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Employee retention is hard. Retaining technical employees is even harder. Developers receive an absurd amount of emails from recruiters every week, each one tempting them with cooler benefits, a larger paycheck, or an innovative new product to work on. Developers like challenges – and if they feel like their current role is getting stale and not allowing them to explore and grow in the way they want to, another company might snatch them up.

One incredibly useful tool that can help with developer retention is to conduct proper exit interviews. Exit interviews – when conducted effectively, of course – are a great way to evaluate your current structures (whether that be something physical like benefits or salary, or something less tangible like career growth plans) and assess what changes should be made.

You'll receive honest feedback from developers

Exit interviews give the employee a chance to air their grievances and give honest feedback about the company, their former role, teammates, and much more. Since the employee likely left on their own terms, they have nothing to lose here (other than burned bridges, but that’s where constructive criticism comes in).

John Chapin, a Software Developer and Consultant at Capital Technology Services, says, “If there are dysfunctional relationships on the team or processes that the departing employee felt could be improved, they’re more likely to share their opinions in an exit interview.”

Questions to ask during an exit interview

To get the exit interview feedback you're looking for, you’ll want to go over the standard questions, which include questions like:

  • What is the reason you are leaving?
  • Did you share your concerns with someone prior to leaving?
  • What does your new company/job provide that made you accept their offer?
  • Do you have any recommendations for our compensation or benefit structures?

Then there are the more detailed questions that are specific for developers. Some examples of these type of questions could be:

  • Were you provided with the necessary resources and technology to get your job done? (Technical debt, limitations on software or programming languages, and poor code review practices are all examples of pain points developers may bring up during an exit interview).
  • Do you feel that you had an adequate growth path here at the company? (Many companies have a two-tier structure to their technical teams: Developers and Engineering Managers. Not all developers want to become managers – there should be other growth path options for them to advance in their careers).
  • What about our work environment could be improved on? (Most developers need closed, quiet spaces that are free of distractions to get their work done. Did you offer that? Did you allow for flexible working hours?)

And remember -- a developer who has a positive exit interview experience is more likely to recommend that his/her friends check out the company’s open roles. If you listen to the feedback you’re getting and make actual changes based on it, you’ll be conducting far fewer exit interviews in the future.

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