In the hustle and bustle of hiring a replacement for a former employee, the exit interview can be one of those things that slips your mind. While it is important to continue to look forward and make progress on hiring to fill your open positions, an employee transitioning out of your business can also provide valuable feedback about their role, their experience, and their thoughts on your company. Furthermore, they can do so in a way that’s more honest than current employee surveys—after all, they’re leaving and likely already have another job; what’s to lose from being forthcoming?
Exit interviews aren’t the be-all end-all; obviously, this employee no longer felt they were a good fit for your company, and at the end of the day there may just be personality or cultural differences that were too difficult to overcome. But there may also be nuggets of information that can be helpful when hiring a new person to fill the open role. You’ll never know unless you take the time to schedule the interview.
Don’t skip the exit interview. Here are seven exit interview questions you should always ask to learn from your former employee.
Why are you leaving our company?
First things first: why is the employee leaving? It may be a reason that has nothing to do with your company (a move, an industry change, retirement, a dream job opening) or a reason that has everything to do with your company (conflict with a colleague, an inability to progress, difficulty succeeding, better pay elsewhere). By starting with the basics, you’ll be able to set the tone for the rest of your conversation and understand why the employee was no longer feeling satisfied with their role.
What ideas do you wish you could have implemented during your time here?
Almost everyone has something that they would like to do in their job, but can’t for whatever reason. Whether it’s a major product overhaul or a brand-new service, find out what the leaving employee wishes they could have done differently. This will help you see blind spots in your current offering, and may help you understand why they weren’t able to contribute in the way they would have liked. Did they feel like they had too much on their plate? Were their colleagues or manager unsupportive? Did they feel like the current structure of your company couldn’t support their ideas? It can also help you get insight into the business they’re transferring to; they likely mentioned their ideas to the person hiring them, meaning you can get a glimpse into where their new company is headed. If you consider their new company your competition, that can be extremely helpful information to have.
What do you think is the most important skill the person taking over your job will need?
This question will help you in two important ways. First of all, it will help you understand what you need to be looking for when replacing the employee. This answer can craft your interview questions and/or the job description for the open position.
But it will also help you understand if you had a blind spot when it came to the position. For instance, say the person leaving was in a sales role. Think of the skillset usually connected with sales: communication, tenacity, the ability to think on your feet. But if the former salesperson answers they need to be able to use the product perfectly, or they need to be great at social media, you may start to get a better picture of what the position actually entails. Maybe you didn’t realize how often product demonstrations are used, or how much your company relies on social media to sell. By learning what the leaving employee thinks its important, you’ll have a better understanding of the role.
Do you feel like you had the support you needed to succeed here?
One common reason employees leave their current position is because they didn’t feel supported by management. If they see no opportunities for promotion, no mentorship, or no investment in their future, they’re likely to look for employment elsewhere. Make sure you get an understanding of how management treated that employee, and where any bumps in the road occurred. It can give you an idea of how to better support employees in the future to prevent further turnover. Again, this is the type of question a current employee may be afraid to answer honestly—but employees on their way out the door have nothing to lose by sharing their honest thoughts and feelings.
What will your salary and benefits be like in your new position?
This isn’t something every employee is going to be comfortable sharing, and they certainly don’t need to. But it they are willing to spill the beans, it’s incredibly helpful because it allows you to see how your company measures up to the competition in terms of compensation. You can typically get a sense of the market rate through your network and websites like GlassDoor but hearing it from someone who’s recently been hired is priceless—no pun intended.
What was your experience of our company culture?
You may have a vision of your company as a place where people thrive, are appreciated, and can be completely themselves. But does that measure up to reality? Asking an exiting employee who has nothing to lose can be the best way to understand what employees truly think of your company culture.
What advice would you give a new employee here?
Lastly, ask the exiting employee what advice they would give to the person taking over their role. This can be a treasure trove of valuable information: what skills they think the person will need to utilize, what kind of tasks they’ll need to tackle, how they can best fit into your company culture, etc. It’s kind of a catch-all that helps you truly understand the position and what is needed for a person to succeed in it.
Claire Swinarksi is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.