Career Advice

Is it Okay to Ask About Turnover Rate During Your Interview?

You landed the interview. You go in to meet with your potential manager or the company’s HR recruiter and answer all those standard questions about your strengths and weaknesses and where you see yourself in five years. As the end of the interview draws near, the interviewer may ask if you have any questions for them. But what kind of question should you ask?

Employment experts agree that one major question you should ask is “What is your turnover rate?”


What is a Turnover Rate?

Turnover refers to employees either joining or leaving a company. In most cases, this rate is determined over the course of a year, but it could be used for shorter (or longer) periods, as well.

In order to calculate the turnover rate over a given year, for example, a company will analyze how many people left the organization and divide that by the number of employees at the company. Multiply the total by 100 to get the turnover rate.

So, for example, let’s say 150 employees quit a company over a year. After they quit, the company still employs 1,500 workers. When divided and then multiplied by 100, the company would have a 10% turnover rate. If the job you’re interviewing for has a turnover rate of 10% or less, then that’s great! They’re probably doing something right.

Anything higher than that and you could be in a bit of trouble.


Why Turnover Rate Matters

While there could be a handful of employees that quit either because they’re moving, going back to school, or leaving to take care of a family member, a company’s turnover rate could indicate that the company is run poorly.

Generally speaking, there may be several reasons why a company has a high turnover rate. These include:


  • Lack of sufficient work-life balance
  • Low compensation
  • Excessive workload and/or hours
  • Little to no benefits
  • No opportunities for advancement
  • Poor management and/or communication
  • Inadequate staffing
  • No flexibility
  • Lack of training


On the flip side of this, a high turnover rate could have to do with the industry and the company’s overall hiring practices. If let’s say the company tends to hire individuals who aren’t a good cultural fit or lack the necessary skills to perform the task, it may result in their brief tenure, as the employees weren’t a good fit from the onset.

Likewise, certain industries tend to have higher turnover rates due to others. For example, those working in hospitality, construction, and food services tend to have higher turnover rates than those working in either the educational or finance industries.

The food service industry, for example, tends to cater to those just starting out in their career, so they may leave their role to pursue an education and other opportunities that align with their studies. But, if you’re interviewing with a finance company that has a high turnover rate, you have to think about why, considering that those working there may have gone to school for their role, and may not necessarily be leaving to pursue something that better aligns with their skills and educational background.

So, when it comes to analyzing your potential company’s turnover rate, you have to keep these things in mind. Are people leaving because that’s simply the nature of the industry or is there something more serious going on?


How to Ask About Turnover Rate

So now that you know the reasons behind WHY you should ask your interviewer about the company’s turnover rate, how should you go about it? After all, it can be a sensitive topic.

The main tip you should keep in mind is that bluntly asking about a company’s turnover rate can – and most likely will – work against you because it can come off as accusatory. According to the Muse, here’s what you should ask instead: “How long have you worked here?” Or, if you’re speaking with the head of a department, ask, “How long has your team been with you?”

By asking the question this way, you can glean some valuable insight into the inner workings of the department. If the interviewer responds that several people in the department have only been there for a few months or a year, it could point to poor management.


Asking About Turnover Rate is a Great Way to Learn More About the Company and Safeguard Your Future

When all is said and done, it’s a good idea to ask your potential employer about the turnover rate, just as long as you do so respectfully. While a higher turnover rate isn’t always indicative of bad management depending on the industry, it can help make your decision easier, especially if you’ve been offered positions at multiple companies. These tips can help you broach the sensitive subject so you can make an informed decision about your future career path.