Stay Interviews vs. Exit Interviews: What’s the Difference?

Stay interviews and exit interviews are often confused as being the same thing. They are different and one is a clear winner in retaining employees. 

During this era of the “great resignation”, employers are striving to understand employee retainment more than ever. Exit interviews have been popular for a while and seem to be the key tool to understanding why employees are leaving their jobs. However, this technique is often too little, too late. Exit interviews are similar to asking the teacher what content will be on the test AFTER you have taken the test. Stay interviews are increasing in popularity and are a much better option for retaining existing employees. Let’s evaluate why.  

Let’s Talk About Exit Interviews 

What Are They and Why Conduct Them? 

Exit interviews are interviews conducted with departing employees once they have turned in their resignation. They are usually scheduled for the employee’s last day by a member of the human resources team. Their purpose is to uncover what made the employee leave the company. This can give the company good insight into how they can improve in those areas, in order to prevent further resignations and boost workplace morale.  

Common Exit Interview Questions

  • What was the leading factor prompting you to resign from your position? 
  • What could the company have done differently to keep you?
  • What would make you consider returning to this company?
  • Do you feel you were given the resources you needed to do your job?
  • Did you have concerns about the company culture?
  • Were you recognized for your work? Did you feel valued at work? 
  • What are you looking forward to in your new role?

Why Don’t Exit Interviews Work? 

“Outgoing employees are not always candid about their reasons for leaving, whether that’s because they don’t want to burn any bridges or because they’re not emotionally invested in the company any longer.”

The number one issue with exit interviews is that they are conducted after the employee has already made the decision to leave. At that point, nothing can be done to retain that specific employee. According to, “Outgoing employees are not always candid about their reasons for leaving, whether that’s because they don’t want to burn any bridges or because they’re not emotionally invested in the company any longer.” It is seen as “too little, too late” They are often formal interviews with a stranger from human relations. There is no incentive for the employee to give honest and thought-provoking feedback. Many times, it is another step of the offboarding process that must be checked off the list. Lastly, exit interviews are focused on the company as a whole, rather than the individual. This is a problem because companies are multi-faceted and different departments face different issues and have different environments. What is a big issue within one department, maybe working wonderfully in another, so oftentimes the feedback is not very helpful. 

Now Onto Stay Interviews

What is a Stay Interview and Why Conduct One? 

Stay interviews are conducted with current employees to find out what they like about their role and the company, as well as what they would like to see improved. This is a great tool for increasing employee retention. It is so logical. Why wouldn’t you find out what is bothering someone before it is too late? It is also a great way to discover what the employee envisions their future with the company to look like. They are often conducted as more of a conversation between an employee and their manager, rather than a formal human relations interview. 

6 Great Stay Interview Questions

  1. What is your favorite part of your job? 

This is a great ice breaker as it starts the interview by asking the employee to say something positive. They will be much more comfortable sharing this information and it will set the tone moving forward for the stay interview. This is also important information to obtain, as it can help you as an employer know what your employees enjoy about their positions so you can try and make sure those features are highlighted. 

  1. What is your least favorite part of your job?

This is the natural next step in the stay interview. After you have created a safe space for employees to express themselves, find out what their pain points are. Be sure to ask clarifying questions such as, “What can I do to help support you in this part of your job?”

  1.  Do you feel you have a good work-life balance?

Work-life balance has risen to the top of the priority lists in many employees’ minds. It has also been shown to increase overall happiness and productivity. Employees who feel they are able to have a life outside of the office, are more willing to be focused while they are at work. It pays dividends for employers to consider the importance of a flexible schedule or additional time off.  

  1.  Do you feel like a valued employee? What would help you feel more valued? 

Find out if your employee feels valued and what you can do to help them feel more valued during the workday. Appreciating your employees could look like perks, more projects, asking for their input in meetings, or even additional time off being provided so they can rest and rejuvenate. It is important to actively listen to their response and incorporate their suggestions into your management style moving forward. This will help keep employees engaged and productive. 

  1. Do you think that you have room to have your voice heard?

One important aspect of employee retention is feeling heard at work. It can be intimidating for individuals to feel that there is space for them to share their opinions. Meetings can be overwhelming and hard to get a word in. Be sure you are including all members of a meeting in the discussion. Ask questions of each person and invite them to share ideas. It is important to have a respectful response to each contribution in order to encourage further workplace engagement. 

  1.  Do you consider your relationship with your boss to be a good one? 

“Nearly 50% of people in the job market left their previous role due to a manager”

You will be surprised at how much employees desire a good relationship with their manager. It is often said that managers can make or break many job positions. Gallup conducted a study that found that nearly 50% of people in the job market left their previous role due to a manager. Managers are clearly a key ingredient in employee satisfaction. Find out where you stand with your employee. Ask them how you can help improve that relationship. Do they want more meetings? Do they hate being micro-managed? What level of your involvement are they looking for? There is no way to know until you ask. 

Points to Consider During Stay Interview

It is important to frame the interview as a meaningful conversation between the employee and manager. Use it as a way to open up lines of communication in order to improve workplace morale. Schedule them with high-performing employees in order to retain top talent. Find out what their pain points are before it is too late. Stay interviews should be scheduled well in advance with appropriate context. This will give your employees time to prepare their thoughts. This will lead to a more insightful conversation than an impromptu interview.

Another aspect of a stay interview to consider is the importance of active listening and being willing to apply what you learn. The fastest way to shut down any conversation is to get defensive. Some of the feedback may not be easy to hear, and it may even involve you, but it is paramount to stay neutral and accept what you are being told. Ask follow-up questions in order to truly understand their concerns. After listening, be proactive in helping to resolve employee concerns. Whether it’s recognizing employees with company ecards, clarifying company policies, or addressing company culture issues, any action to improve workplace morale is essential. Follow up with your employee as well to let them know what actions you have taken. This will go a long way in helping the employee feel heard and validated. 

Start Building Employee Retention Now

Now that we have explored the differences between stay interviews and exit interviews, start scheduling your stay interviews today. Don’t wait until it is too late to resolve employee issues. Hiring is expensive, and especially during this recession, retaining top talent is a major way to cut back on costs. You will watch your employees thrive and your company culture improve in a short amount of time which is a win for everyone.

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