Exit interviews

Inevitably, some of your startup’s employees will leave.

Sometimes it will be totally unexpected, sometimes the opposite. Sometimes you will be disappointed and your pride will suffer, sometimes you might actually be relieved. You might be in panic to lose critical expertise and see the need to fill the role with someone else asap. Yet, in other cases, you might actually be excited to be able to try to hire someone with an even better fit for the position.

No matter which of the above apply — when an employee is leaving your company, you should try to learn from it. Once the employee has left, there is a chance he or she will share feedback with you about the organisation in a way that will be more open and direct than when still employed. The tool for that is called an exit interview or exit questionnaire and is a very simple, yet powerful one.

If you have not been doing this, you should start next time an employee leaves. Try to set up a time to go through a number of questions and openly talk about the good and bad of the organisation, or at the minimum send them a simple questionnaire. Importantly, the employee is doing you a favor answering these questions, and might not be in the mood to do that. Communicate clearly that you understand this and value the feedback.

Here comes a list of question ideas for the exit interview or questionnaire.

  1. Tell me about how you’ve come to decide to leave?
  2. What is your main reason for leaving?
  3. What could have been done early on to prevent the situation developing/provide a basis for you to stay with us?
  4. What specific suggestions would you have for how the organisation could manage this situation/these issues better in future?
  5. What has been good/enjoyable/satisfying for you in your time with us?
  6. What has been frustrating/difficult/upsetting to you in your time with us?
  7. Did you have clear goals and know what was expected of you in your job?
  8. What can you say about the way your performance was measured, and the feedback to you of your performance results?
  9. What would you say about how you were motivated, and how that could have been improved?
  10. How would you describe the culture or ‘feel’ of the organisation?
  11. What could you say about communications and relations between departments, and how these could be improved?
  12. What examples of ridiculous waste (material or effort), pointless reports, meetings, bureaucracy, etc., could you point to?
  13. How can the organisation gather and make better use of the views and experience of its people?
  14. What can the organisation do to retain its best people (and not lose any more like you)?
  15. Would you consider working again for us if the situation were right?
  16. Can we be of any particular help to you in this move/deciding what to do next?
  17. What can we do to enable you to pass on as much of your knowledge and experience as possible to your replacement/successor prior to your departure?
  18. We’d be grateful for you to introduce (name of successor) to your key contacts before you go — are you happy to help with this?

When you send it out as a survey, to make the experience smoother for the employee and increase conversion, you might consider doing it via the survey tool of Point Nine’s portfolio company Typeform. Check out this Typeform I prepared here to see how this can be done — it looks great and is easier to answer than via email or a word, excel or google doc. It also works and looks great on mobile — making it easy to fill in on the go.