Small Business Exit Interview Guide & 20 Exit Interview Questions You Should Ask

Tom Quinn |
Tom (he/him) is a growth marketing manager at Snagajob helping small businesses find hourly workers.

Exit interviews give you a unique chance to understand why a departing employee is leaving your company, helping to inform your retention strategy for the future. Regardless of the size or nature of your business, knowing more about why employees leave for new jobs and organizations can only be a good thing. But it's important not to make the process a chore for employers and employees alike. Determining what questions to ask during an exit interview is an important process in making this a useful, even enjoyable, experience full of valuable feedback and professional closure.

What causes unwanted attrition?

Unwanted or unplanned attrition (departing employees) isn't caused by any one factor. Luckily, thanks to honest feedback from employees around the world, we know some of the main reasons team members leave their jobs: 

Job Dissatisfaction

When an employee feels like their job no longer gives them meaning, purpose or direction, they're likely to leave to find another job that will. A decline in employee satisfaction could be as a result of a recent change in their job description, or in a slow degradation of their feelings towards their work.

Bad Management

They say that people don't change jobs, they change managers. That's because departing employees tend to leave jobs to get away from a bad manager, rather than because of any issue with company culture or company policies.

No Future

If employees don't feel like they have any development opportunities at a company, they're likely to leave to somewhere that can. This is often not a comment on the quality of their company, manager, or current work, but rather an inevitable end point to their career progression within the organization.

Feeling Undervalued

Everyone wants to feel appreciated for their hard work. If a company doesn't successfully recognize their staff for the value they add to the company, they will likely see high turnover as their employees find new jobs with companies that do value them.

Workplace Conflict

One less common and more acute reason behind exiting employees could be conflict with a co-worker or manager. If an employee has an issue with one of their colleagues that isn't successfully resolved within the team or with the help of Human Resources, they may choose to leave the organization to avoid future conflict.

What is an exit interview?

An exit interview is a process towards the end of an employee's time with the company whereby you get a chance to learn about their employee experience. While the main function is to determine why a specific employee is leaving, over time the answers to exit interview questions can identify trends that can help inform the hiring process for future employees. Exit interviews can be conducted face-to-face, online over a video call, or by the employee independently through the use of a form or exit survey.

What are the goals of an effective exit interview?

When an employer conduct exit interviews effectively, they can be a source of valuable information and provide unique insight into your employee experience. However, it's important that the questions to ask during an exit interview are guided by effective and realistic goals. Examples of exit interview goals could include:

  • Collect data on key reasons employees leave the company

  • Provide closure for the company and the employee

  • Build a picture of the company image amongst departing employees

  • Inform employee retention strategy and human resources priorities

Why is conducting exit interviews and surveys important?

The value to the organization is easy to see. An employee exit interview can help employers determine the reasons employees leave, and how they might retain employees in a similar situation in the future. It can let you know what impression your employees have of your company: are they still a supporter of the organization? Would they recommend working with your company to others, or have they have a negative experience? Overall, exit interview questions help businesses identify areas of risk and areas for improvement.

The exit interview process is also important for the exiting employee. Having a chance to talk to their employer about their experience working for the company gives employees much-needed closure and a sense of finality about their career. This is especially important for employees that have worked with the company for a long time, or have contributed at a high level. The exit interview is one last chance for employers to demonstrate that they recognise the hard work of the exiting employee, and value any feedback they might have.

Key themes to measure in an exit interview

An effective exit interview should aim to hit at least a few of the following points:

  • Why the employee is leaving

  • Their impression of the company

  • Their relationship with their direct line manager and further team

  • Whether they would recommend the company to potential future employees

How you tailor the exact questions to ask during an exit interview is up to you, and will be determined by your company values and retention strategy. However, the above themes can help guide your question writing.

10 Best Exit Interview Questions

How to conduct an exit interview depends on dozens of factors, from your particular company culture, to human resources work processes, to what you want to learn. While not every employee will provide helpful answers to every question, there are some questions that can root out particular data points that are can prove very helpful in determining your company's retention strategy.

1. Why did you decide to join the company?

Whether it was 6 months ago or 10 years ago, follow-up with your exiting employees about their reasons for joining the company in the first place. Try to determine what changed between onboarding and now.

2. What made you start searching for a new job?

A general broad question, but really the main reason behind the process in the first place: "why are you leaving?" Allow them space to go into as much or as little detail as they feel comfortable.

3. How long have you been in your role?

An employee leaving after a handful of months will have a very different perspective to one who has worked with the company for many years. Asking this question will help in sorting the data from multiple exit interview responses over time.

4. Do you feel your achievements were properly recognized throughout your time in the role?

We've said how one of the main reasons for employees leaving is feeling undervalued. A direct question to this effect can help easily identify whether this is an area for improvement or not.

5. Did you share any of your concerns with the company and/or the job before deciding to leave the role?

If the employee had raised issues before leaving, there is a chance they could have been resolved and the employee retained. If they didn't share concerns, ask yourself what you can do to promote employee engagement in feedback systems.

6. Do you have a suggestion on how to solve...?

If an employee has identified a concern or a problem with the company or team, ask them what they would do to solve it. It may not be a viable solution, but it will come from the most qualified person and could provide valuable insight.

7. Would you recommend any changes to the job description for your role?

Enlist the departing employee in finessing the hiring process. They will be the best placed to tell you if the role has changed during their time with the company, and how that should be reflected in the new job description.

8. What skills or experience should we look for in your replacement?

Again, use the knowledge of the former employee to help you in finding future employees. There may be skills or experiences that they have learned (or wished they had learned) that would be helpful for potential candidates to have.

9. How do your colleagues feel about the work environment of the company?

Exit interview questions are a chance to get insight into an exiting employees team as well as themselves. Use this question to (anonymously) get a temperature reading on the team as a whole.

10. Would you come back to work for us in the future? 

Just because they're leaving this role, doesn't mean they've given up on the company. Determine their impression of the organization and get a sense of what you could do to attract employees like them in the future.

10 Common Exit Interview Questions

​Common exit interview questions provide a well-rounded impression of the employee's perspective on their time in the role, their team, and the role itself.

  1. Is there anything that would have changed your mind about leaving?

  2. What was the best thing about your job? 

  3. What was something you wish you could change?

  4. Would you recommend us to prospective employees?

  5. How satisfied were you with the salary and/or benefits of the role?

  6. How do you feel about the feedback you received from your manager(s)?

  7. Did you receive enough training to do your job effectively?

  8. What were your greatest accomplishments and achievements in the role?

  9. Have you ever experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace?

  10. What would you change about the company?


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