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The 20 Best Exit Interview Questions to Ask Employees before They Leave

Asking exit interview questions offers actionable insight for improving your employee experience

J.R. Johnivan
Business and HR Tech Journalist
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There comes a time when even the best and most loyal employees have to leave the workplace. Whether they’re retiring, pursuing a new job, or taking an extended leave of absence, asking them a series of exit interview questions will help you gain insight into the employee experience your organization offers.

Most employees, if not all, are eager to provide their feedback. To make the most of this opportunity, we must be prepared with questions that lead to quantifiable, actionable responses. This article covers the best exit interview questions to assess opportunities for improving your workplace.

In This Article

5 Exit Interview Questions About Leadership

Long-lasting change begins at the top. It is critical to ask your former employees about their feelings regarding your managerial team. Some employees might be hesitant to answer these questions truthfully if they’re still employed, but those who are leaving the workplace are more likely to speak their minds.

Here are examples of suitable questions regarding organizational leadership.

On a scale of one to five, how would you rate our managerial staff?

Why ask this question?

Most employees are already familiar with surveys that use a scale of 1 to 5, so this is an easy question that most can answer in a matter of seconds.

Actionable insight

By assigning a specific ranking to each number (1 = poor, 2 = needs improvement, 3 = average, 4 = good, 5 = exceptional), you’re sure to get an accurate, tangible, and actionable data point.

These numbers can be viewed in aggregate to track leadership improvement or decline over time. For example, you can compare the average rating of your managerial team in the past month or quarter with ratings from previous periods.

Do you feel that our managerial team adequately supported your success?

Why ask this question?

The primary goals of your managerial team are to prioritize and delegate tasks, supervise day-to-day activities, and ensure productivity. However, experienced managers know that their success ultimately depends on the success and growth of their entire team.

Finding managers who know how to support the career development of their subordinates goes a long way in driving productivity and overall job satisfaction.

Actionable insight

Managers need to be supportive of their workforce. Asking this question will clarify whether a lack of career support is driving employee turnover.

Investigating a lack of career development can point to an actionable diagnosis. For example, managers may not be sure how to support career growth in their team. The barrier may also be a lack of infrastructure or training material to facilitate career development. This may be remedied by investing in a learning management system or career development program.

Ensuring your managers have access to the right tools, resources, and training is paramount to the long-term productivity and success of any team.

How would you describe the management style of your direct supervisors?

Why ask this question?

Every manager has their style of leadership. This question is especially useful when you’re working with new or novice managers, as it can highlight their strengths and weaknesses. It’s also nice to know whether your established, experienced managers are still providing good leadership.

Actionable insight

Questions like this help you understand the different styles of leadership within your organization, and how they resonate with employees. They’re also useful for calibrating whether leadership strategies within each department align with the standards of your organization.

Did you receive regular performance reviews or assessments during your time with our company?

Why ask this question?

Employee engagement is three times more likely to occur when your staff members receive consistent feedback.

Regular check-ins with managers and structured performance management let them know what they’re doing right, and what areas of their work they should focus on.

Actionable insight

It’s important to confirm that your managerial team regularly reviews the performance of the workforce. Asking about the frequency and quality of feedback employees receive during their tenure provides valuable insights into the leadership they receive at your company.

If employees don’t receive a thorough review within their first few months, for example, there could be bigger issues at play. A lack of feedback is a red flag that a manager is neglecting their leadership responsibilities and driving employee attrition.

Do you believe you were treated fairly and respectfully by the leadership team?

Why ask this question?

Your company’s leadership should treat everyone fairly and respectfully at all times. If not, the human resources department needs to know about it. Unfortunately, toxic leadership and mismanagement often only become evident when you ask exit interview questions because the employee may have feared speaking up while they were still working with a bad manager.

Not only do such issues reflect poorly on your organization as a whole, but they could even result in legal consequences.

Actionable insight

Discrimination is unacceptable in the modern workplace. If there are any cases among your leaders, you must address the issue immediately with a face-to-face meeting and potential disciplinary actions.

Allegations of toxic leadership are also a serious concern. Once the problem is evident, steps must be taken to remedy the organizational culture.

An employee completing an exit survey on their last day of work.

5 Exit Interview Questions About Company Culture

Company culture has never been as vital as it is in the 21st century. Many job seekers make decisions based on a company’s culture, including factors like diversity, inclusion, equality, community involvement, etc. Reports show that today’s employees will quit a job if they feel the culture is too toxic.

Did you fit in with our company culture right away? Did you have difficulty assimilating to the workplace?

Why ask this question?

While it generally takes a few weeks for a new employee to become comfortable with their surroundings, most professionals should be able to meet their teammates, learn the mission statement, and begin embracing the culture within a month or two at most.

Actionable insight

New hires who can’t seem to fit in with their co-workers will likely struggle in the workplace – but who is to blame?

When multiple employees find it challenging to assimilate into your company culture, it could indicate issues with the culture itself. Prying into reasons they felt excluded during the exit interview process provides valuable information regarding the company’s DEI efforts, onboarding process, and cohesion.

Is our company culture similar or different from what you’ve experienced in the past? How?

Why ask this question?

Open-ended questions like this provide insight into the company cultures of your competitors and how they compare to yours. While you don’t want to mimic another company culture entirely, you should be aligned with desirable employers in your industry. If not, your employer brand may be at risk.

Actionable insight

Asking how a departing employee feels about your company culture might give you some tips and tricks for improvement. You can even expand on this question by asking them for specific likes and dislikes or by giving them the opportunity to offer suggestions for improvements that would increase employee satisfaction.

Does our company culture correspond with our public image and reputation?

Why ask this question?

This question gives you some insight into your brand’s public image and whether or not it aligns with your current company culture. Even a highly reputable organization can have a toxic company culture or one that is misaligned with their employer brand.

Employee retention is at risk when the reality of working at your organization fails to meet candidate expectations.

Actionable insight

If you find that your company culture doesn’t align with the public perception of your brand, it’s time to make some serious changes.

Modifying your company culture to match your reputation could work, as long as your brand is still shown in a positive light. If there is a negative perception of your company as an employer, consulting an employer branding specialist is advisable.

In your opinion, what does the ideal company culture look like?

Why ask this question?

Everybody has a different idea of what constitutes the perfect company culture. While some expect a culture based on teamwork and collaboration, others would prefer a more independent culture. Questions like this let you know if your company fails to meet expectations or if some employees expect too much. 

Actionable insight

Use these responses to identify strengths and weaknesses in your own company culture. You can also draw inspiration from their thoughts and ideas, which could help attract other similar employees in the future.  

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from our company culture?

Why ask this question?

This is a great way to evaluate the current state of your company culture. Are you sending a clear message about workplace values, attitude, and employee morale, or are your subordinates receiving mixed signals? 

Actionable insight

Your company culture should serve as an inspiration for others. If you find exiting employees coming up blank on this question, you might want to re-evaluate your culture and determine what kind of messages you’re sending.

An HR professional wishing an exiting employee well as they leave the office after resigning and completing an exit interview.

5 Exit Interview Questions About Employee Experience

A positive employee experience goes a long way when trying to reduce turnover and increase employee retention. Nobody wants to go to a miserable workplace every day, even if they are paid well.

Can you detail the best and worst aspects of your time with our company?

Why ask this question?

This open-ended question allows the employee to provide specific details about their experience. It also provides further insight into your organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

Actionable insight

Use these responses to learn which organizational traits you need to improve and which can be left to the wayside. If numerous employees all have the same complaints, for example, it’s a clear sign that some adjustments need to be made. Finding out what employees like most about your company is helpful, too, as you can try to add new experiences that are similar in nature.

To track responses as data points, you can make it possible for exiting employees to select specific aspects of the workplace in your exit interview template. If, for example, your exit survey allows them to select “leadership,” “workload,” “workplace morale,” “remuneration” or “career opportunity” as the primary driver of their resignation, you can track the fluctuations of a specific response per department and over time. Open-ended responses are harder to quantify in this way.

Did you feel that your time and contributions were valued by our company?

Why ask this question?

Employees want to feel appreciated in the workplace. They want to know that they’re contributing to the team as a whole, and they want to know that their hard work is appreciated by the management team.

Actionable insight

Investigating employee recognition (or lack thereof) in the offboarding process can make a pertinent case for following established recognition policies or improving your efforts.

Those who feel underappreciated in the workplace probably won’t stick around for long. If you notice high employee turnover within your organization, direct questions like this can help you get to the root cause.

Feel free to mention these issues to your managerial team and brainstorm ideas on how you can better recognize the contributions of your entire staff.

Were you satisfied with your salary or hourly wages?

Why ask this question?

Many employees leave their jobs due to low pay. While some can be convinced to stay with offers of promotions, raises, increasing their benefits package, or more PTO, this often only works as a short-term solution. Once the cost of living increases or they start to experience burnout again, most will revisit the option of quitting.

Actionable insight

To keep your staff satisfied, it is critical that you pay them a fair salary or hourly wage. Employee benefits are always a bonus, but they shouldn’t be used to make up for low pay. If too many employees quit due to their wages, it’s probably time to re-evaluate how your offering compares to industry standards.

Did your job description adequately match your day-to-day responsibilities?

Why ask this question?

Job descriptions and job interviews can be misleading, which leads to disappointed new hires and, ultimately, attrition.

Job ads are well written if compiled or reviewed by someone familiar with the role. Even so, a new employee may feel misled if additional responsibilities are tacked on after the hiring process.

Unforeseen duties can turn an otherwise happy and motivated team member into someone who loathes their job. This is especially true when the extra work does not align with the KPIs of their new role or benefit their career development.

Actionable insight

Job descriptions and postings must be accurate. Not only do they need to describe a new hire’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities, but they should also give some indication of pay. Use this question to determine if any changes need to be made or if your current descriptions are accurate enough.

What skills and abilities should we look for when hiring your replacement?

Why ask this question?

Some managerial staff are so far removed from the day-to-day activities of their subordinates that they’re unsure of what skills are necessary to replace exiting employees. This question lets the employee provide their own input regarding the skills and traits that they used on a daily basis.

Actionable insight

Use this response to guide your recruitment and hiring efforts for future employees. While some skills and attributes are evident, others aren’t apparent until you’ve personally performed the role's duties.

5 Exit Interview Questions About Career Development and Opportunities

While some employees leave to take time away from the workforce or for other personal reasons, most do so to pursue better opportunities. Asking questions about their career development and future opportunities is a great way to brainstorm ideas for strengthening your remaining team.

Do you consider it necessary to leave this company to grow in your career?

Why ask this question?

Don’t be afraid to get right to the point. Employee exit interviews are most useful if all the cards are on the table. You can follow up on this question by discussing DEI in the ranks, mentorship opportunities, and personal development plans. If the employee believed they had no future in your company, one of these aspects of their working conditions may have been lacking.

Actionable insight

This question helps identify competitors who may be trying to lure away your staff with promises of higher pay or additional benefits.

In addition, it may divulge how employees view your organization — as a stepping stone or a career destination.

Would you consider returning to our company in the future?

Why ask this question?

In some cases, you might be open to rehiring an employee in the future. This is informally known as a boomerang hire.

Whether for a new position or the same one, returning employees have an easier time with onboarding since they’re already mostly familiar with the team, the work environment, and the organization's standards.

Actionable insight

This question lets you know whether or not you should keep an employee in mind for future talent outreach. As long as you’re happy with their work and they left on a positive note, it makes sense that you’d consider them again in the future.

Is there anything that could prevent you from leaving our company?

Why ask this question?

Don’t let your top talent walk out the door without allowing them to reconsider. Sometimes, an employee can be convinced to stay simply by offering them a raise or offering flexibility that would improve their work-life balance.

Actionable insight

This question is best reserved for when you really want to keep an employee on your team.

It allows them to define what would make their job better or worth staying for. While you don’t necessarily have to meet their demands, this question will still give you some insight into improvements you can make to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

What first prompted you to consider other opportunities?

Why ask this question?

If you notice a high turnover, understanding what prompts it can help uncover underlying issues that might persist in the workplace.

Employees don’t usually quit at the first sign of trouble. Many times, their job search resulted from a series of unpleasant events.

Actionable insight

Organizations that suffer from above-average or frequent turnover need to investigate all possible causes to find the root of the problem. Asking employees for their specific input in this manner gives your team a great starting point when trying to rectify such issues and minimize turnover in the future.

How do you feel about the learning and development opportunities our company offers?

Why ask this question?

Learning and development opportunities are a great way to sharpen and refine the skills of your workforce. In some cases, you can even use these programs to prepare your top talent for future promotions with your company.

Actionable insight

You’ll want to ensure you’re offering current employees ample opportunities for training, learning, and development. Feel free to expand on this with follow-up questions that solicit specific suggestions and recommendations regarding the development programs they’d like to see.

Conclusion: Utilizing Employee Feedback from Exit Interview Questions

Whether positive or negative, the feedback collected from an effective exit interview gives your organizational leaders deeper insight into their workforce. The challenge comes in recognizing sincere and honest feedback, collecting actionable data, and implementing constructive feedback in a meaningful and impactful way.

For best results, give your managerial team enough time to review feedback and provide analyses. Not only does this give you further insight into the issues affecting your organization, but it also ensures that everyone is on board with any future changes you might make.

J.R. Johnivan
Business and HR Tech Journalist
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Combining a lifelong love of technology and the written word, J.R. is constantly balancing traditional arts with next-gen breakthroughs and advancements. With 30-plus years of experience working with computers and IT of all kinds, including over a decade of reviewing HR software, he caters to audiences all around the globe from his quaint home in West Michigan.

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