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5 Intern Exit Interview Questions Every Company Should Ask Its Interns

March 12, 2020
Ben Siegel

As August cools down and paves the way for September, your company starts planning for the departure of your summer interns. They were a hardworking group that showed initiative and perhaps you’re considering planting full-time job offers in front of some of them post-graduation. Forbes estimates that over 1.5 million internships are filled within the United States each year. That poses 1.5 million opportunities to improve the efficiency of your internship program.Before your intern team heads back to college, you'll want to conduct exit interviews with every one of them. Why? Because gaining an understanding of your interns' experience in an unbiased, nonthreatening environment allows you to improve your internship program going forward. And improving your internship program helps you attract more top-qualified candidates.But before you get too distracted thinking about the next round of interns, let's focus on closing out the last several months. In this article, we’ll review how to conduct an exit interview, and which exit interview questions will best improve your internship program.

Why Conduct an Exit Interview?

Conducting exit interviews allows you to collect honest feedback about your company. As a business leader, sometimes it’s all too easy to get caught up in the operational side of the business, forgetting to check in with the most important asset within any organization: its people. According to a poll by Gallup, only 15% of the world's one billion full-time workers are engaged at work. Among the most disgruntled employees — employees who initially arrived on the job filled with purpose and ambition — are the most junior at the company. Conducting exit interviews is your opportunity to tap into the minds of each team member within your workforce, from senior staffers to your summer interns. Also, it’s arguably the most surefire way to gather candid responses.Therefore, the timing and circumstance of an exit interview provides a sense of freedom for the interviewee. And by asking the right exit interview questions, you can get the most honest, constructive feedback about your company and its culture.

How Should You Conduct an Exit Interview?

How you conduct an exit interview is your choice. If you or another senior leader has the bandwidth, a face-to-face interview creates a level of personalization. It also gives your director of human resources (or whoever conducts the interview) the opportunity to ask follow-up questions to the interviewee’s responses. An in-person interview can provide the most honest feedback, as soon-to-be former employees must speak off the cuff, rather than provide scripted answers in written form. However, if you don't have the resources to conduct live interviews, sending employees an exit survey is a viable option. Written survey questions create a sense of comfort and anonymity for the interviewee. As such, interns may feel more comfortable providing candid responses than if they were speaking face-to-face with company leadership.

The 5 Most Valuable Exit Interview Questions to Ask

Exit Interview Questions: Man and woman at a desk

The topics you cover within an exit interview are entirely up to you. However, sample questions for exit interviews cover the areas of company culture, work environment, management style, operations, and employee morale. Here are five exit interview questions to ask your interns.

1. Did You Receive Adequate Training and Support During Your Internship?

More often than not, seasonal interns get tossed into roles where they are provided little to no training. And whether it's due to pride or insecurity, the intern goes through the entirety of the summer months learning more from Google than from their manager.Asking about the interns’ training and support doesn't just help you develop a better internship program — it helps you develop better managers. Teaching your managers to mentor junior employees is one of the best ways to build a well-rounded team.

2. Did Your Internship Program Meet Your Expectations?

It’s a simple exit interview question, but it's surprising how many interns leave their position thinking, "That wasn't what I signed up for."If there’s a disconnect between an internship job description and the actual job, you are bound to have disgruntled employees. From day one, your interns (and all of your employees, for that matter) should know the tasks expected of them, how their success will be measured, and to whom they report.

3. How Would You Describe the Management Style of Your Supervisor?

Again, this question is as much about developing a well-rounded team as it is about developing your internship program.When someone first steps into a managerial role, chances are they are managing the most junior staffers. But, when you think about it, these team members (like interns) often require the most mentoring. Therefore, you, as a company leader, should stay focused on mentoring your mentors, zeroing in on professional development for the next wave of leaders at your company.

4. How Would You Describe the Culture of Our Company?

Great business leaders understand that by investing in their people now, they will reap the benefits later. Glassdoor reports that companies recognized as a "best place to work" typically witness a 0.75% stock jump within 10 days of their award.Having a healthy, empowering, and positive company culture is one of the best ways to retain top talent and attract future interns. Use the interview as an opportunity to collect valuable feedback about their internship experience, specifically how they collaborated with their co-workers, whether company values are clearly communicated, and how conflicts are managed.

5. In What Ways Could the Internship Program Improve?

This exit interview question allows you to collect constructive feedback from employees who experienced your internship program firsthand. You would be doing your company a disservice by not asking interns for suggestions on how to improve it.Sometimes, leaders make the mistake by asking generic questions such as, "What did you not like about your job?" or "Why are you leaving?" These types of questions only open the door to negative feedback.Instead, use this opportunity to collect valuable information on how to level-up the internship program for future employees. You never know — your former interns could have a few ideas that you and the rest of the executive team haven't considered.

Exit Interviews Offer an Opportunity to Collect Employee Feedback

Exit Interview Questions: Older man mentoring a young worker

When a company concludes a seasonal or semester-long internship, an exit interview should be conducted with every departing employee. The exit interview process allows you to collect valuable information on the company culture, training and support, mentorship, and overall design of your internship program. As a company leader, you can utilize exit interview responses to draft next year’s job descriptions, train managers, and provide new opportunities for interns. Hopefully, these small steps can make a great impact in the acquisition of new talent, employee retention, and the overall revenue of your company.

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