Skip to main content

A Guide to Stay Interviews (With Sample Questions)

A “stay interview” is a relatively new practice in the world of HR, and has only been gaining real popularity within the last few years. The concept is to help HR teams and managers understand how employees really feel about their jobs, and identify areas where the organization can improve, to prevent attrition in the future.

If done well, stay interviews can improve retention rates, because they help employees feel seen and heard. A stay interview gives employees a platform to share their true thoughts about their workplace.

While HR teams are experts in traditional interviews for hiring, not everyone is as well versed in stay interviews. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics to help you get started.

What is a stay interview?

We’re all familiar with a job interview and an exit interview… but what about a stay interview? It’s exactly what it sounds like — an interview between an employer and an existing employee, in hopes that they will stay with the company. These should be open conversations that allow employers to receive feedback and address issues, in hopes that the employee will stay with the company.

Stay interviews are dedicated times for leaders to sit down with current employees and listen to what they have to say about their jobs. Are they happy? Do they feel they have growth opportunities within the company? Are they utilizing all their skills in their current role? What are their future career goals?

It’s critical that employers take the time to ask these questions and truly understand the answers they’re being given and take the feedback to heart. In a time when employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers, retention is top of mind for virtually every employer. Do you know why your employees are leaving?

Our research shows that 53% of today’s workforce are planning to leave their current role in the next twelve months. Stay interviews are one way to effectively find out why your talent is quitting, and then you can address those issues head-on.

When should you conduct stay interviews?

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to conduct stay interviews annually (perhaps in tandem with your annual review process) for all employees, for the best chance of keeping them engaged long term.

However, stay interviews can also be effective if they take place when an employee is already considering leaving the company. It may seem like it’s ‘too late’ by that point, but stay interviews are valuable at this stage of the talent lifecycle. The information you can glean from a stay interview is crucial to either persuading an employee who is on the fence about leaving to stay, or preventing others from leaving.

Even if an employee still chooses to leave after a stay interview, the company can take away valuable feedback from that employee and apply it to make positive changes in the workplace to benefit other existing and future employees.

Why are stay interviews so important?

Stay interviews can aid during the entire Talent Lifecycle Management process. Not only do they help with retention, but they can help uncover potential skills gaps and allow employees to discover new opportunities within the organization.

Steffen Buch, VP of People and Culture at Beamery, says: “Stay interviews can, very importantly, help identify any skills gaps in your workplace as much as they can present opportunities for employees to discuss gigs within the business.”

Stay interviews should be tailored to each unique employee, and should give each person the opportunity to share their true feelings about their job, what they like about it, and what they don’t. This might also lead to employees sharing a desire to develop professionally, and they might show interest in working with another team or department. This opens the door for managers to ask pointed questions and to really understand how they can best serve each of their team members and also benefit the entire company.

Collecting employee data like this can also be useful in maintaining employee engagement and tracking their wellbeing overtime. The data from stay interviews provides business leaders with a benchmark to measure personal progress against, but it can also be a catalyst for change within the organization. There may be a few particular changes that many employees wish to see in the workplace, and stay interviews are a great way to gather that information and find out what the most common pain points are, so they can be addressed from the top down.

An AI-driven Talent Lifecycle Management solution is a great tool to help keep track of this valuable data. These tools can track the improvements made over time and show the impact they have on the business, such as improved retention rates. Additionally, a sophisticated tool like this can help identify skills gaps within your organization and can even help uncover skills that employees are developing, which might be relevant to other roles in the business.

What questions should be asked during a stay interview?

Your stay interview questions will likely vary by department or team (and should be tailored to each employee for the best possible experience), but there are a few questions that are pretty standard, and are helpful to ask nearly all employees, regardless of seniority, tenure or industry.

Sample Question #1: What motivates (or demotivates) you?

When employees feel demotivated or burned out, they are much more likely to become dissatisfied with their work environment and look for a new job. When managers understand what motivates their employees, they can then help create an environment that fosters engagement, and help address some of the issues that are causing employees to lose motivation.

If the door isn’t opened for conversation to happen, your employees might be struggling in silence, which is a recipe for losing top talent.

Sample Question #2: What skills do you have that you aren’t using in your current role?

When you ask this question during stay interviews, it gives each employee the opportunity to share the skills they have that they aren’t utilizing in their current role. You may discover that an employee has untapped skills that could fill a crucial skills gap in another part of the company. That new internal role might just be enough to get them feeling reenergized and reenaged about working for your company.

Internal Mobility programs have proven to increase retention, and stay interviews are a great place to start these conversations. Skills are the new currency in the workplace. As an employer, are you aware of all the skills your employees have? Investing in a Talent Marketplace is one way to store and organize the skills data you have, and make sure it stays accurate and up to date.

Sample Question #3: If you were to leave your current role, what would be the number one reason?

This one might sound scary… but it’s so important. There could be numerous reasons why an employee would choose to leave: they don’t feel like they have growth opportunities, they want to make more money, they don’t get along with their manager, they desire a more flexible work environment, they feel they aren’t being challenged in their work — the list goes on.

When asking this question during a stay interview, ask it with an open mind and be ready to receive feedback and criticism. Even though the answer might sting just a little, in the end, this is some of the most valuable feedback you can get. And if you address the issue, it will likely prevent you from losing talent in the future.

Sample Question #4: In that scenario, what would make you change your mind and decide to stay?

This is the follow up to the previous sample question. The answer will of course vary from person to person, but some common answers you might hear could include: more (or better) development opportunities, a hybrid work arrangement, or even something as simple as offering more vacation time.

Regardless of what you hear, this is important data to collect. Over time, you might start hearing the same answers over and over again, which is a good indicator that real change needs to happen in that area in order to retain your existing talent long-term, and attract top talent in the future.

Sample Question #5: How can we best support your career long-term?

Ultimately, employees want to grow in their careers. Feeling ‘stuck’ or ‘bored’ at work is one of the key reasons why people quit. When employers take time to show employees just how much they care and genuinely want them to succeed in their careers, employees tend to feel valued and motivated in their jobs.

Consider how you can help support your employees’ career goals — whether it’s encouraging your team to carve out time each month to develop themselves professionally, or adding a dedicated development review to your annual review cycle, anything you can do to support employee growth is going to make your employees feel supported.

Keep your top talent engaged

As an employer, you should strive to create an environment that your employees want to be a part of. And how will you know if they are happy in their work environment if you don’t ask? If you don’t take the time to have these open discussions about the workplace (or if you wait until it’s too late during the exit interview), you will lose top talent.

At the end of the day, employees want to grow professionally and personally — they desire a workplace where their growth and well-being are prioritized by their employer.

Stay interviews coupled with a robust internal mobility program are excellent ways to instill a growth mindset into your company culture. Beamery offers an AI-driven Internal Mobility solution, which helps build customized and dynamic career paths for your existing employees, and is designed to keep your employees engaged long-term.

Learn more about Internal Mobility and how it can help you retain your top talent.