Critical Questions To Ask Employees When They Quit

November 5, 2015


When one of your employees express intent to resign, “why?” would usually be the first question. This can be asked casually or in a formal exit interview, but the question is quite broad. It’s likely there are multiple reasons behind the decision, and it’s difficult to answer such a general question.

As a Human Resources manager, you want to use this opportunity to learn the reasons behind their decision in the hopes of finding a way to better retain current employees. Instead of just asking “why?”, here are 4 specific questions we recommend asking to get a concise answer while at the same time knowing more about your company through the eyes of your employees.

1) What’s next for you?

You may find that the answer to this question speaks a lot about your company and the person. If the person responds that he or she is focusing on different priorities such as his or her family or a business, this would reflect that there may not be anything within your company that “pushed” that person out. The same may be said if that person is moving to a company with a completely different industry.

However, if the exit interviewee mentions that he will be moving to a new company within the same industry, try to dig a little more on that. If that person says that he took an offer for a higher position, that may mean your company wasn’t able to provide the growth opportunities (or didn’t portray that you can). If that person takes the same (or even lower) position in another company, this may speak more about the salary and benefits you provide. If this is the case, you may want to review your compensation packages to avoid this scenario again in the future and retain your best employees.

The most pressing concern is if a person would want to resign without any immediate plan to move forward whether personally and professionally. This may mean that there is some internal issue that made the person just want to leave without any back-up plan. Interpersonal conflicts with colleagues and stress from workload are two common reasons people leave without a plan.


2) Were you able to achieve what you were hoping to when you first applied?

This question is aimed at uncovering if expectations were met. Try to revisit the interviewee’s application, specifically the objectives. Was the company able to help the person achieve them?

If the person initially had a short-term goal such as learning the business, it’s likely they met it.  However, if they were not able to, you may want to revisit your training procedures, or ensure you’re hiring the right person for the job. On the other hand, unmet long term goals like growth within the company may show you as an employer where your company is headed.

Ability to meet these expectations should also be looked into especially when hiring new people. If the company is unable to deliver the objectives an applicant has, then it will just be a recurring cycle. Or worse, your company may develop that reputation as a high turnover company, which will deter future applicants.


3) Were you able to properly achieve your responsibilities?

The answer to this question will give you a glimpse of the person’s ability to function and perform well based on the resources your company provided. Hopefully the answer is yes, but listen well when the answer is ‘no’ because the person might share specific concerns on where the company may improve. Examples of these may include the following:

  • The company’s hardware and software are inefficient for the job.
  • The employee does not have a suitable area to work.
  • Too much workload for too little time and/or for too few people.
  • The person does not synergize well with his or her team.
  • If examples such as these only come up during the exit interview, the approachability of Management & Human Resources should also be evaluated.

The ability to function well may not be directly related to the person’s decision to resign, but these big factors will affect them.


4) What are a few things you see holding the company back from moving forward?

With this question, you can identify strengths and weaknesses of your company from an employee’s standpoint. It can help you understand what you have been doing right and wrong, what you should continue implementing, and how you can change your company for the good to keep all-star employees around longer.

Another important insight you can gain from this question is how an individual sees himself or herself as compared to the company as a whole. You will see how that person understands the company he or she has been working for, and how other employees who are too afraid to speak up may feel.

Whatever you decide to ask, always remember the reason why you are conducting the exit interview: to gain actionable insight on your company so you can learn from your strengths and weaknesses. Use this information to make adjustments to better retain your current employees, and to make sure that you hire the right people.

As a final note, remind yourself that people have different reasons on why they leave. A number of them are personal reasons your company can do nothing about. It’s important to remember the blame won’t always be on you your company. Often times, when an employee quits they just aren’t the right fit for the job. That’s exactly why we created our 24/7 talent marketplace. To higher right from the beginning, and cut down on costly turnover.

Employer Find Talent Button

VP of Marketing at Digital Astronauts

Ronny Cheng is one of the Co-Founder’s of Digital Astronauts and has helped drive lead generation in the software industry for organizations of all sizes — from start-ups to Fortune 500’s. He helped build one of the first online software review websites, specializing in CRM, ERP, and HR software. He’s a nationally published author with extensive experience working with the HR/Recruiting industries largest brands. In his spare time, you can catch him on Instagram doing his best food blogger impersonation.


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