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Essential Exit Interview Questions Every Employer Should Ask

Employee turnover is a reality in any business. While it’s natural to focus on finding immediate replacements, there’s another valuable opportunity waiting to be tapped: exit interviews.

As a Christchurch recruitment agency dedicated to helping local businesses improve their HR practices, Ryan understands the importance of gathering and analysing feedback from departing staff. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive list of exit interview questions for employees, along with best practices for extracting valuable, actionable feedback.

The Importance of Exit Interviews

Exit interviews offer a unique opportunity to gain honest feedback from employees who are leaving your business. They can reveal areas for improvement, including management issues, unclear career paths, or concerns with the workplace culture that might be overlooked by current staff.

This kind of feedback is invaluable for preventing future turnover and enhancing employee satisfaction and retention. By understanding why employees leave, you can address concerns and improve employee satisfaction, leading to a more stable workforce.

How to Prepare for an Exit Interview

Before conducting an exit interview, it’s important to set the right tone. Make sure that the departing employee understands that the interview is confidential and the information provided will be used constructively. It’s a good idea to prepare your questions in advance and make sure they’re open-ended to allow for more detailed responses.

Schedule the interview close to the last working day to ensure the employee’s experiences are fresh in their mind. Be sure to choose a neutral interviewer too – someone from HR or an external provider rather than a direct supervisor to avoid any bias.

You could also consider offering departing employees the option to complete an anonymous online survey alongside the exit interview to provide an additional layer of feedback for individuals who may be hesitant to speak directly.


During the Exit Interview

When conducting the exit interview, it’s important to create a comfortable environment where the departing employee feels they can speak freely and honestly. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Actively Listen

Show a genuine interest in their feedback and ask follow-up questions to delve deeper into their responses. Encourage the departing employee to elaborate on their responses to provide deeper insight but also convey that their opinions are valued and taken seriously.

Use phrases such as, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “What led you to feel this way?”

Be Neutral

It’s natural to feel defensive when faced with criticism, especially if the feedback concerns areas of the business you are closely tied to. However, it’s important to approach the interview with an open mind and a commitment to improvement.

Use phrases like, “I appreciate your honesty, let’s explore this issue further,” to focus the conversation on constructive outcomes.

Take Notes

Take detailed notes on key points and specific examples provided by the employee. These notes will be invaluable when analysing trends and patterns after the interview. It’s also beneficial to summarise and reflect back what was discussed at the end of the interview to confirm the accuracy of your notes.

After the Exit Interview

After the exit interview is complete, review the information collected and look for any actionable insights. It’s a good idea to take a look at feedback from previous exit interviews to identify patterns or recurring themes that may not be obvious after a single interview.

It’s important to share your insights with department heads, management teams, and HR personnel. Make sure that the feedback is presented constructively, focusing on how it can be used for positive changes rather than attributing blame.

Based on the feedback, develop specific action plans to address the issues raised. If, for instance, employees feel that the work environment is too competitive or high-pressure, consider strategies to create a more collaborative and supportive atmosphere.

It’s also important to communicate any changes to your employees to keep them across what’s happening in the organisation and to demonstrate that their feedback is valued and has a real impact.

Essential Exit Interview Questions

When conducting an exit interview, your questions should cover several key areas to provide a comprehensive view of the employee’s experience. You’re looking for detailed answers to your exit interview questions to create actionable steps toward improvement.

Take a look at the exit interview questions sample below to guide your discussion.


General Questions

  • What prompted you to start looking for a new job?
  • What aspects of your job did you enjoy the most?
  • What were the most challenging parts of your job?

Questions About Management and Support

  • Did you feel supported and motivated by your leadership team? If not, why?
  • How effectively do you think your performance was managed? (Feedback frequency, clarity of objectives, etc.)
  • Did your manager actively work with you to discuss and support your career goals?

Team and Work Environment

  • How did you find working with your team?
  • Were there enough opportunities for collaboration and innovation within your team?
  • How would you describe the culture of our company? How could it be improved?

Training and Development

  • Did you feel like there were genuine opportunities for professional growth and development within the company?
  • Did you receive adequate training to perform your job effectively?
  • How could our training and development programs be improved?

Compensation and Benefits

  • How do you feel about the way compensation and benefits are structured?
  • Did you consider your compensation to be fair in relation to your job responsibilities?
  • How could our benefits program be improved to better meet the needs of our employees?

Overall Satisfaction and Departure

  • Overall, how satisfied were you working at this company?
  • What could have been done for you to remain employed here?
  • Would you recommend our company as a great place to work to friends or family? Why or why not?

If you need support with conducting an exit interview or with your HR processes in general, we’re here to help. Ryan has worked with local businesses for over 35 years – it’s this long-standing experience that allows us to go above and beyond for our valued clients. If you’d like to find out more about how our HR Services can help you and your business, get in touch with us today.