them when they first started. This is very positive feedback as it lets the HR team know what they can do better. 

9. If you had any concerns, did you discuss them with someone before deciding to leave?

This question can give companies a lot of insight into how comfortable employees are when it comes to discussing issues they have with their team or manager. If an employee replies that they did have an issue and they talked about it with someone, then the follow-up questions should focus on who they talked to, when and what happened after the conversation. It will show whether company policies were followed and if the employee’s concerns were taken seriously. 

If the employee didn’t report any issues, then the follow-up question should focus on what prevented the employee from seeking support and discussing their problems. Did they not feel comfortable with their manager? Did they feel intimidated? 

These answers can reveal a lot about how a company handles complaints and what kind of culture it fosters – you may find yourself with 0 submissions to your whistleblower hotline, but your exit interviews may reveal that people have complaints they don’t feel comfortable raising, and so they quit instead. It may also encourage a review of hiring processes to ensure that people hired align with company values. 

10. Would you recommend this organisation to others?

After all of their time here, does the employee feel that this is a good company to work for? Keep in mind that an employee leaving may not have negative feelings about a company. It may be that they have different career goals that the company cannot help them achieve. Not for a lack of trying, but simply because it’s not possible to do so. A smaller company may not be able to provide an employee with the same opportunities as a larger company but it might still be a great company to work for. 

Considering all that, if the employee responds positively, ask them why they think that. What did they like about the company and what made them stay for as long as they did? If they respond negatively, the previous answers may have indicated a reason as to why. Ask them to expand further and be more detailed if possible to get enough information. 

11. What do you think we need to improve on?

From the answers to all of the other exit interview questions, it should be clear what the company needs to improve on. However, this can be a good closing question to wrap things up. Ask the employee if there is anything that wasn’t asked or discussed that they believe the company can improve on. Is there an issue they feel strongly about that wasn’t covered? Do they have something else to add? 

This question acts as a last chance to give any feedback before the interview ends. As it is a broad question, it can be supported or modified to be more specific. Follow up questions can also help in getting the employee to think about areas that they haven’t considered. 

How to make the most out of exit interview questions

Exit interview questions can only be effective if the HR team carefully looks at them to determine an individual’s experience as well as try to discover a pattern. To get better answers, the team should explain to the employee that is leaving what the purpose of the interview is and how their answers will not affect the relationship they have with the company. The team should be looking for honesty, not politeness and diplomatic answers.