Asking the right survey questions

February 18, 2021

Survey questions help People teams get the feedback they need to monitor and improve their process. But to get the right feedback you have to ask the right questions.

Qualitative or quantitative?

When you sit down to draft up survey questions, first ask whether you're looking to get qualitative or quantitative feedback.

Qualitative feedback comes from asking questions like Was there anything that made you feel lost in your first week? And it helps you learn from the employee's experience to improve your onboarding experience.

Quantitative feedback comes from questions like On a scale of 1 to 5, how prepared did you feel for your first day?. This is the type of feedback you can average and chart over time to measure how the onboarding experience is improving.

Qualitative questions

When asking qualitative questions, put yourself in the employee's perspective and think about how you might respond to the question based on how it is presented. You might not get the responses you're looking for if you simply ask the employee how their experience was. Some of the most helpful feedback never gets shared because people don't want to feel like they're complaining. Instead, before you present any questions, make sure it's clear that they're filling out this survey to help improve the process for future new hires and employees.

Exactly what questions you ask is all going to depend on which parts of the process you are trying to improve. If you're just starting out, you can begin asking broad questions about the different phases of onboarding. Then, as you start to see trends in responses, ask more specific questions to dig into those areas.


■  Who did you meet during your first day?
■  What one thing would have made your first day better?
■  What's one thing you would have liked us to share with you before you started?
■  Was there anything in the onboarding process that felt drawn out or redundant?
■  How would you describe your orientation?
■  Were there any questions about your role or the company that you think could have been covered in your orientation?
■  Has your training prepared you for you to execute in your role?
■  Coming in, did you feel like you understood the expectations for your role?


■  What made you begin exploring positions at other companies?
■  Is there anything that the company could have done for you to remain?
■  Do you feel like you were given clear and achievable goals?
■  Over your time at the company, do you feel like you were given good and actionable feedback?
■  How would you describe our company?
■  Do you think you'd consider returning to work here in the future?

Quantitative questions

Quantitative questions are for measuring, so similarly to qualitative questions, you want to make sure that they're focused on the areas you are trying to improve. However, unlike qualitative questions which you can change all of the time to elicit different types of feedback, you don't want to change your quantitative questions often at all, because then you aren't able to track and compare responses over time.

A great practice is to have standard questions that you will ask every employee every time. These are the questions and responses that you'll want to compare quarter over quarter and year over year. Then, you can have a few wildcard questions. These are the specific questions that you can change depending on your focus at the time to track how a specific change to the process is working, but you can drop after a few months and won't need to compare over the lifetime of the company.

Most qualitative questions can be turned into a quantitative question by simply asking the employee to put their answer on a scale. And it might seem silly, but anytime when you're using a scale, make sure it's clear what 1 is and what 5 is. To avoid any confusion, after a question like "How prepared were you for your first day?" add "(1 – Not prepared at all, 5 – Prepared for everything)"

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