How to Design Your Dream Job with a Stay Interview

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Ask Rhonda, Communication, Efficiency, Goal Setting, Help Me Rhonda, Management, Office Solutions, Positive attitude, Self Care, Tips

Stay Interviews are becoming a crucial tool for organizations aiming to retain their top talent. Too many companies are losing their top talent and trying to figure out why they left or what they could have done to keep them. After they go is too little and too late, so companies are being proactive and speaking to existing employees to find out what it takes to keep them both satisfied and engaged.

When conducted effectively, stay interviews can contribute to employee retention, enhance job satisfaction, and facilitate strategic career growth for both the employee and the employer.

Stay interviews are similar to exit interviews (and sometimes referred to as pre-exit interviews,) except they are a conversation with current employees who either haven’t announced they are leaving or aren’t planning to leave yet. A stay interview is not a conversation in which you try to persuade a leaving employee to stay.

This means companies today conduct stay interviews, asking for feedback from key employees. When conducted effectively, they contribute to employee retention, enhance job satisfaction, and facilitate strategic career growth for both the employee and employer.


From your perspective, it allows you to share what would make your workplace even better, improve your job satisfaction, and potentially allow your career to grow strategically; a direction both you and your employer are happy with.

From the employer’s perspective, the goal is to host a one-on-one conversation to gain insight into what you like about your role and what you would like to change about the business or role. It helps your employer determine your preferences and aspirations, clearly identify what you like about your job and why you stay, and hopefully, build trust and loyalty. It helps them identify problems, collect feedback, and discover what is causing employees to leave. It gives the employer time to fix those factors, improve the employee experience, as well as build trust and loyalty by showing their employees that they care enough about their experience to make changes.

Ultimately, it is a perfect opportunity to help design your “dream job.”


While it may feel similar to an exit interview, where HR typically wants to understand if there are any underlying issues they should be aware of which may impact other employees, a stay interview is focused on improving the employee experience for you. This means that, in most cases, your stay interview will be conducted by your direct manager.


Best Practices For You:


–         Be Prepared. Before your interview (you will be given advance notice), take time to evaluate your current role thoroughly. Reflect on what you like about it and identify areas that could be improved. By being clear on what you like and don’t like, you will be better able to share this information during your interview. Refrain from assuming they will ask the questions you want them to ask, so be prepared for a variety of questions. Do a thorough preparation like you would if you were being interviewed for a new job. You may never get a second stay interview – make the most of this unique opportunity.

Be Honest, Transparent, and Reasonable. During your stay interview, honesty is essential. Your job isn’t on the line, so you don’t need to lie about how great it is if it isn’t. It also isn’t the time to threaten to leave unless they give in to your demands. Instead, share your genuine thoughts, experiences, concerns, and aspirations. Remember that your feedback can contribute to positive organizational changes. Express appreciation for the aspects you value while offering constructive suggestions for improvement.

Your company is doing what it can to ensure you are happy, but it won’t be as motivated to make any changes if you decide to be demanding or negative. Being honest about your experiences, concerns, and aspirations is important. Be genuine with your thoughts and feelings, remembering that your feedback can contribute to positive organizational changes. Share the aspects you appreciate and those you believe could be improved.

–         Focus on Specific Examples. If you ask for more education dollars, provide specific examples about where that money would be spent. If you request a hybrid job, be clear that you are asking to work from home twice per week. If you want them to cover some of the costs for your home office, be specific about what you want, such as 50% of your internet bill monthly. When talking about what you love about your job, highlight specific projects that you enjoyed being part of. If you need to be more utilized or feel overworked, share specific examples of feeling this way.

–         Communicate Your Professional Development Goals: Articulate your long-term career goals and discuss how they align with the organization’s objectives. Communicate your desire for professional development opportunities, whether it’s further education, training programs, or skill-building initiatives. Emphasize the value these opportunities would bring to your personal growth and the organization’s success. If you are looking to be involved by having new responsibilities or stretch projects, this is the time to share that with your employer.

  • Address Work-Life Balance: If work-life balance concerns you, express it during the stay interview. Discuss any challenges you face in balancing your personal and professional life. Suggest strategies or improvements that could help foster a healthier work-life integration. This demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a productive and fulfilling work environment.
  • Offer Solutions and Suggestions: Don’t hesitate to provide solutions or suggestions during the stay interview. If you have ideas to enhance processes, workflows, or team dynamics, share them constructively. This showcases your proactive approach and investment in the success of the organization. Collaborate with your employer or manager to develop action plans that address the identified issues and capitalize on your suggestions.
  • Seek Feedback and Clarification: Take advantage of the stay interview to seek feedback and clarification from your employer or manager. Ask questions about potential growth opportunities, career paths, or other areas of interest. Request guidance on further developing your skills and advancing within the organization. This demonstrates your eagerness to learn and grow professionally.


What to avoid:


  • Don’t use this as an opportunity to complain about people or management. Don’t focus on specific people. Keep the focus on the job, what you do, how you do it, and how it could be made better.


  • Don’t lie when uncomfortable questions are presented to you. They want to determine if you are a flight risk, so they will ask if you’ve considered quitting or resigning. They want to know what events triggered those thoughts. However, as the tip above, don’t use this as an opportunity to complain about specific people. It may be seen as negativity, almost forcing them to choose which employee to keep. That isn’t worth the risk for you; you might not be the one they want to keep if it feels like an ultimatum.


  • Don’t be focused on emotions during your interview. This is the time to be focused on examples, facts, and documentable processes. While you may feel that you’ve been overlooked or taken advantage of, those “feelings” aren’t helpful for this interview. Instead, provide concrete examples of situations that could be changed in the future, along with what needs to change. Be action-based vs. feeling based.


  • Don’t expect all your dreams to be met. You’ve shared what you like and don’t like, but you shouldn’t expect massive changes to your job or role based on your definition of your dream job. Your employer wants to know what would make it perfect, but it doesn’t mean they will deliver on all your dreams, either. They are looking to define what makes the company valuable to everyone. Not just you specifically. Also, consider that some of the issues you’ve identified may be irresolvable.


According to a study by AllVoices, 18.8 percent of all employee reports are ignored, while another 33 percent are only partially addressed. (


You need to understand your own motivations for staying in your job. Ask yourself:

– what would it take for you to leave this job for another? Without knowing the answer, the stay interview might not be as effective as it could be. If you are solely motivated by money, be honest with yourself. If you stay because you like the proximity to home or it allows you to work remotely, be sure to admit that. What is it about your current job that makes you stay? You need to know the answer for yourself to provide helpful feedback. If another company offered that benefit, would you leave?

– what do you look forward to when you come to work each day? Is it the people, meaning that if certain people left the company, you would also look to change jobs? Is it the tasks, meaning that there are things you truly enjoy doing and wouldn’t want that to change?

– what do you like least about your job, and what could change to make that less negative for you? If it is a specific person, don’t share that information in this interview, but ask yourself how that situation could be fixed. Perhaps you would prefer to report to the District Manager or the CFO. Be solution focused when it comes to any situation that is negative.

– what would you change about this job if you could? Are there boundaries you want, such as the expectation that someone will cover your job when you are on vacation, or your work education could be part of the budgeting process to ensure you can continue to grow and learn?

– what would make your job more satisfying? Would a small shift in work scheduling or a reporting structure contribute to your satisfaction?

– how do you like to be recognized? Does your job title or salary matter to you?


All of these questions are looking to create awareness on your part and theirs for what your motivators are. You will provide them with excellent insight if you are prepared to answer the questions fully. Have the answers ready to be presented knowing they may not ask those specific questions. There will be an opportunity for you to ask questions, and share your feedback, so be prepared to share this information even if they don’t ask for it.


Examples of Questions (be prepared!)

–         What aspects of working here do you find enjoyable?

–         Has there been a time when you considered leaving the company?

–         What changes would you like to see in the workplace?

–         Do you feel like the company is providing you with opportunities for career advancement?

–         What do you think about during your commute to and from work?

–         What are your long-term career goals?


Be willing to emphasize your willingness to stay and the skills and abilities that make you unique. Hopefully, they see these as valuable and are ready to work with you to strategize a better working situation for everyone.

Ultimately, the stay interview benefits both the company and you. You both win when you are engaged and satisfied. Make the most of the opportunity to identify what that means to you.

This article was written by Rhonda Scharf and not by Artificial Intelligence. It first appeared in Executive Support Magazine. You can get your own subscription at (tell them I sent you!) #ExecutiveSupportMagazine

Rhonda Scharf, CSP, HOF, Global Speaking Fellow

Certified Speaking Professional, Hall of Fame

Rhonda Scharf, renowned and award-winning speaker, author, consultant, and trainer, is the “go-to” expert for the Administrative Professional and Executive Assistant community. With over 250,000+ trained across the globe, Rhonda is THE authority for fun and uplifting education for admins, because #ADMINSROCK!


Rhonda Scharf, CSP, HOF, Global Speaking Fellow

Certified Speaking Professional, Hall of Fame

Rhonda Scharf, renowned and award-winning speaker, author, consultant, and trainer, is the “go-to” expert for the Administrative Professional and Executive Assistant community. With over 250,000+ trained across the globe, Rhonda is THE authority for fun and uplifting education for admins, because #ADMINSROCK!