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At Work

Recruits Ask for the Moon--and Sometimes Get It

By Carrie Johnson
Sunday, August 6, 2000; Page L01

The recruiter said he will never forget it.

A promising job candidate, a techie with years of experience, sat at his desk and said with the utmost seriousness that he would not join a Virginia telecommunications firm unless the company agreed to move his wine cellar.

The company agreed, even though the price tag for the delicate casks hovered near $24,000--on top of a lucrative salary and a stock-option package the firm had already promised to provide.

In the move, one bottle broke. "He was extremely upset," the recruiter said of the employee, who swallowed his dismay and went to work for the company anyway.

It's a tough life in the world of high-tech recruiting.

Forget about foosball tables and free snacks. Today's job seekers expect those conveniences in every tech company they scout. Top candidates these days are not shy about upping the ante, according to recruiters and hiring managers at high-tech companies in the region. Virtually every local firm has a story to tell, a human resources officer shaking her head as she hands over perks that are growing weirder and more idiosyncratic.

You might think the April downturn in the Nasdaq Stock Market would have let the air out of the high-tech balloon. But many area tech firms still are willing to bend over backward for a certain caliber of employee with key skills and years of experience in the cubicles.

From leases on fancy cars to access to beachfront vacation property, local firms are getting creative in their attempts to lure prime tech workers. Even companies without a lot of money to spend find room in their budget to give top performers gift certificates to stores like Banana Republic, extra days off, or tickets to sporting events and concerts.

Others are making compromises on relocation benefits. Leigh Ann Capozzoli, a senior technical recruiter at America Online Inc.'s AOL Technologies unit in Dulles, said top interviewees have asked to have grand pianos, catamarans and house pets relocated to Northern Virginia. The company consented in each of those cases, but "each exception would have to be decided, case by case," she said. "It's a matter of the market. Sometimes you have to do these things to get the person you're courting."

Another, philanthropic-minded recruit asked AOL to donate his signing bonus to charity. The company handed the new employee a check to pass on. AOL recruiters also prepare customized gift baskets for some new hires. "When you court a candidate, you want to find out what matters to them," Capozzoli said.

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