The Stay Interview: What Can I Do to Keep You?

Excerpt from “Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss: A Manager’s Playbook” by Dr. Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015).

Sharon Jordan-Evans and I first recognized the need for a practical guide to engagement and retention for busy managers when the first talent wars broke out in the late 1990s. Our aim, in the very first edition of our book, “Love ’Em or Lose ’Em,” was to provide a wide array of tips, (26 to be specific!) that were low cost or no cost to implement.

One of the most popular suggestions was described in our very first chapter and has remained vital for all five editions. The Stay Interview. (Why wait for the exit interview to ask, “What can I do to keep you?”) Common sense, uncommonly practiced! Managers worldwide welcomed the idea, and responded by saying....why didn’t I ever think of that? Or....that sounds easy! Or...I can try that!

Our learning solutions, delivered globally by external and internal facilitators were well received, and practicing the stay interview became a highlight of the experience. After several years, we had quite a collection of great stay interview questions, and time-tested practical approaches that worked for any manager at any level, anywhere! And we realized we had enough great ideas to fill a book! It is called “Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss: A Manager’s Playbook” (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015).

Here are a few insights from the book:

How do stay interviews affect new hires in the workplace?

There’s an urban myth that suggests that one of the major reasons new hires leave the workplace within the first three to six months is that the picture the recruiter painted just did not materialize! Alas, we believe there is a lot of truth in this so-called “myth.”

If no one asks new hires if the job they accepted meets their expectations, then it should be no surprise when resignations are submitted. Re-recruiting has become as important as recruiting. And it should start the moment the new hire says, “Yes!”

If talent is scarce, and it is, and if recruiting and onboarding costs are high, and they are, attention to new hires makes dollars and sense. Stay interviews can be done by the recruiter, the manager, a team of recruiter and hiring manager, or by an HR professional. We recommend any of the first three options.

Some good stay interview questions to ask new hires are:

  • In what ways did the job surprise you? Delight you? Disappoint you?
  • What can be done to turn that around or improve?
  • What is the best part of your work so far?
  • What skills did you bring to us that we aren’t yet using?
  • How have your colleagues been helpful?
  • What opportunities did we miss for coaching, and mentoring you?

Organizations that have implemented this successfully ask new hires to schedule appointments with their managers at 30, 60, and 90 days. Managers are held accountable for these meetings.

What do you tell HR professionals who face pushback from upper management about this idea?

The biggest complaint (or excuse?) we’ve heard from managers is that it takes too much time. And time is something they just don’t have, given the amount of work already on their plates. (Sound familiar?) Our retort would be....not quite as much time as it takes to search for, find, and train replacements for lost talent.

Probably the smartest move for an HR professional is to arm managers with a great collection of possible stay interview questions and hold them accountable for asking them. And, if you want to go one better, just don’t give them a list of questions, but provide them with some time to practice and to get feedback about their skillfulness in not only asking the questions, but listening to the responses, driving the question deeper, and then collaborating on doing something about it.

When asked, most managers say that they haven’t done stay interviews because they are concerned that employees will ask for something they can’t deliver. This very process then will serve to disengage the employee even more. This is not our experience. If employees ask for something that is out of the manager’s control, our advice is to listen, tell the truth about why this request is difficult, and let the employee know you want to find some things that are within your sphere of influence. In other words, ask the “what else?” question. Our research has proven that if managers are willing to hang in and drill deeper, they will find three or four factors (that they could never have guessed) that are within their control.

Who should do stay interviews? Is there a role for the recruiter?

As I get deeper into the (seemingly) simple idea of stay interviews, I am excited about the different players who can make use of this concept. Clearly, the manager is the best bet...and that is covered in the book. I also think the HR leader can target critical talent and hold these interviews IF that HR person then coaches the manager on how to take the crucial next steps.

The missing link is the recruiter....often the first to really connect with the new hire.

I believe that new recruits do bond with the person who gives them the interview and invites them to join the organization. They have a relationship that usually ends when the person goes to work for the hiring manager. Organizations that hold recruiters responsible, or partially responsible, for retaining the talent that they bring in will find that their retention rates go up. I recommend that the recruiter link arms with the hiring manager and together discuss the stay factors that are important to the new employee. Recruiters who do stay interviews on their own (without the hiring manager present) may uncover some important needs that the employee would not state to his or her own manager. So this option makes sense, as well. Questions the recruiter can ask are often similar to what a manager might also ask.

  • How could I have improved my description of the job, the organization culture, your hiring manager?
  • What is the job asking that you are finding difficult?

Note: Dr. Kaye will present a TrainingMagazineNetwork Webinar on this topic on October 27. Visit to register.

Excerpt from “Hello, Stay Interviews, Goodbye, Talent Loss: A Managers Playbook by Dr. Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015). For more information, visit

Dr. Beverly Kaye is the founder of Career Systems International and an expert in the areas of career development, employee engagement and retention, and mentoring. She has spent years researching corporate strategies for developing, retaining, and engaging knowledge workers. Her book, “Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Getting Good People to Stay,” co-authored with Sharon Jordan-Evans, has sold more than 600,000 copies in 25 languages and has reached Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestseller status. Their companion book, “Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work,” suggests that employee engagement is also the responsibility of the individual contributor. “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want,” co-authored with Julie Winkle Giulioni, was published in 2012. Dr. Kaye’s newest book, co-authored with Sharon Jordan-Evans, was published in May and is titled “Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss: A Manager’s Playbook.” These books are the foundation for Career Systems International’s successful practice in career development, employee engagement, and retention. Visit the Website at


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