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Terms and Definitions

What is a stay interview?

Updated: May 16, 2024

Stay interview definition and meaning

An employer typically conducts a stay interview with an employee (usually a high-performing one) to learn what they like best about their job, and company culture, as well as to gather information to improve recruiting and workplace initiatives. Stay interviews are essentially the opposite of an exit interview. They are a tool employers and managers can use to gauge employee satisfaction. A typical stay interview will include questions about job satisfaction, career goals, and work environment.


What is the purpose of a stay interview?

Stay interviews usually have a couple of goals. First and foremost, they are a way to proactively engage employees to find out how they are feeling overall about job satisfaction, their impressions of the work environment (specifically the elements that encourage them to stay), and where there are opportunities to improve.

To learn more, we spoke with Laura Mills, head of early career insights at Forage, who has a background working in both HR for Cognizant and recruitment for Ernst & Young. “The point of a stay interview is to gauge how employees feel about the company’s work environment, culture, benefits, and more,” she says. “Stay interviews open up a line of communication between employees and their leaders.”


Moreover, a stay interview is an opportunity to gather valuable insight that companies can use to reduce turnover and increase retention. That’s because many companies approach such interviews strategically, making it a point to conduct them with top-performing employees who exceed expectations (as well as those with long tenures).


Employers use stay interviews to figure out what motivates their best and brightest employees to “stay” with the company for the long term and what keeps them from looking for greener pastures. After identifying what’s most appealing to their top talent, human resources teams can incorporate this feedback i into recruiting strategies. The data can even have value for marketing departments that create campaigns to promote the employer brand.

“The point of a stay interview is to gauge how employees feel about the company’s work environment, culture, benefits, and more. Stay interviews open up a line of communication between employees and their leaders.”

— Laura Mills, head of early career insights at Forage

Who conducts a stay interview?

To keep the process transparent, human resources (HR) departments typically spearhead setting up (and sometimes even conducting) a stay interview. Ideally, the person should be someone with whom the employee feels comfortable speaking with, is objective, and has authority to make (or recommend) changes based on the feedback shared during the process. This could include a manager.


Again we asked Mills to weigh in.”To encourage transparency, stay interviews should be conducted by a “neutral” member of the HR or people team and by the same small core who are well-versed in this process,” she says. “This ensures consistent questions are asked and gives those who are gathering the information the opportunity to identify themes.”


In some cases (and depending on the comfort level of the employee), a third-party consultant or specialist may also be an option to conduct stay interviews as another way to ensure impartiality and confidentiality.


Ultimately, the goal is to create a comfortable and open environment for the employee to share transparent (and actionable) suggestions that can improve employee engagement and retention.


Should you use stay interviews?

Though no organization is required to make stay interviews part of their policies, for employers looking to improve their overall work environment (and reduce turnover), they could be a strategy to consider. For final thoughts, we asked Mills for her take on why they might be worth a closer look. “Companies can use stay interviews to influence the decisions they make moving forward, especially when it comes to ways they can improve the work environment,” she explains. “The ultimate goal of stay interviews is to solve employee concerns and boost retention.”

Using stay interview in a sentence

“Justin shared so many reasons about why he has been with our company for the last two decades during his stay interview, I have enough ideas to fuel our company’s recruiting strategies for at least the next two quarters.”

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