our new hires keep dropping out before they start

A reader writes:

I work for a contractor; our primary industry is providing professional staff at locations around the globe. One of the locations where we have staff is far away and has an incredibly strong reputation as a place where you don’t want to get sent.

Surprisingly, we don’t have a ton of trouble finding candidates for positions there. However, at least 70% of the people we hire to work there flake out on us before their start date!

Our staff will spend weeks working with new hires to ensure that they have all their documents prepared and book travel to this location. We keep in constant contact, and most employees will emphasize over and over again how excited they are about their position. And then the day they are supposed to fly out, we will get an email saying they aren’t coming.

These are mid-level professionals with security clearances, and they know where they’re headed when they apply to and accept our job. We’ve tried bonuses for 3 months+ service; daily, friendly calls from the recruiter, waiting to book travel until 2-3 days before departure, raising the salary … but nothing seems to help. We’re still losing the majority of our candidates for these positions between offer acceptance and start date.

If you were in our shoes, what would you be looking at? Everyone in my office is stumped on what to try next — or if this is just part of the territory when you’re staffing positions in tricky locations.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 203 comments… read them below }

  1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Are you sending people to Siberia?
    Jokes aside, one of my first jobs had a client located so far away you had to wake up at 4 am to get the bus at 6 am and be there by 9am. It was nicknamed “Siberia” for obvious reasons.

    1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

      When this thread originally posted, the leading theory was Diego Garcia.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          It’s very very remote, there is no city or entertainment, you are basically stuck on the base for the length of your tenure. You don’t have an easy way in and out too.

          1. No Name Today*

            Ah, Diego Garcia! For several years I worked in an HR-related position for a government contractor; part of my job put me on teams that went out to implement the HR parts of new contracts. The company already had successful contracts on some remote Pacific Islands and, as a result, became a finalist for a contract on Diego Garcia. The number of new employees was large enough that almost everyone who did new contract work across the company would be needed on Diego Garcia for 4-6 weeks with premium pay and expenses paid. There is nothing on the island but the military installation and there would be little contact outside of it. We all planned to bring fully loaded Kindles for reading material, knitting projects, DVD’s and anything else to pass the time. We learned that the likely point of departure for our military flight would be Singapore, so the people in my group planned to gather there for a couple of days with some time for shopping and restaurants.

            Then the word came down that once you were on the island there would be no leaving it before the scheduled flight home unless you were dying or or already dead. That’s when I had second thoughts about going. My 90 year old mother had dementia and was failing; if she died while I was out on the island, I could not be with her and would miss her funeral. I then made it known that I would sacrifice and be the person who would stay behind to handle urgent business that came up stateside. Shortly after, the contract was awarded to another company and some folks dreams of snagging cheap designer purses in Singapore went up in smoke.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              Yes, you are pretty much stuck there for the length of the contract. It’s almost as remote as Antarctica, but tropical.
              (for regular people).

      1. Frinkfrink*

        One of my college friends worked on Johnston Atoll for a couple of years, which is much the same, on the other side of the globe.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I saw an episode of House Hunters International set in Marshall Islands, and even with not being on a base, and some other people around, it’s just feels so much more remote and isolated than even the most rural US.
          Plus seeing water from both sides of your house freaked me out. I immediately thought of a tsunami.

      2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        I raise you Martín García Island. It has a bakery, a school, a cemetery, the Governor’s house and nothing else. Former detention place, now it’s used for wilderness camps and religious retreats.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          But would they need a contracting company to send mid-level professional staff to work at the wilderness camps or the religious retreats tho (unless it’s a really, really, really big bakery)? ;P

        2. Jennifer Juniper*

          There’s nothing to remind you of your mortality than being near a cemetery at a religious retreat! I’m sure it makes the sermons and altar calls much more effective.

          1. boop the first*

            Uhhhh yeah! How hard are these retreats that so many people die on them they needed a cemetary??

    2. Chevre*

      Hilariously, every day for work I do get up at four, to leave the house by five, to get the bus to site and arrive by seven. I get home in the evening at eight thirty.

      How does my company entice all of us to do this? We get paid very, very well for the job, with amazing benefits, effectively work fourteen days out of every twenty-eight, and only pay the taxes on the bus service.

      1. Róisín*

        When I was a waitress there was a five-month period where I had the 6am shift. I woke up at 4, left the house at 5, and used a combination of bike and bus to get there at 6. Sometimes those shifts would wind up being 10-12 hours, and I’d get home around 7:30.

        But I was a waitress, so there were no perks.

        1. TardyTardis*

          This sounds like when I picked strawberries as a kid (12+)–get up at 4:30 am, fix lunch, eat a quick breakfast, get to the bus stop (walk of about a mile) by 6-ish, ride the bus 30 some mile (part highway, part climbing mountain road), get there 7-sh, pick strawberries for most of the day–you got paid by the flat, so you took lunch whenever you felt like it, done by 2:30 pm (occasional stops for ice cream paid for by the bosses on the way home), get off the bus by 3:30, walk home. If you worked the whole season and kept your punch card, you got a bonus of ten cents or so per punch at the party they threw for all the kids who worked the whole season. Paid in cash on the spot whenever you turned in a flat, but you could turn in change at the end of the day for bills. I did it for four years for church camp and buying presents for Christmas money, though I sometimes bought myself a banana split at the ice cream place by the bus stop before I went home. They still loved me, grubby as I was.

          But the first summer I worked a real job when I was 16 I made the same of money in three weeks that I did for a whole season of picking.

          I know a lot about strawberries,though.

    3. RussianInTexas*

      Siberia is not that far away if you are already living in it!
      I grew up there.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        But what if a company only hires people in Moscow and wants them to fly back and forth, with minimum perks for all that effort? Is a lose-lose situation.

        1. (Former) US expat in Russia*

          In this day and age, Siberian cities are really not any more socially isolated than cities in the Western US. The flight from Moscow to Novosibirsk takes about four hours, which is just over twice as long as New York to Denver. The airport is a hub for S7 Airlines (which is a full OneWorld member) and Lufthansa Cargo. And even the difference in the standard of living between Moscow and the provinces is much less than it was in the 1990s.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            Novosibirsk! Yay!
            But really, there are about 4-5 flights from Moscow to Novosibirsk every morning and every evening, from all 3 airports.
            Now, if you need to go to Ust-Kut or something…
            (I am from Novosibirsk, and my cousin moved to Ust-Kut after college. It’s a bit…remote).

          2. Snarkaeologist*

            I imagine it’s something like Alaska, where I’ve worked a lot – Anchorage and Fairbanks aren’t really different then any other medium-sized US cities, if you ignore the occasional -40F temperatures. But the landscape means a lot of communities aren’t accessible by road, so a lot of the interview process for jobs there involves making sure people understand they might be two plane rides from the nearest bar or movie theater.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Give me good wifi, a couple of large bales of books, a laptop to write on, and a couple of cases of wine (and a locker full of decent coffee) and I’m good!

              Not joking about the books.

        2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Siberia is a big place. There are super-remote small settlements, but also there are several tens of millions of people there. And cities.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I had a friend in school who’s family relocated from Magadan (we were both in Novosibirsk).
            I was already in Siberia, but Magadan was like Neptune. Just as far and inaccessible.

    4. Quill*

      I did once get, what I assume was an auto-generated typo, an ad about a job in Antarctica… 2 month contract. $13.75 an hour on W2, no benefits.

    1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

      Allison took some of the information out of the original post. The letter writer said that this was a remote military instillation. If it’s somewhere such as Diego Garcia, you’re not hiring people locally particularly once you factor in requisite training and security clearances.

    2. Zephy*

      The OP mentioned security clearances, it’s very possible there are no locals that meet that criteria.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        ^ This is what I was thinking. I was guessing they were recruiting for Iraq or Afghanistan, so local staff wouldn’t qualify

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      If it’s Diego Garcia, there are none.

      Same thing at the Antarctic Research Station. Sometimes there are literally no people outside the base. Sometimes there are no people with security clearances or accelerator physics PhDs or whatnot.

      1. Meredith*

        Yup, and to clarify the “there are none” for other people are aren’t familiar – there are literally no locals on Diego Garcia, not just “no locals with the right qualifications.” It’s population was 0 until it was colonized by Portugal, and there were fewer than 1000 people, all working coconut plantations, until the 1960s or so, when they were all forcibly removed.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        If the location is Diego Garcia, there literally are no local residents. Nothing but the military base. The original residents (what few there were) were all relocated when the UK made the deal with the US to put the military base there. (It seems to gave been a … controversial move.)

        I literally never heard of Diego Garcia, the Chagos Archipelago, or the British Indian Ocean Territory until now. I’m enough of a geography nerd that I couldn’t resist googling. Very interesting stuff!

  2. Ama*

    I’d actually try to set new employees up on a call with current employees at that location and have them answer questions about what it is like to live and work there, that sounds like it would be far more useful than “daily” calls from a recruiter, no matter how friendly.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Sounds like a good idea. OP would have to make sure that any current employees understood that they were expected to be candid and not sugar-coat their responses.

    2. cacwgrl*

      I was reading comments before I wrote mine and this is where I was going. We’re in a ‘remote’ location in perspective, although nowhere near as extreme as Camp Lemonnier or Afghanistan for example, but the organization does a buddy system of sorts. New hires are assigned a (volunteer) from their new organization who has agreed to help them through the process, professionally and personally. The new hire has to agree to accept it and if they don’t, no harm, no foul. If they do, that person checks in, helps with paperwork questions, locale questions, housing, etc. Meets them on their first day and sort of acts as a guide until they get their bearings. I’ve done it myself and it’s kind of fulfilling to get to help someone in that way and ease over some of the nerves and tensions, especially for someone new to the area.
      What also helps us is a locality payment and lower cost of living and being generally centralized for recreation. Once the new hire makes it, we also put significant effort in to helping them acclimate to the culture.
      Oh, in many cases, we will bring them to the site during the hiring process, before a final offer is granted. Security has assisted with it so we are in compliance with our requirements and clearance needs, and this also helps us retain more people through the hiring process to onboarding. We still lose people, but far less than before all of the actions above were implemented.

  3. tina*

    Mid-level professionals with security clearances are the belles of the ball. Because it takes so long to get these positions sorted out, they are likely interacting with 2-3 recruiters at a time and waiting on offers. Some are taking offers just to use them as leverage with their current employer.

    As Alison said, I would drop the daily calls from the recruiter (which would drive me crazy and make me feel resentful) and really take a close look at what information you’re providing to them at what points in time. (Knowing that you’re flying to a generally austere environment is different than knowing you’ll be staying in a hotel vs. a military camp, for example). If I have to choose between jobs A and B and Job B is the one where the recruiter wasn’t breathing down my neck, it would definitely factor in. Other than that, I’m not sure what else there is to be done about it.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      The one time I worked with a recruiter, they had daily check-in calls between the offer and the start date. The calls made me very nervous. I’d answer expecting them to give me important information about the transition but instead it was “Just seeing how you are doing!” and “Are you still EXCITED about the new position!!!???!” I was still working at my previous role and it seemed really out of touch that they were constantly calling to chat, but not really chat. It gave me the feeling that they expected me to drop out. What were they hiding? Does the recruiter want to be besties?

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I would not have been able to hold back my snark on that one. I know you never want to say something you’ll regret when it comes to finding a job, but if a recruiter was calling me every day with zero updates, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself. “I appreciate you checking in, but I don’t need you to call me more than once a week unless there’s an update.” Clearly that person needed more work to do.

        1. Derjungerludendorff*

          That’s not even snarking, just establishing reasonable boundaries IMO.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Yeah, especially since the recruiter is just worried about their commission but doesn’t know a better way to try and hold onto it besides *checks notes* calling to chat. (Ugh.)

        2. Quill*

          I got snippy with a recruiter just a couple of weeks ago when he said “it’s only TUESDAY how come you can’t interview until FRIDAY” and I’m like “Dude, people have other responsibilities, I can’t answer your email immediately at all times so TODAY does not count, thursday does not work, and we already discussed that if you attempt to make contact on wednesdays I will ignore the shit out of you because the job I’m being paid for does not have any down time on wednesdays.”

      2. Mill Miker*

        I’m imagining this, but with the added “Are you still sure you’re good with Remotesville?” and wondering how many potential candidates were essentially talked out of the job by the recruiter.

      3. Quill*

        Yes. Interacting with a recruiter is work, and I’m not doing that daily for free. Stop using up all my time and social spoons and ESPECIALLY stop stalking my work hours.

  4. AnotherAlison*

    I wonder if the majority of candidates who accept are unemployed? They keep looking and find something better.

    A couple years ago, we had a rehire candidate who was supposed to start at a desirable suburban location. He told us a story about his wife’s job location being the reason why. A couple months later, I saw he was employed at another local firm. I figure he took our offer but really wanted theirs, and it came through before he started. Looks like he only worked there for <1 year, though.

    The undesirable job location also would have a tendency to attract people who are extraordinarily money focused, IMO. They get another offer, they're gone.

  5. Ann Onny Muss*

    On a former program, we had people stationed at Middle Eastern locations, and it was hard to staff. Once we actually got people over there, they would stay about 3 years. It was just finding people willing to live in this region and under some pretty trying conditions.

    1. Jen*

      Yep. It sucks but it’s part of having a contract overseas (I am assuming SWA?).

      Sorry OP. I have no advice to offer except to commiserate. I have worked on contracts like this before and it’s not great.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Back when I was male and single, I probably would have taken that. Now that I am still male, but with a wife and two daughters? Not a chance.

  6. Pellegrino*

    “We’re still losing the majority of our candidates for these positions between offer acceptance and start date.”
    How long is the period between offer acceptance and start date? Can you shorten it?
    When does their paycheck start? Is it too long between accepting the offer and starting the job?
    Are people accepting the offer, then staying home, and then expected to go to this far location? Can you make like a mid-point office where new hires can get acquainted with their future new team and learn about the place they’ll be going to vs. doing it completely remotely over phone?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Also – what’s the timeline from initial contact to start? Is it too short? Too long? If it’s too long, candidates have time to question the decision and look for something else, or things change in their personal life/current job that don’t make it as workable. (Exp. – if you’re already on a job and an elderly parent is diagnosed with an illness, you probably carry on, but if you’re still in the US, perhaps you no longer want to go to a new location.) If it’s too short, the logistics of selling a house, re-homing a pet, etc. might overwhelm them.

      1. Jen*

        Unfortunately with govt contracts, staffing usually requires three-four levels of govt approvals before the person can be hired, and depending on the COR/PM, that could be awhile. Bureaucracy at it’s finest!

        1. Quill*

          If that’s the case they’re probably being snatched out from under this position by others in a more appealing location, that they applied for before this one.

    2. Batgirl*

      Yes I thought too it was a case of not striking while the iron is hot. If this is a really out there location, it may be attracting people who need a current out of their lives; bad break up, career boredom crisis etc. If you wait too long, they’ll meet someone or rejuvenate whatever’s wrong at home. I don’t know how possible this is with security clearances.

  7. Jackie Lope*

    In my opinion, the OP needs to initiate a process to find out why this is happening. Did the candidate wait to read the reviews of the workplace? Did they hear horror stories after the fact?

    I’ve worked a lot of contracts (I’m working one now), and I rarely hear from the agency that pays me unless I reach out to them (usually some kind of paperwork question). While a check-in call after the first week would be reasonable, even sensible, afterwards, I wouldn’t want one more than once a month.

  8. Employment Lawyer*

    The most obvious thing that I would do is to consider changing your search.

    Most obviously, see if you can find any substantial commonality among the 30% who did NOT drop out (for example, prior experience working overseas in a country with at least an Expert “Difficulty rating;” prior services in the armed forces; etc.) and focus on selectively recruiting that cohort. The costs of selectivity will go up but they will probably be outweighed by the savings of not having folks drop.

    Less obvious, but perhaps more successful: consider whether there are untapped markets of applicants, and where you might meet them.

    For example, imagine that you’re looking for “smart people with security clearances who thrive on weirdness and adversity.” Most folks are probably using [security clearance] as an initial filter, because it’s easy to do. But what about the other two factors? Maybe you can screen for [smart] and [thrive on weirdness and adversity] instead, and help those folks get clearances. You know better than we do, of course; there aren’t many details here. But maybe you should consider recruiting ex-anthropology majors (local research in the third world can be really something) who are interested in transitioning to a high paying desk job, rather than trying to find skilled desk jockeys and training them to live in remote Papau New Guinea villages, so to speak.

    If you think your applicant pool is correct, then it’s just the basic stuff:
    1) Pay more.

    2) Find out what makes people drop (post-rejection interviews as AAM notes) and change/address it.

    3) Depending on your willingness to have pissed-off people you may be able to execute contracts–these cannot force people to do work, but they can possibly provide for damages in the event of breach, which will perhaps cut down on tire-kickers. The more costly you make it to drop out, the fewer people will drop out. Do not even try to do this without hiring a lawyer, though.

    1. Amy Sly*

      Amen to looking at your search criteria. I ended up on the wrong side of a similar screen — I thought having a strong IP background in law school would make me competitive in that area. Turns out that the few firms that did IP law in my city operated on the theory it was safer to take a top-of-the-class grad and teach them IP than hire a bottom-of-the-class grad who already knew the IP side.

    2. Ana Gram*

      This is spot on. I hire cops and we’ve found that some of our most successful applicants are from the Mormon community. Sounds super random but- they’re committed to public service, they’re generally polite and college educated, and they often have language skills from overseas missions. Of course, we sprinkle some Marines in there just to even things out but the key is to figure out what traits lead to success and work backwards.

      1. Late to the game*

        I was told this by an FBI recruiter as well- also low likelihood of past substance abuse due to their religion’s abstinence doctrines, which makes security clearances much easier!

          1. Coverage Associate*

            Yeah, and if the religious discrimination laws are like the ethnic discrimination laws, it’s a problem just to nudge the applicant pool by, say, advertising in religious publications or places.

            I worry that some of these recommendations will run against family status discrimination too. These jobs sound like the pony express and polar expeditions. “Orphans preferred.” But that was 100+ years ago.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              Or if you hire heavily in that community, you’re going to end up with a whole level of middle management from that community and even with the laws there, it’s easier for them to identify other people within the community to bring in.

              Especially in the public sector, even more especially in law enforcement, this is terrifying.

              1. Ana Gram*

                Goodness, it’s not “terrifying”. It’s an applicant pool we didn’t really consider before. So now we include local Mormon houses of worship when we’re reaching out to community stakeholders to establish recruiting relationships. To clarify, it’s not just Mormons. They’re a pretty low percentage of people in this area. We also have relationships with mosques, temples, churches, women’s colleges, Scouting programs, HBCU’s, military bases, fire-rescue organizations, and many others. I mentioned Mormons because it was an example of how to identify successful character traits and work backward to find a population who has them. Mormons aren’t the only ones who have these traits. My (I thought) tongue in cheek remark about Marines kind of goes to show that. They’re also a community we identified that has what we’re looking for…even though the seem like polar opposites when you compare Marines and Mormons side by side.

                1. LDN Layabout*

                  Because when you’re recruiting for public service, identifying community stakeholders is what the focus should be, not ‘Hey X religious branch do well at this job, we should recruit from them more’.

                  One side is recruiting with a view that your public servants should be diverse/inclusive/reflect the community, the other is assigning positive attributes to people solely on the basis of what religion they follow.

                2. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  I also think it’s terrifying.
                  There are some well-known biases in the Mormon religion. Giving police power to (probably) biased people is terrifying.
                  I agree with LDN, the best thing is for police to come from the communities they serve.

                3. SubjectAvocado*

                  @Tidewater I think you are painting with a really wide brush on Mormons. They’re people just like anyone and aren’t a monolith. Just because you think there are “well-known” biases in the religion doesn’t make it true. Would you tolerate someone saying that about Muslims or Jews? That you shouldn’t hire them to be in public service because there are “well-known” (from your perspective) biases in their religion?

                4. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  @SubjectAvocado, Judaism and Islam are entire religions which have several branches each.
                  Mormons are a branch of Christianity which is well-known to be very conservative. As a person who grew up in a fundamentalist area, I am honestly terrified at the idea of recruiting police officers from a conservative branch of Christianity.

                5. SubjectAvocado*

                  @Tidewater It may be well known TO YOU to be conservative, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the people who are being hired are conservative. You just don’t know, and you’re making assumptions based on a stereotype, even if it is a well-known or accepted one. You can’t paint with a broad brush like that, it’s pretty gross.

                6. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  Have you ever lived in a fundamentalist area? Or anywhere you were part of a group that is oppressed by society?
                  It doesn’t sound like you understand what that’s like. When you’ve lived in a place where people with authority automatically see you as inferior, when people of the dominant group can abuse and physically injure you and not be punished, when you have no recourse to stand up for yourself, in fact you would be punished for trying… then you will understand how terrifying it is to contemplate recruiting police officers from the same group – conservative, religious white men – that terrorized you because of your gender.

                7. SubjectAvocado*

                  You’re making a LOT of assumptions about my past. I do, actually, know what that’s like, and the fact is is that you’re proving my point. You seem to think of this particular group as being solely comprised of white, religious men, when that is not necessarily (or even definitely, when we use critical thinking) true. You used “well-known” biases in order to defend not hiring them for public service jobs. Those biases aren’t necessarily true, but the way your messages are coming off is you saying that being a member of a stereotypically conservative religion ought to be a disqualifying factor for employment in public service because surely all members have the same biases, when that is unfair and untrue among ANY group, not just Mormons.

                8. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  I really don’t have time to keep arguing. I stated my case. I didn’t say they shouldn’t be hired. If anyone is going to specifically recruit authority positions from religious groups, they should take extra care not to recruit conservative and biased members of those groups. That’s all.

                9. Late to the game*

                  I can’t even fathom some of the leaps commenters are making in response to you. Wow. Its gone so far that the original concerns- hiring based on religious background, which wasn’t at all your original comment, has now come around to NOT hiring based on religious background, and the absurdity isn’t recognized.

                10. Ego Chamber*

                  Literally all I got out of your reference to marines was “Mormons are really kind and polite so we need some Marines in there too in case anyone needs to do a murder.” (I know that’s an oversimplification of the military, and of religious groups, but Jeezus dude read a room, a lot of us around here are distrustful of cops and not for no reason.)

                11. Oh dear*

                  no one has said anything about hiring people based on religion, rather that a trend of successful applicants from a certain religion has been identified. If you need to take that and run with it, go ahead, but I’m not going to waste more time commenting in response to what seems like deliberate misinterpretation of a benign, and fairly useful (look where you may not expect) comment.

            2. Ana Gram*

              Nah, it’s not at all illegal to recruit in houses of worship. Just like it’s not illegal to recruit at single sex orgs or the local HBCU or the Pride Festival in the next town or Puerto Rican heritage events. It’s actually a great way to ensure a diverse hiring pool. Now, if you were *only* recruiting at the Llama University alumni association invite only events, sure, that would be an issue.

                1. gsa*

                  Is the OP still following/reading?

                  To the peanut gallery, these positions are very competitive and take a very long time to come to fruition.

                  My guess is, OPs company takes longer than normal to get things moving.

                  People that are qualified are not the ones that sit on their hands and wait for a phone call.



          2. Dr. Doll*

            They’re not. The characteristics they are hiring on such as low substance abuse, language facility, etc., tend to be associated with a particular religious group or groups. Correlation. As long as they are not exclusively recruiting in that group, and in fact are recruiting broadly, what’s the problem?

            1. LDN Layabout*

              The problem is when you view a certain group as perfect or ideal to hire from, it’s going to colour your view of both candidates from that group and candidates not from that group.

              1. SubjectAvocado*

                You seem like you have a problem with Mormons, to be quite honest.

                Knowing that a particular community frequently has members with qualities you look for in candidates isn’t a crime or even wrong. It would be wrong if you ONLY recruited from that pool of candidates, or if you excluded others from candidacy based on their not being a part of that group, but as long as the recruiting process is robust and not limited to just one demographic, why is it wrong to say “members of X group frequently succeed at this job, so we will continue to recruit from that community”?

                1. LDN Layabout*

                  I have a problem with hiring based on religious affiliation, especially if that job is in public service.

                  The problem with linking positive or negative values to a specific religious group is that you risk making decisions based on those beliefs vs. the people you’re hiring.

                2. SubjectAvocado*

                  But she was pretty clear that it’s NOT hiring based on religious affiliation, it’s noticing that those of a particular affiliation often have the traits that make a person successful in a given job. I highly doubt they ask their applicants to put down their religious affiliation on their resume or application.

              2. Ana Gram*

                Your comments seem very focused on religion but that was just one example of many. My department is actually more racially diverse than the community we serve and I think that’s in large part due to our recruiting efforts. We are literally trying to avoid the “like me syndrome” where departments keep hiring the same mid-20’s white guy.

                The Mormons just struck me as funny because I had never consider them, really, in general. But when we started to think about who we want to attract, one of our officers brought it up and it was kind of a lightbulb moment. That’s all. We’re not trying to recreate Salt Lake City in the DC metro area.

                1. LDN Layabout*

                  And it sounds like you’re doing things right!

                  It was just the advice of work backwards looking at what traits work, teamed up with ‘hey we noticed this religious group in particular produce really successful candidates’ that gave me the ooughs.

                2. Koala dreams*

                  I think your comments sound very different in your mind than when they are written out. If you only mention hiring Mormons, of course it will seem like you are hiring a homogeneous group of people, especially when you comment on their great values and sound religious beliefs. On the other hand, if you had talked about diverse hiring from the beginning, and given Mormons as one of several examples of outreach to minority groups, then you would have gotten other answers.

                  You are the one who brought up hiring Mormons. I’m pretty sure the comments would be the same for other religious groups, or for that matter ethnic/gender/other types of groups.

                3. Ana Gram*

                  Koala dreams, in my original comment, I also brought up hiring Marines. They’ve got just as many stereotypes (more maybe? I guess it depends on where you live.) than Mormons but I haven’t seen any follow-up comments on them.

                4. LDN Layabout*

                  Because being in the Marines is an actual job.

                  Which entails having certain skills and training which could be valuable in a number of different settings.

                  It’s not comparable to saying ‘Being a member of X religious group means people are more likely to be Y’

                5. Late to the game*

                  Ana Gram, you made an on topic anecdote that was interesting and useful, sorry some people are getting carried away at the mention of religion.

                6. Ego Chamber*

                  @Late | Nah bruh. Ana Gram’s first comment was that they’d noticed these traits are common in people who follow the Mormon faith, so they’ve been hiring Mormons as cops—and also Marines because lol opposite stereotypes amirite. Then some people pointed out that hiring based on a protected class isn’t a great method and explained why.

                  (I’m assuming a similar argument is going to happen further down the comments when I get to the one (I know it’s coming) that suggests LW try to hire younger, single people who don’t have a family to keep them tied down in the states.)

        1. Late to the game*

          Oy vey, I’m a Jew who was forcibily baptized in a lake by Mormons. They’re not on my list to be buddies with after that event. But the demographic trends are still there. No one is only advertising jobs to Mormons or only hiring Mormons, just commenting on a reality of hiring- there are a lot of Mormons in these types of positions due to their emphasis on education, language skills, often having already served overseas, and “clean living” ethos which makes background checks and some of the pitfalls of these high stress jobs less likely.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            If the job add says “college degree, bilingual, overseas travel experience and no drug history,” that’s fine but you still can’t (legally) explicitly attempt to hire from a specific religious group and pass over others, which is what the original comment that people are taking issue with implied was happening.

            (I’m sorry you were forcibly baptized. That’s gross and wrong and shouldn’t have happened. Some of my family has been posthumously baptized against their stated wishes and I’m still cranky about that too.)

            1. Oh dear*

              But literally none of what you said happened in any of these comments, and theres been multiple comments trying to address your misconstrual of the comment. No one had said that they hire based on religious background or that they pass over other applicants or even that they know religious affiliations during applications. It is not different at all from my agency having a big presence at Pride and making sure to send job listings to local university pride centers. That doesnt mean we dont advertise and hire from other avenues, but we’ve noticed that people from this community tend to be successful applicants (and sexual orientation is a protected class where I live). I really think the mention of police and Mormonism has made it difficult for people to respond to the actual comment.

      2. ERA isn't earned run average*

        Pro tip: bragging about “our most successful applicants are from Religion X” isn’t exactly going to win you anti-discrimination lawsuits, champ.

      3. Maybe Devil's Advocate*

        I found this to be a useful hiring strategy in general. I actually keep a detailed spreadsheet of the religion of each employee (as best as I can figure), and their performance, which I use to guide hiring decisions.

        It’s reached the point where if you have certain religious organizations on your resume, we just throw it out right away.

        1. allathian*

          Is that actually legal? Basing your hiring decisions on a person’s religion or perceived religion, I mean.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            No, not except under some pretty extreme specific circumstances. When the religion is a literal core component of the job, it’s legal to make it a hiring requirement — for example, they don’t require a synagogue to hire without reference to religion when they’re choosing a rabbi. But unless the religious component IS the job, it’s not legal to use it as a hiring factor — and the limits on what constitutes the religion being the job are pretty tight. For example, Sunday school instructors do fall under the “ok to consider religion” category, but the secretary at the church doesn’t, and neither do nurses in a Catholic hospital.

        2. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*


          So. Did anyone else hear a record scratch in their head after reading this comment? Because I did, followed by “holy 18 plates of Arceus how has this person not been sued for religious discrimination?”

    3. Jen*

      Ideally, the candidate would be someone coming out of the military who did that same job while they were in (except, obviously, more money). You gotta nab the intel guys as soon as their DD214 is approved or someone else will.

      1. TardyTardis*

        My brother landed into a job like that–he was one of those Language People in the Navy, and an engineering firm in San Diego found him a job where he did the same thing as in the Navy but with more zeroes.

    4. Koala dreams*

      You have a point about the anthropology majors. It’s not necessarily the people with the obvious background that are the best employees.

    5. TooTiredToThink*

      The CIA actively recruits (and sponsors) at a comic con in DC. It is equally amusing and inspired, and fits finding people using some of those other filters that others don’t even think of.

      1. Ana Gram*

        That makes total sense when you think about it but it never would’ve occurred to me. Very cool!

      2. Late to the game*

        A distant acquaintance was approached at ComicCon! He thought it was part of an improv or scene or something!

  9. Annony*

    I wonder how much time there is between accepting the offer and flying out. Shortening that time as much as possible would probably help. It decreases the amount of time they have to second guess and also decreases the chance they will get a better offer.

    But most likely increasing pay will get the best results. I know the OP says they already did, but if this location is really undesirable they may need to pay much more to make it worth it to the employees.

    1. (Former) US expat in Russia*

      But most likely increasing pay will get the best results. I know the OP says they already did, but if this location is really undesirable they may need to pay much more to make it worth it to the employees.

      Yes – I know of employers in the natural gas sector who had to fill jobs in Algeria. Vastly above market pay and short in-country rotations were the only way to do it.

    2. Amaranth*

      That’s a great point. If they are stuck at a point where ‘okay, its conditional on your clearance and we’ll get back to you in 6-8 weeks’ then the prospect is bound to keep looking and to go with a certainty if offered. I don’t know how it works these days, do they normally do at least a basic background before the offer? It takes time to go visit your kindergarten teacher and knock on your parents’ neighbors’ doors.

  10. Alex*

    I am not in recruiting or HR or human behavior or anything like that, so take this with a grain of salt.

    But maybe it would be worth taking a look at what kinds of candidates you are choosing–meaning, what characteristics are you valuing? And are they the right ones?

    For one thing, I think being “really excited” to go to an undesirable place is a bit of a red flag. In lots of jobs, you want excitement and enthusiasm, the more the better. In others…too much enthusiasm can signal that they are not looking at the job realistically, or are just being the candidate they think you want rather than the candidate they actually are. If I were hiring for a position that had a lot of potentially difficult aspects, I’d want a candidate who seemed at least somewhat tentative about that, because that would show that they were thinking about the actual consequences of such a decision. Sending them to a war zone? I want someone who asks a lot of questions about measures for security, etc., rather than someone who says “That sounds so exciting! I’d be thrilled to be in a war zone!” Almost no one is thrilled to be in a war zone. People–at least rational people–who go to war zones do it because they care about their work, or feel that it is necessary (or perhaps feel they have no other choice), not because it is super fun times.

    So I’d reflect on how you are assessing the candidates true interest in the job, to see if you can get some candidates with a more realistic view from the outset rather than the candidates who seem most excited to do it. The line in your letter that says that candidates emphasize over and over how excited they are may not be a good thing!

    1. Works in IT*

      Eh, if I didn’t play social video games that would make operating from a different time zone annoying and my pets could come with me, I really would be thrilled to go to a remote location for a non limited time span if it meant I’d get a substantial bonus. War zone, no, but getting paid extra to go to a place where the only thing I can work on is my crafting projects with no other distractions? Yes, please, I would be very thrilled.

      1. Lord Gouldian Finch*

        Now that I’m married things are different but there was a point where I had my resume bid out for a job in Saudi Arabia and applied for a post in Alaska I might have been more interested in if it wasn’t for the sketchy bits (“We expect you to to remove all correspondence between the Senator and any of his relatives, even those holding other government jobs” was one red flag). At the time I communicated with most of my friends over the web. Heck I even met my wife that way…

    2. Allonge*

      Fair point! I am pretty chill. I can geek out about things, and I have my enthusiasms, but I am not bubbly. If a company expected me to be excited about a job, it would already be a bit strange, but doable. If I was expected to confirm daily (!) that I am excited still – yeah, no. And my being pretty chill would not be a disadvantage for working at an undesirable place, I think!

    3. TardyTardis*

      Well, no one is ever thrilled at the idea of pushing paper in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Not really. There would have to be *huge* bucks involved and a huge need for those bucks (glad no one ever discovered what I did in USAF and decided I was the right person to yank out of civilian life during various conflicts).

  11. Ash*

    Would a contract work in this case? Like offer a signing bonus and if you don’t report for work, you have to pay it back?

    1. cacwgrl*

      Or you don’t get it until you start and it comes with a service agreement. Like Employment Lawyer advised above, I wouldn’t touch it without legal input but we’ve found these two help with retention and hiring.

  12. BonnieVoyage*

    I deal with travel and staff relocations to facilities in some quite troubled parts of the Middle and Far East regularly for my job. I would STRONGLY advise against leaving the travel booking until 2-3 days beforehand. IME most people, even ones who are relatively experienced in these areas, do NOT like uncertainty when it comes to this type of relocation. They want to know what their travel plans are, where they are staying and where they will be picked up. (For safety reasons this has especially been true of female travellers that I’ve worked with.) I assume that you’re doing this in order to minimise losses on cancelled flights, but if they are even slightly apprehensive about the move it will be really offputting if they are departing in a week and don’t know their flights. (I would also guess that not having confirmed travel plans makes the relocation feel less ‘real’ and therefore easier to decline.) I would do the exact opposite and try to get these people booked onto a flight pretty much as soon as they’ve accepted the job offer.

    1. char*

      Good point. If I was supposed to moving to Siberia or wherever next week but still hadn’t been given any definite travel plans, I would be freaking out! It would have me questioning whether the company had their sh*t together and whether I would be able to trust them to follow through on things once I got there.

      1. (Former) US expat in Russia*

        This is *absolutely* the case with companies operating in emerging markets. You look for telltale signs of who has their act together and who doesn’t. Playing fast and loose with travel plans is a huge red flag.

    2. Bark*

      I agree with this. I’ve relocated to troubled parts of the world a few times and waiting until the last minute to book my flight would really stress me out. The more arrangements that are made ahead of time, the less I have to worry about and the more I can focus on the really important stuff.

      1. Academic Addie*

        Agree. I’ve relocated three times for my career, always within my country of origin and in well-developed cities. But even so, if there was any wavering on relocation support, I would be very nervous. Certainly worth revisiting how much information candidates have about timeline & bookings and if that could be revised.

    3. Katieinthemountains*

      I wonder what kind of flights they wind up with 2-3 days out. Are the candidates looking at a terrible departure time, 3+ flights, and a horribly long layover in the middle of the night with no hotel option?

      1. BonnieVoyage*

        Probably – any flight worth booking 2 days prior to departure is going to be expensive, and anything inexpensive will be a nightmare. You know what they say about good, fast and cheap…

        1. (Former) US expat in Russia*

          Most business travel involves last minute bookings. They’re expensive because the airlines know businesses have no choice but to pay; if there were discretion to avoid last-minute bookings, the airlines wouldn’t be able to charge a premium for them.

          This is less true in the case of permanent relocations, though.

          1. BonnieVoyage*

            I am a business travel coordinator so I am aware of this? It is in the first line of my original comment? But thank you for the explanation?

            I am aware that business-travel involves last-minute bookings. What I am saying is that if they are leaving the booking to the last minute to save on bookings that they have to cancel when candidates drop out, the last-minute flights are likely so expensive that they will probably not actually save that much money or so terrible that they will be even more offputting to the traveller.

    4. Late to the game*

      YES. I would not continue with a job that was making me wait till 72 hours before I was leaving for flight information- I’d assume they either a) were bad planners b) weren’t sure about me as a candidate c) there was something big going on- like closure of program or something in location, like unrest or government issues or d) were waiting for me to come to my senses and decline…none of which would make me feel good about moving forward!

    5. Bee*

      I got the impression they started this practice AFTER losing a lot of people with pre-booked flights. But it clearly hasn’t improved anything for them, either in retention or in lost costs.

      1. BonnieVoyage*

        Right, that’s the impression I get as well, but I think of all possible changes to make that one is a bad idea and probably made matters worse.

      2. Nerd Gremlin*

        This is a very good point. I went on a professional trip to the Middle East through my previous job, and they wouldn’t give us a basic itinerary unt right before we left, which caused a lot of anxiety. And that was a far less daunting situation than going somewhere for an actual job! Having said that, some places lack infrastructure that allows for advance planning.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, if I weren’t getting travel plans, etc., ahead of time I would start thinking this job was bogus and that, even if it were real, the travel experience was going to be a nightmare. And I’m not that picky about flights, but I’m also not super thrilled about the prospect of a zillion connections and long layovers in possibly-not-all-that-safe locations. Where I may or may not be able to understand any of the languages.

  13. irene adler*

    What about the family angle?
    (and maybe that’s not an issue here-I’m unable to discern this)

    It’s one thing to take a job far away when you can bring along the family, but quite another if you cannot.
    And, if one cannot bring along the family, are there avenues for frequent visits to family? Maybe that’s something to consider working into the job compensation?

    Taking the job that is far away can sound attractive for a number of reasons. Until the reality sets in and one realizes that neither family or friends will be close by.

    My bro took a 2 year gov’t post where he was promised a very high salary (including hazard pay). A career booster as well. But no family was allowed to go with him. He washed out at the 18-month mark. He greatly missed his family.
    Maybe these folks are genuinely excited about the job. But then the reality of working sans friends, family makes them drop out as the start date approaches.

    Just a thought.

    1. Important Moi*

      Just want to offer an addition, unmarried childless people would like the opportunity to go visit family and other places of employment as well.

      1. irene adler*

        Oh yeah! Absolutely. I did not mean to imply otherwise. But I guess it does read like that. Sorry about that.

        1. Important Moi*

          No offense taken. :)

          It is just a sore point for me because I’ve has experience with people who don’t think of unmarried childless people as having human interactions/family obligations like people with “real” families.

    2. Paulina*

      This was my guess also (for family, friends, people trying to date, etc.) That the pullouts are so extremely last minute (cancelling the very day of departure, while apparently confirming that they’re going 2-3 days before), suggests to me that when it comes to actually leaving, they find they just can’t do it. Something about this posting isn’t becoming “real” to them until it’s about to happen.

      1. irene adler*

        Well put.

        It’s one thing to have little notions of flying off to new places for a job, but quite another when one realizes no family, no friends, unfamiliar place, etc.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I remember having to spend a year abroad as part of my university course. Group train transport was included, and a friend witnessed a girl on the platform sobbing her eyes out at having to leave behind her (very newly engaged) fiancé.

          She never got on the train.

  14. Mrs_helm*

    Is there a chance someone is telling them they might get assigned elsewhere if they accept the offer, and then when they realize that isn’t happening they ghost? I’ve seen people do this sort of thing, thinking they are “helping”. Sometimes it’s even the applicant asking if there’s a chance, and the person’s like “well, there’s always a CHANCE…”…and, well, hope springs eternal.

  15. Just another admin*

    My recommendation would be on the ground support in new location – a support network. Get them in contact with someone to help set them up with their life, a social network, language lessons, banking contacts, tour guide, interior decorator, you name it. So they can start laying the ground work for their life there and don’t feel left to their own devices in new location. They can start to be invested in new location before even reaching the ground.

  16. Jaybeetee*

    You mention a 3-month bonus, but it might be you need to add a permanent pay bump to the position.

    Here in Canada, there are a number of govt/police/military/other jobs that are needed in remote locations across the country, and those postings typically come with some kind of “remote location” pay. What that means is some people will actually seek out those positions, as they’ll decide to park at this job in the middle of nowhere for a few years, not spend much money, and bank all their extra pay before eventually moving home/somewhere with more to do. If you’re paying “market rate” for the job, but not adding extra for the location, you might find a lot of your professionals find “market rate” jobs that don’t require that location.

    1. Ann Onny Muss*

      That’s what we did on my former program with allowances. “Here’s your foreign service pay, your hardship/hazard pay, your housing allowance, your transport allowance, etc.” We had one guy semi-retire in his 30s just from banking all the extra pay he received from the allowances.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Many of these positions are for fixed fee contracts. They offer locality pay, bonuses, etc., but at a certain point the numbers have to stop, else there’s no profit.

      That said, the money can be pretty good. I have friends who contract to work in remote, undesirable locations for a couple years, bank the money, take a year or two off to travel the world, then take another contract. They’re minimalists, so it works for them. (Me, I like the comforts of home.)

  17. ProcheinAmy*

    My company had this problem for our dirty manual labor jobs and started doing site tours on the first interview – after they knew they were a viable candidate. Once folks saw with their own eyes, they realized the words describing the environment were not effective. They have had people “nope” out but that saved the company money and time if the “nope-ing” happened after they started. Maybe you could do a modified version of this and have them talk to someone already working at the location so they can get “insider” information. And a more realistic picture. Plus, if they do accept it, they will already know a future coworker, making the move easier.

  18. Analyst Editor*

    Could a competitor be scooping your talent, offering better part? It’s possible the professionals are negotiating with all of the companies on the contract who serve your location — especially if the talent pool is itself pretty small. This happened at a company I used to work for.

  19. Employment Lawyer*

    Oh yeah, meant to include this:

    The most valuable assets are people who are ALREADY there, but who are looking to extend and/or renew their term.

    These people are able to answer questions, help people orient, etc. Think of going to college: Once they’re in, your kids will get calls from existing juniors in their major, not the admissions department.

    So you might also want to consider a bonus structure for existing employees, aimed at helping them recruit their new co-workers. Assign people an accepted applicant and bonus them if the applicant shows up and stays for at least 6 months, or something. (This can create some odd incentives though, so watch out. You may want to drop the bonus and just make sure to have people be in contact.)

    1. Jen*

      Yeah, is there an incumbent? If there are, try to sweeten the deal to get them to just sign over to the new company.

  20. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    I’m wondering if a signing bonus with clawback terms would be helpful. “If you don’t go, you have to pay us back the money you already have” seems like a bigger deal emotionally than “If you don’t go, we don’t pay you the money”, even if the cash works out the same either way. Plus maybe they feel guiltier about not going if they already have your money in their pocket.

    1. Vaca*

      Seconded. In fact, I’d even make it in the form of a forgivable note. Loan them $25k at 10% annual interest, loan to be forgiven upon the completion of 2 years of service. Same sort of thing that gets done for business school tuition.

      1. Colette*

        Man, there is no way I’d take that job even if I really wanted to work there. There are lots of reasons why you might need to leave a job earlier than expected (family issues, health problems, abusive bosses), and I’m not going to pay interest to leave.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Samesies. I tend to assume it’s part of the selection process and there’s something bad going on that they don’t want people to bail in reaction. “It’s a remote location and there’s nothing to do” would not strike me as the real answer if they were all set to clawback a massive signing bonus that they really wanted me to take right away. (I know the psychology and I don’t like it being used on me.)

    2. Jackie Lope*

      Small sample size, but the people I know who have received signing bonuses didn’t get them until 90 days.

  21. Late to the game*

    How far down do you want to go from 70%? I think with a job like the one you’ve described, you’re going to have a significant drop out rate. Are you aiming to get it down to 50%? 20%?

    1. Koala dreams*

      Oh, thanks for posting that link! It’s very interesting to read the previous comments.

  22. Checkert*

    DAILY friendly calls?! Daily!!! If these folks are cleared, they likely don’t have their phones on them at work, making this a particularly futile practice. Pair that with how long it generally takes to onboard cleared people, and that’s….way too many calls. That would be a huge red flag to me.

  23. CoffeeforLife*

    Me: Have you ever been to Diego Garcia
    Him: ..no.
    Me: would you tell me if you had?
    Him. No.

  24. I'dRatherBeInANationalPark*

    My company sent me to a similarly difficult place that was nearly impossible to staff for. A couple suggestions:

    -In addition to checking with the people who have dropped out of the process, check with the people who have gone on to work at that location. Is there anything additional you should be providing people on site? Unless you have personally gone out to that placement, you may not understand what the folks there actually need.

    – Is a 3-month bonus and higher salary sufficient incentives? Depending on how rough the conditions, you may need to increase the benefits.

  25. Professional Straphanger*

    I used to work for the government, and Diego Garcia would have been an upgrade from most of the places I got sent because on DG the only thing you have to fight is boredom.

    Having said that, the organization had a dropout problem with both GS hires and contractors because to put it bluntly, everybody thinks they’re special: “Oh, it’ll be different for me. I’m not PLANNING on going to that crazy place, it’s just a possibility.” No, the second line of the job description says you will go and specifies the schedule including how long you’ll be gone. “So, how long before I can move into a position where I don’t have to travel for extended periods of time?” Those positions come up infrequently and they’re highly competitive, so don’t count on it.

    It does take a special kind of person to take a job like that. Finding someone who can do the job is the easy part – dealing with the separation and odd locations is the trick. We used to joke that one of the interview questions should be “Do you enjoy camping?” because the answer to that would have gone a long way toward establishing how well they would fit. In a job like that it’s really important that the established employees who have been with the organization for a while are appreciated by management and have the opportunity to be a resource for the newbies.

  26. hbc*

    I think the key is to make them feel like the decision has already been made, or at least force them to the decision point sooner. Clearly, accepting an offer is not that point for many of them. The recruiter calls even sends the reverse message–as long as I’m talking to a recruiter, it feels like I’m still…being recruited. Some of these suggestions have been made by other commenters, but I think they’ll have the best impact when combined:

    -Signing bonus with clawback, before the ink is dry on the offer letter
    -Make arrangements such as accommodations and flights much, much earlier
    -Connect them with their manager, coworkers, and/or onboarding person rather than a “recruiter.” It doesn’t even matter if the Onboarder is also a recruiter of others, they just can’t have been *this* employee’s recruiter
    -Build in a few exit points before the offer or very early afterwards. Basically, make it very easy for them to withdraw.
    -Using your successful hires’ experience as a guide, put together a schedule for how prep typically goes (putting stuff into storage, arrangements for pets, etc) and check in with them about how they’re doing against it.

  27. Anonariffic*

    I wonder if the problem could be in the hiring process rather than the onboarding? OP mentions that it’s surprising that they have no shortage of candidates applying for this incredibly undesirable position- are their job posts really clear that this position isn’t just located in Upper Nowheresville, it’s on the west end of the Sixth Circle of Hell? If the employees can’t bring their spouse, or can only fly home to see their family once a year, or their movements are restricted for safety reasons, or they have to live in barracks-style housing and eat in the mess hall for the duration of their assignment, is all of that being made absolutely clear before they accept the offer rather than during those weeks of pre-travel preparation? Or is this like one of the letters where a boss thinks she’s told an employee that they’re in danger of losing their job if their performance doesn’t improve but she’s actually been saying that she’d really appreciate it if they’d please try a little harder?

    I know more than one person who’s applied with a federal law enforcement agency, spent over a year in the hiring/backgrounding/interview process, and then walked away from the offer because their recruiter made them really think and talk with their families about the fact that the early years of their would be where the agency needed them, not necessarily where they wanted to go. But that was absolutely better than having them quit

    1. Anonariffic*

      (hit submit too soon!)

      … their recruiter made them really think and talk with their families about the fact that the early years of their career would be where the agency needed them, not necessarily where they wanted to go. But that was absolutely better than having them quit during the academy or when they got their first field assignment after graduation.

    2. Valegro*

      I dated a guy with a bad experience with a Navy recruiter who straight out lied about what jobs he could be assigned as a straight out of high school recruit. BF was color blind and promised a job as an electrician which definitely wasn’t going to happen if he argued with me that my green shirt was brown. Thankfully a friend of mine was in the service and had a talk with him and he dropped out before boot camp (recruiter also told him that was impossible and illegal).
      Make sure your recruits are getting the whole truth.

  28. Meredith*

    What about online reputation management? If you’re upfront about the type of environment they’ll be living in, is there anything about the particular office or program that makes it an even more grueling place to work? Micromanagers? Long hours for no reason? Inept support staff? If this is a contractor position, which I assume, and not directly military, are there poor reviews on indeed or glassdoor that might be giving them second thoughts? If so, I would 1) work on cleaning those up by responding to them and soliciting positive reviews, and 2) connect them with someone in a similar position if possible so they’ll at least “know” a buddy when they get there and can ask honest questions about the environment.

    This likely gets back to Alison’s suggestion of trying to find out WHY people are bailing at the last minute, though.

  29. Koala dreams*

    For some reason my mobile phone redirects me to other articles, so I haven’t been able to read the answer. Anyway, I’m thinking this job has an unusual long time period between offer and start date, and that would disappoint many people, especially those who are choosing between several job offers. Then the first thing that happens when you do start is being sent to a far away location. Is it possible to let people ease into the job? If there isn’t any work to be done before leaving, maybe you could start with some training related to the location/job. Cross-cultural communication, a first aid course, bear safety or something else that’s applicable. It wouldn’t only help the employees prepare for their trip, but also give you a chance to interact directly with employees and find out where exactly there is a mismatch. If people drop out after you mention the bears, you’ll know what the problem is.

    I also think it could be off-putting to only speak to a recruiter before you leave. The buddy system mentioned in a comment above could make it better. You could also give new employees opportunities to meet with the people they are travelling with, as well as meeting former employees who can give advice and share their experiences. People are weird, somehow it’s less effective to decide to go somewhere, compared to telling other people about your decision and plan the trip together.

  30. Bananahammock*

    Is this behind a paywall? I cant seem to read the article when I click on the link.

    1. Might be Spam*

      Viewing this on my tablet, I switched to Desktop site from Mobile to get it to work.

  31. MistOrMister*

    Am I the only one who couldn’t get through on the link? It kept sending me to some brain training expert guy!

    1. Koala dreams*

      I have the same problem. It’s not the usual pay wall, it’s completely different articles. I thought it was just my phone being weird.

    2. Might be Spam*

      In your browser, try switching to the Desktop site instead of the Mobile version.

  32. Another Anon*

    I can see people accepting a job like that and then backing out a few weeks/months in advance, but a couple days before, even, is really surprising–that’s the point where they should have packed all their stuff/rented their apartment/said bye to their friends.

    If people say they’re in 2-3 days in advance, but then decide not to leave day-of, could there be something specific about the way things are communicated in the last couple days? Is there a chance that they start to get emails from the new job that somehow turn them off? Or they get their hotel/post-flight travel arrangements and they sound iffy? Are they seeing regional news they weren’t seeing before? Is there someone they’d have just spoken to for the first time?

  33. Beth*

    I wonder if cutting the planning on flights so short isn’t undermining you–I know you said you started that because so many people were dropping out, but I’d be very nervous about an employer’s planning and organization if I had to wait until three days out from a major move I was making for them before they’d give me any info on how I’d be making that move.

    I also wonder if your attempts to keep in touch might be doing more harm than good. I don’t know many people who want to be contacted daily by a recruiter, or whose enthusiasm for a job would be encouraged by that kind of interaction. I get that you’re trying to sound out if they’re still on board, but people who are still planning on going will still be planning on it regardless of whether they get the calls, people who have changed their minds won’t be changed back by this kind of outreach, and people who are on the fence may well be put off by the pestering.

    If you’re having serious retention issues, and you know it’s because the job is a hard sell, it seems to me that there are a couple key steps to take.
    First – make sure the compensation is high enough that all the trouble is worth it. That might mean you have to pay significantly above what would be market rate for the same work in other locations. Doing a bonus is a step towards this, but a 3-month bonus only happens once; you should consider seriously raising the base pay rate.
    Second – do whatever you can to mitigate the downsides of the job. You know this site has a reputation for being difficult; the more the employer takes on the burden of managing that, the more they make it not the employee’s problem, the more likely they are to be able to retain people. As a recruiter, I know you may not have the power to set policy, but you might encourage the employer to offer things like paid flights for visits home at regular and frequent intervals, extra funding to balance out the tangible challenges of being far from home (e.g. needing to hire a caregiver for an aging parent instead of being there to help), already-set-up infrastructure like recreational facilities and high speed internet, and enough schedule flexibility to allow employees to stay in touch with family in other time zones.
    And third – accept that this post probably will have a high rate of dropouts. It’s known for being difficult and unpleasant. It sounds like there’s a long lead-up time between hiring and actually getting the person out there. You’re going to get some percentage of hires who accept the position because they need a job, but continue their job hunt during that lead time because this isn’t actually a desirable position, and drop out if they are offered something better. (This would be true even if there was a relatively fast turnaround, but having a long period in between makes it more likely, since there’s more time for them to keep hunting!) You can try to lower that rate as much as possible, but since you know there’s good reason that people don’t want to do this job, you probably have to accept that it’s going to be higher than it would be at a more desirable position.

  34. rubble*

    yeah, add me to the list of people who get redirected somewhere else when they try to click the link :(

  35. Safely Retired*

    I keep coming back to the idea that your company has become a popular place to learn the ropes about what it takes, after which these people are going through some other outfit that can give them more because they don’t have your overhead. If there is a social media gathering place for those in that line of work I would want a couple of people hanging out there and listening just in case.

  36. lazy intellectual*

    The only thing I can think of is that they aren’t being very transparent about what the place/job is actually like. Be upfront about the dealbreakers. You might get less applicants but then they won’t flake (or be less likely to.)

  37. Dancing Otter*

    How long is it between offer and start date? Obviously, moving across the world takes longer than checking out the bus schedule for a different part of town, but in my experience, you don’t feel hired until you’re actually on payroll. That makes backing out feel different than quitting after starting.
    If your new person gives notice at their previous employer, then still has several weeks before they start work, is that period entirely unpaid? All the while, not receiving travel information? Yeah, I wouldn’t feel as though my new employer was 100% committed, and I would keep my job search open just in case.
    Maybe there are Reasons for a lengthy period, but could you line up training or something to get the newbies on payroll before they leave? Even if you can’t charge out those wages to the client, might absorbing them be cheaper than having to recruit someone else?
    How much relocation assistance are you providing? Not just money, but helping them organize the nuts and bolts of the move, such as checklists for financial matters, information about trustworthy storage facilities, what kind of clothes and supplies they need to take, where to get any inoculations required, and so forth. I can well imagine being initially enthusiastic about a new job, then overwhelmed by just how much work it turns out to be getting ready to move.

  38. gsa*

    Is the OP still following/reading?

    To the peanut gallery, these positions are very competitive and take a very long time to come to fruition.

    My guess is, OPs company takes longer than normal to get things moving.

    People that are qualified are not the ones that sit on their hands and wait for a phone call.



  39. Social Justice Paladin*

    Is it just me or is the link broken?
    It just takes me to a page of ads at the Inc home page…

    1. Social Justice Paladin*

      Nevermind, seems I just had to request the desktop version of the site on my phone…

    1. Jenni*

      I’m not interested in talking to anyone daily on the phone, including my children, my husband, and my parents. Having to do that with a recruiter would make me scream!

  40. Need Security?*

    I wonder, to get a security clearance, you need to have a company ask for one. Could people be using your company as an easy way to get a security clearance to be able to apply to other jobs that require a security clearance? I was told by one company, “if we hire you, you can’t officially start until you have security clearance, which can take 2 months.” But if I apply at your company which you admit has many people applying and a high turnover, get my security clearance, now I can more easily apply and can say, “Why yes, I do have that level of security clearance.”

  41. nnn*

    Two thoughts:

    1. Is there something that people don’t know about at the beginning of the process but find out (either officially or through the grapevine) later on? For example, they know upfront that it’s far away in an unpleasant location, but they find out later that the boss of the outpost is a harasser.

    2. You’ve mentioned that you’ve tried bonuses for staying on a certain period of time, but maybe an incentive that will have a longer-term impact on their quality of life would help. For example, a defined-benefit pension? Tenure-like job security? The ability to choose their next assignment? The right to take a year-long paid sabbatical? Yes, these things are difficult to implement, but, it seems, so is retention at this location.

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