Staff exit interviews that improve retention and recruitment

Staff exit interviews that improve retention and recruitment

Staff exit interviews that improve retention from the welbee 'Learning Centre'. Picture of a trophy for the 'Best Place to Work'.

One part of improving retention and staff wellbeing is to understand why people leave and to take appropriate action. Carrying out effective staff exit interviews is an important part of this.

While using a survey is a good way to collect anonymous feedback from those that are leaving, it doesn’t allow for probing or asking for more detailed feedback. Even if you do use a survey I recommend adding an interview to allow you to collect more useful information.

The interview needs to be conducted by someone with enough experience and confidence to ask the right questions and that is likely to be trusted by other staff members. It shouldn’t be the headteacher or principle or their immediate line manager.

Their role is to make the experience positive and the person leaving must feel like they have their best interests in mind (and this should be the intent of the interviewer). They have to make them feel comfortable and encourage them to give candid feedback without repercussions. 

Even though this is an exit interview you never know who they will speak with or who you’ll end up working with again. You can use the information to improve staff wellbeing, the school reputation and the retention of other key staff.

Treat them well, listen and show them you value their opinion. 

Staff exit interview questions

Below are a range of questions that will help you understand what steps you can take to better meet staff expectations and help to create a place where more people want to work.

Why are they leaving?

If it’s for a new role:

  • What prompted you to start looking for a new job?
  • What ultimately led you to accept the new position?

General questions:

  • Why are you leaving? You may know from their resignation letter and this is an opportunity to explore and confirm details.
  • Do you have any concerns about the school? 
  • If so, did you share your concerns with anyone at the school prior to deciding to leave?
  • What could have been done for you to remain employed here?

Their experience in school

  • Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well? You can prompt with clarity of role, skills development, available resources, support provided and the working environment.
  • How would you describe the culture of our school? Can you provide more information, such as specific examples?
  • If you could have changed anything about your job or the school, what would it be?
  • How satisfied were you with the way you were managed? What could we have done differently? How people are led and managed is often a key factor in a staff members decision to leave.
  • How well did managers recognise your contributions?
  • What did you like most / least about your job?
  • Did you have clear goals and objectives?
  • Did you receive constructive feedback to help you improve your performance?

Looking ahead

  • Would you consider coming back to work here in the future? What would need to change?
  • What would make our school a better place to work?
  • How likely are you to recommend a friend to apply for a position here? You can ask them to score 1 – 10 if Yes / No is proving difficult for them. Why? 
  • How can our school improve training and development for staff?
  • Is there anything else you would add?

Understanding why staff leave is really important in becoming an employer of choice. Holding effective staff exit interviews is a big part of this and listening to and acting on their feedback will make a real difference.

Staff leaving is just one one of seven steps in a staff members lifecycle. You can see details of the full lifecycle and other steps to improve staff recruitment and retention here.

If you have any questions on exit interviews, retaining or recruiting staff or improving staff wellbeing, you can get in touch here.

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