10 Stay Interview Questions to Improve Employee Engagement

by: Sarah Ballow, iHire
October 01, 2019

Smiling employees

The stay interview is a handy tool for improving employee engagement, and it’s the most direct way to learn how to retain your employees. But keep in mind, the most successful stay interviews are structured thoughtfully. These 10 stay interview questions will ensure your conversation focuses on key retention factors, creates an open dialogue, and provides you with the information you need to create an actionable stay plan.


1.  What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most? Why do you enjoy them?

Your employee’s answers will give you guidance when you’re delegating tasks. Try to incorporate more of what they enjoy into their day-to-day.

2.  If nothing was off the table, what would you change about your job to make it more satisfying?

This question is meant to reveal your employee’s biggest pain point with their job. If you can’t implement their best-case scenario, then think about a smaller change you can make that would improve their job satisfaction.

3.  What do you think about on your commute? On your way home?

Your employee’s response should give you a sense of whether they’re thinking positively or negatively about their job. If you find their commute is spent stressing over work-related issues, see what you can do to help mitigate that stress.


Man reading newspaper on the bus on his way to work


4.  Do you feel you are recognized for your contributions? How would you like to be recognized?

People want support and acknowledgement, and it tends to be a significant factor in job satisfaction. To retain your employees, make sure you’re recognizing them for their accomplishments so that they feel like a valued member of the team. The follow-up question is key on this one – some people like to be acknowledged publicly and others privately.


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5.  What would cause you to look for another job?

This is the king of stay interview questions, because it gets straight to the point. Some of your team members may look for another job if they no longer have growth opportunity; others may leave if the work environment changes. Whatever the reason, it will give you a clear idea of what steps you can take to retain your employees.

6.  Can you tell me about a frustrating day at work you’ve had recently? A great one?

As they’re describing their day, try to identify the source of their frustration or satisfaction, and ask probing questions if you need to dig a little deeper. This will help you better understand how you can help to create more good days vs. bad ones.

For example, your employee, Alex, was frustrated the other day when his team failed to meet a deadline on a project. At first, you assumed he was upset because he underestimated the amount of time the project would take to complete. However, as you questioned him further, you learned that he was more frustrated about the miscommunication among his team members than missing the deadline. With Alex’s insight, you were able to address the communication issue and develop a more supportive team.


Boss taking notes while listening to her employee


7.  Are there any skills that you wish you’d get to use more often? Are there any skills you’re interested in learning?

Your team members may not have the opportunity to use some of their best skills in their day-to-day, and that’s a lot of wasted potential. If they do identify a skill they’d like to use, think about ways your team could benefit from it and try to work it into their job. You can help employees develop new skills by getting them involved in relevant courses, seminars, shadowing opportunities, or new projects. Facilitating learning experiences is a proven method for improving employee engagement (and developing a more versatile team). If you don’t have a large budget for learning and development, there are plenty of inexpensive and free online courses for almost every topic.

8.  What aspects of your job cause you stress?

Identifying and mitigating stressors is key to improving employee engagement. Think about ways you can help them to offload or cope with some of the stress, whether that’s taking a few things off their plate or helping them structure their day more efficiently. Keep in mind that more complex issues may call for a follow-up meeting so that you can learn more and address their concern directly.

9.  What are your career goals?

If you want to retain your employees, you should play an active role in helping them reach their career goals. For example, if your employee is striving to be in a leadership position, you may connect them with other leaders in your company, give them more responsibility, or take a more active approach in coaching them. You’ll not only develop a more well-rounded employee, but you’ll also show that you care about their job satisfaction (and not just their performance).


Happy employee talking to boss at work


10.  What can I do to make your job better?

This is one of the most important stay interview questions, because it underscores your commitment to their job satisfaction and gives your employees the opportunity to tell you what they need from you. Be careful not to get defensive – this could dissuade your team from speaking openly with you in the future.   


As you’re preparing your stay interview questions, keep in mind that your conversation should be brief and focused. Aim for 30 minutes. After the interview, take time to digest what you’ve learned about each of your employees and consider ways that you can contribute to their job satisfaction. Stay interviews are an effective way to retain your employees so long as you take actionable steps toward nurturing your team and improving employee engagement.