Employers want to discover what it takes to keep existing employees both satisfied and engaged; this is a unique opportunity to design your dream job, explains Rhonda Scharf

“Stay interviews” are becoming a crucial tool for organizations aiming to retain their top talent. Trying to figure out why employees have left or what could have been done to keep them after they go is too little and too late. Companies are being proactive and speaking to existing employees to find out what it takes to keep them both satisfied and engaged.

Exit Interview vs Stay Interview

An exit interview is usually conducted by an HR representative. Typically, they want to understand if there are any underlying issues they should be aware of which may impact other employees. Exit interviews take place once an employee has formally resigned.

Stay interviews are sometimes referred to as pre-exit interviews. They are conversations with current employees who either haven’t announced they are leaving or aren’t planning to leave yet. A stay interview is not a conversation in which you try to persuade a leaving employee to stay. In most cases, your stay interview will be conducted by your direct manager.

From your perspective, a stay interview allows you to share what would improve your workplace and your job satisfaction, potentially allowing your career to grow strategically – a direction both you and your employer are happy with.

From the employer’s perspective, the goal is to host a one-on-one conversation to gain insight into what you like about your role and what you would like to change about the business or role.

The stay interview helps your employer:

  • determine your preferences and aspirations
  • clearly identify what you like about your job and why you stay
  • identify problems
  • collect feedback
  • discover what is causing employees to leave

When conducted effectively, stay interviews give the employer time to fix those factors that are causing employees to become disengaged, contributing to employee retention. Employers can build trust and loyalty by showing that they care enough about their employees’ experiences to make changes.

Ultimately, it is a perfect opportunity to help design your “dream job.”

Pre-Interview Preparation

You need to understand your own motivations for staying in your job. Before your interview (you will be given advance notice), take time to evaluate your current role thoroughly. Do a thorough preparation like you would if you were being interviewed for a new job. You may never get a second stay interview – make the most of this unique opportunity.

Questions to consider

  • What would it take for you to leave this job for another? If you don’t know the answer, the stay interview might not be as effective as it could be. If you are solely motivated by money, be honest with yourself. If you stay because you like the proximity to home or it allows you to work remotely, be sure to admit that.
  • What is it about your current job that makes you stay? You need to know the answer for yourself to provide helpful feedback. If another company offered that benefit, would you leave?
  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day? Is it the people, meaning that if certain people left the company, you would also look to change jobs? Is it the tasks, meaning that there are things you truly enjoy doing and wouldn’t want that to change?
  • What do you like least about your job, and what could change to make that less negative for you? If it is a specific person, don’t share that information in this interview, but ask yourself how that situation could be fixed. Perhaps you would prefer to report to the District Manager or the CFO. Be solution focused when it comes to any situation that is negative.
  • What would you change about this job if you could? Are there boundaries you want, such as the expectation that someone will cover your job when you are on vacation, or your work education could be part of the budgeting process to ensure you can continue to grow and learn?
  • What would make your job more satisfying? Would a small shift in work scheduling or a reporting structure contribute to your satisfaction?
  • How do you like to be recognized? Does your job title or salary matter to you?

Best Practices for You

Be prepared

The interview questions are looking to create awareness for both you and your employer as to what your motivators are. You will provide them with excellent insight if you are prepared to answer the questions fully. Have the answers ready to be presented knowing they may not ask those specific questions. There will be an opportunity for you to ask questions and share your feedback, so be prepared to share this information even if they don’t ask for it.

Examples of Questions

  •     What aspects of working here do you find enjoyable?
  •      Has there been a time when you considered leaving the company?
  •      What changes would you like to see in the workplace?
  •      Do you feel like the company is providing you with opportunities for career advancement?
  •      What do you think about during your commute to and from work?
  •      What are your long-term career goals?

Be honest, transparent, and reasonable

During your stay interview, honesty is essential. Your job isn’t on the line, so you don’t need to lie about how great it is if it isn’t. It also isn’t the time to threaten to leave unless they give in to your demands. Your company is doing what it can to ensure you are happy, but it won’t be as motivated to make any changes if you decide to be demanding or negative. Being honest about your experiences, concerns, and aspirations is important. Be genuine with your thoughts and feelings, remembering that your feedback can contribute to positive organizational changes. Share the aspects you appreciate and those you believe could be improved.

Focus on specific examples

If you ask for more education dollars, provide specific examples about where that money will be spent. If you request a hybrid job, be clear that you are asking to work from home twice per week. If you want them to cover some of the costs for your home office, be specific about what you want, such as 50% of your internet bill monthly. When discussing what you love about your job, highlight specific projects you enjoyed participating in. If you need to be more utilized or feel overworked, share specific examples of feeling this way.

Communicate your professional development goals

Articulate your long-term career goals and discuss how they align with the organization’s objectives. Communicate your desire for professional development opportunities, whether it’s further education, training programs, or skill-building initiatives. Emphasize the value these opportunities would bring to your personal growth and the organization’s success. If you are looking to be involved by having new responsibilities or stretch projects, this is the time to share that with your employer.

Address work-life balance

If work-life balance concerns you, express it during the stay interview. Discuss any challenges you face in balancing your personal and professional life. Suggest strategies or improvements that could help foster a healthier work-life integration. This demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a productive and fulfilling work environment.

Offer solutions and suggestions

If you have ideas to enhance processes, workflows, or team dynamics, share them constructively. This showcases your proactive approach and investment in the success of the organization. Collaborate with your employer or manager to develop action plans that address the identified issues and capitalize on your suggestions.

Seek feedback and clarification

Ask questions about potential growth opportunities, career paths, or other areas of interest. Request guidance on further developing your skills and advancing within the organization. This demonstrates your eagerness to learn and grow professionally.

What to Avoid

Don’t use this as an opportunity to complain about people or management. Don’t focus on specific people. Keep the focus on the job, what you do, how you do it, and how it could be made better.

Don’t lie when uncomfortable questions are presented to you. They want to determine if you are a flight risk, so they will ask if you’ve considered quitting or resigning. They want to know what events triggered those thoughts. However, as mentioned in the tip above, don’t use this as an opportunity to complain about specific people. It may be seen as negativity, almost forcing them to choose which employee to keep. That isn’t worth the risk for you; you might not be the one they want to keep if it feels like an ultimatum.

Don’t be focused on emotions during your interview. This is the time to be focused on examples, facts, and documentable processes. While you may feel that you’ve been overlooked or taken advantage of, those “feelings” aren’t helpful for this interview. Instead, provide concrete examples of situations that could be changed in the future, along with what needs to change. Be action-based vs feeling-based.

According to a study by AllVoices, 18.8 percent of all employee reports are ignored, while another 33 percent are only partially addressed.

Don’t expect all your dreams to be met. You’ve shared what you like and don’t like, but you shouldn’t expect massive changes to your job or role based on your definition of your dream job. Your employer wants to know what would make it perfect, but it doesn’t mean they will deliver on all your dreams, either. They are looking to define what makes the company valuable to everyone. Not just you specifically. Also, consider that some of the issues you’ve identified may be irresolvable.


Emphasize your willingness to stay and the skills and abilities that make you unique. Hopefully, your employer will see these as valuable and be ready to work with you to strategize a better working situation for everyone.

Ultimately, the stay interview benefits both the company and you. You both win when you are engaged and satisfied. Make the most of the opportunity to identify what that means to you.

Rhonda Scharf, CSP, HoF, GSF is a Certified Speaking Professional, Hall of Fame, trainer and author based in Ottawa. She helps organizations feel motivated and educated through her interactive, realistic and fun training programs and keynote speeches. If ... (Read More)

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