Are you conducting Stay Interviews? Correctly done – a highly effective way to retain your top talent

Kevin Hosier

Two people with their hands around coffee cups

According to a recent CIPD report, 33% of employers report that it has become more difficult to retain staff over the last 12 months.

Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive for a talent acquisition specialist to be commenting on the most effective way to keep hold of key staff, we see our role as recruitment partners as much more than search and selection. We expect and hope that our candidates will build long careers with our clients – and the stay interview is a highly effective tool to help employers drive employee commitment and loyalty.


What is a stay interview?

It isn’t an appraisal and should be kept completely separate from any performance review. That’s the first and most important distinction. Appraisals measure performance against a pre-agreed set of criteria whereas the stay interview is a barometer to help assess your employee’s experience of working both in their current role and for you and your company. It’s likely to be much more subjective.  Think of it as being the opposite of an exit interview – instead of asking, “Why are you leaving,” you’re effectively asking, “Why are you staying?”

What are the benefits?

Conducted correctly, the stay interview is valuable because it provides managers with the insights they need to motivate a particular employee. Perhaps we too often see motivation in black and white terms and assume that, for example, every sales person will be motivated by earning more commission. But often, it’s a much more complex picture, and only by taking time to properly ask the right questions – and understand the responses – can we assess the right management and motivational approach for each individual. Stay interviews can help build trust and give the employee the opportunity for input and feedback in a non-pressurised environment. If you then follow up by acting sincerely on the feedback given, the stay interview is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate to employees that their input is valuable – and that they are listened to.A single-line drawing of two women sitting and having a discussion during a stay interview while drinking coffeeHow do you conduct a Stay Interview?

“Don’t over-complicate things,” says Ben Whitter, founder and CEO of the World Employee Experience Institute. “The biggest question you can ask an employee during a stay interview is – why do you stay?” The implication is that the more you can encourage the employee to open up and lead the conversation, the better. Open questions are likely to be more informative than closed, so instead of asking, “Do you find your current role satisfying,” ask, “If you could change one thing about your job to make it more satisfying, what would it be?” Identify areas that you would like to assess and create a series of open questions around them. These might cover:

•  Motivations (perhaps aside from money and promotion)

•  The sort of challenges they look forward to in their role

•  What they would miss about their current role if moved into a completely different position

•  Areas of the business they would like to learn more about/have more exposure to

Then just sit and listen – and take copious notes.


Stay Interview – Some Tips

Wait to interview new hires until they’ve had some time to get to know the job – but you need to get the timing right. A common reason for leaving a role in the early days that we hear as recruiters is “the job was mis-sold to me,” “the job is not how my boss described it would be” or “the role is not what I was expecting.” As an employer, you may be in a position to do something about this – but only if you know there’s a problem. So, don’t wait too long to ask for the first time.

Let employees know well in advance what you are aiming to achieve in the interviews. If the interview is a surprise, or the employee hasn’t had sufficient time to think about what they would like to say, chances are the information you glean will not be that valuable.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – be sure that you have the processes in place to act on what you learn. You can be 100% certain that not acting on what you find out during the stay interview will have exactly the opposite effect of what you intended. Ensure that communication lines are well and truly open and that employees know they have been heard.


Article written by Kevin Hosier, Co-Director of GCN Talent

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Employee retention

GCN Talent always ensure they understand the requirements of the business and the type of candidate we are looking for through close consultation with us. As part of that, they only send the best candidates, making the recruitment process efficient and enjoyable! I would highly recommend GCN Talent.

General Manager
Capacity Conferences/Euromoney plc

Kevin and the team at GCN talent are always one of the ‘must-calls’ when recruiting. The reason I like to work with them is that they take time to get to know our needs, and only put forward well-researched and briefed candidates which has led to a number of appointments. I am happy to highly recommend them.

Managing Director
Mining Indaba/Euromoney plc

Katharine is incredibly helpful, personable and enthusiastic – she was the driving force behind turning an opportunity into a career. I am very grateful for the time and effort she put into securing the role for me, and I highly recommend her.

Conference Director

Kevin has been a key player in supporting us finding top-quality candidates for our events team. He always takes the time to understand our requirement and then only puts forward relevant people.

Director of Events
Campden Wealth

Katharine and I had been liaising for a number of years. She is consistently very personable and a pleasure to work with as well as being very insightful and enthusiastic about who she works with. I always felt confident that she would represent me well. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with Katharine again at all!


I am very happy to recommend Kevin who has successfully sourced good candidates for me over many years. He always questions a brief carefully to get a good understanding of what’s required for a given role. He’s always happy to take on board feedback to adapt a search if necessary. As a result, he always sends me through a high calibre of candidates.

Content Director
Ascential Events

I had the pleasure of speaking with Katharine when I needed someone who really understood where I was at that time. Unlike other recruiters I have encountered, Katharine really took the time to understand what I needed, why I needed it and what was important to me. I would happily recommend GCN Talent to anyone looking for the right move.

Business Development Director

I cannot recommend Kevin highly enough. As well as having in-depth knowledge of the conferences & exhibition worlds – and the key roles and functions that they entail – he is no doubt the best-connected recruitment professional.

Southbank/Crop World Global

Katharine is a fearless recruiter who very quickly got to grips with the complexities of our market place and the specific requirements of the role we were looking to fill. She left no stone unturned in her search for the perfect candidate and I relied on her to save me time by thoroughly screening all potential interviewees before she referred them to me. Her results have been great and we’re really happy with the senior level people she has helped bring into our business.

Editorial and Network Director
The Hive

I have loved and enjoyed working with Katharine over the years. Not only she is one of the most resilient headhunters I have met in my career, but also an incredible pleasure to work with from a personality point of view. She is one of those individuals that will not stop until she gets what you are looking for, really a great recruitment partner to have for any job you may require to hire for. I recommend very highly!

Group Head of Marketing