Interviewing Employees

The “Stay” Interview

In _Home, Leadership Practice by Shaun HallLeave a Comment

Keeping employees happy is always an internal struggle. With such a diverse workforce to choose from, it’s difficult to pin down why a person works where they work.

Is it for the money? Company culture?

There is a varied mix of reasons people stay or choose not to stay at a company. The truth is that people are both similar and unique. A truth every company who values employee retention has to wrestle with.

This has been a significant motivator for the infamous exit interview. The point of it is to figure out what a company did right and what we could have done better in our efforts to retain the employee.

Now while I believe a small percentage of turnover is healthy for an organization, if that percentage gets too big, it can hurt the progress of company objectives. So the exit interview seems useful. But why are we waiting to figure this out when they are already out the door? Shouldn’t we be figuring this out while the employee is still here? By the time you give the exit interview, it is too late, and you can only hope to fix the problem before the next employee leaves.

So what if we could keep a better pulse on the employees while they are not exiting? What would that look like? Well, there are several management tools out there like Employee Engagement Surveys, Peer to Peer feedback loops, and the famous “suggestion box.” Each is designed to figure out what the employee wants, but they tend to lack a personal touch.

That’s where “Stay Interviews” come in. A stay interview is similar to an exit interview accept it only cares about why the employee is still here. It lets you understand first what you, as a company/leader, are doing right, then gives guidance on what you need to change. The major benefit, it is proactive.

The stay interview is not a new concept, and there are a lot of different ways this can be conducted, but this is how I have experienced success when leading one.

Do this interview in person – I know its tempting to automate this but don’t. The conversations you will have will take you in directions you cant predict. So don’t try. Come prepared with your base questions (examples below) and get ready to take notes. Let the conversation wander. You will learn a lot about each individual, and you will grow as a leader.

Explain the intent – This is your icebreaker move. Let them know that this is a rip off of an exit interview. State that this is your attempt to better understand the needs of each member of your team to better motivate them in the future. This will open them up immediately. Who doesn’t want to talk to a boss who authentically intends to improve the workplace?

Give yourself time after each meeting – I say this for two reasons. One, this exercise sparked such intriguing conversations that I didn’t ever stay in my 1 hour time frame. Every interview lasted longer than expected which is a good thing. You don’t want to cut off something that can directly impact your team’s motivation. Reason number 2 is that you need to have a moment to digest everything you’ve learned and write it down before you talk to your next team member. If you are like me, your team is diverse, and the next conversation could complete diverging from the previous one, so you don’t want to lose anything.

Execute – Your team will appreciate the gesture. It shows that you are taking an interest in them as individuals. However, if you don’t do anything with the information, you run the risk of them losing that appreciation, or they might look back at the exercise as a complete waste of time. Either way, you asked them for their perspective, you need to come up with some plan. Once you have, broadcast it. Let them know that these changes are a direct result of their feedback. Even if it is as little as a change in behavior when you interact with them. This will let them know you care.

Below is a list of questions I went into each conversation with. There are a ton out there so if you want to cherry pick your questions, do so. The core is finding what makes your people keep coming to work. If the only reason is that of a paycheck, my guess is that they will be gearing up for their exit interview shortly.

Thank you for reading. Please connect with me @ShaunHallTalk on social media and please leave a comment below if you have any questions. Also, please check out my latest podcast Hustle and Harmony where we discuss various ways to be productive throughout your life. Thanks!


1) What about your Job makes you want to JUMP out of bed?
2) What makes for a great day at work?
3) Specifically, what are some things you enjoy about your job?
4) Do you feel like your job has a direct impact on the business?
5) Do you feel like your teammates think that you make a difference?
6) Do you feel “fully utilized” in your current position?
7) Are there additional things that we can do to fully utilize your skill set?
8) If you managed yourself, what would you do differently (about managing you), that I, as your current manager, don’t currently do?
9) If you were given the opportunity to redesign your current role, what would comprise your “dream job”?
10) Where would you like to be in your career two years from now?



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