What is a stay interview and do you need them?
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Recruitment interviews and exit interviews are terms that we are likely all familiar with. But what about stay interviews?

The ‘stay interview’ is gaining huge traction in businesses as part of an employee engagement and employee experience projects, because the focus is really on wellbeing, engagement, culture and satisfaction.

When talking to lots of small businesses, the question is often “what is a stay interview?” or “do I need to start doing stay interviews with my team?”. We’ve explored this further to answer these questions for you.

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview can often be thought to be a conversation you have with a member of your team to convince them to remain working for you. However, it is an opportunity to have a more informal, positive conversation to understand what’s going well, how your people are feeling, why they have stayed with you and any gain other views and feedback.

Why should you do stay interviews?

Exit interviews are often considered too late to make a difference, whereas stay interviews can give you an opportunity to improve the way you look after your people, and ensure they stay with you for as long as possible.

It can do this by gaining useful feedback and giving you an opportunity to make changes and avoid any recurring issues. It can help you identify any niggles or areas of frustration and solve them before they become larger issues.

Here’s a comparison of stay vs exit interviews that could help.


stay interview vs exit interview

When is a good time to do a stay interview with an employee?

A stay interview is not a usual 1-2-1 or performance review. It should be done when an employee has been with you for a while and is settled into their role. This will mean they are able to give a realistic and truthful opinion of the work environment.

You should try to do at least one stay interview with everyone every year as a standalone discussion, and all of them should be done in quick succession so that you are able to collect and, importantly, act on the feedback quickly.

Some triggers for undertaking stay interviews could be:

  • Staff churn. If you have had a few people leave the team, finding out why others stayed and what could change for the better is extremely useful.
  • Culture improvements. If looking to improve the culture is something that is important to you, this is a great way to get the ‘temperature’ of how your people are feeling and what could change for the better. This can be especially important if you are struggling to offer pay increases.
  • Recruitment challenges. Employee expectations are increasing, so if you’re about to start recruiting, or are struggling to find the right people, understanding what your people really want can help.
  • Managing wider issues, such as the cost-of-living crisis. Stay interviews can help you to understand what your people really need to make struggles easier. Perhaps it’s flexible working, or a reduction in travel. Open conversations can pave the way to changes that can improve the way your people feel about working for you, and their wellbeing overall.

What would I ask in a stay interview?

The key to a successful stay interview is asking open ended questions. Some examples include:

  • What do you look forward to in your work?
  • What do you dread about work?
  • What does a good/bad day look like?
  • What do you think about the way employees are recognised in the business?
  • How would you rate your work-life balance, and how could it be improved?
  • Within the past six months/year, what has been your biggest source of frustration?
  • What did you love about your last job that you don’t have here?
  • What do you think about on your way to/home from work?
  • When was the last time you thought of leaving and why?
  • What can we do to make your experience here better?

Top tips for starting stay interviews in your business

  1. Think about who should do the interviews. Is it the team manager, or someone independent? There are strong arguments for either side but think about capacity and how open your culture is to help you decide.
  2. If you sense that you might not get honest feedback from some employees, you could build up to using stay interviews by starting with anonymous satisfaction surveys asking similar questions. This might warm your staff up for stay interviews in the future. citrus HR has an anonymous feature that you can use to ask one off questions to all employees, so check if your offering is able to support this.
  3. Remember that the focus for these interviews is positive change, and not just negative feedback. If it becomes too negative, or you feel that they are not productive, try to ask questions such as “what would change your opinion on this?” or “how could we improve the way we do this?”.
  4. Don’t take anything personally. This isn’t an attacking exercise and isn’t meant to cause any bad feelings. It is about positive change, so try to discuss ways to improve how things are done instead of focussing on the negative.
  5. Track everything. We recommend tracking all answers to your stay interviews on the employee file within your HR software. You could use your staff satisfaction survey tools, or one-off survey creations to gain feedback and log information.
  6. Act on feedback. This is vital. Doing these interviews and not acting on the feedback you receive will likely have a negative impact on employee engagement. Start doing these interviews when you’re ready to make positive change.
  7. Communicate with your people. When people take the time to give you open and honest feedback, it’s important to communicate what you will do with that. Not every suggestion will be viable but being honest in your return feedback is necessary to build trust.



Looking for additional support, or a way to track your interviews? Get in touch on info@citrushr.com or give us a call on 0333 014 3888 to find out more about our easy-to-use HR Software or discuss how our HR consultants can support you.

The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use.

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