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Recruits Ask for the Moon--and Sometimes Get It

Brigit Freedman, manager of talent recruitment at the registrar business unit of Herndon's Network Solutions Inc., could only spare a few minutes for casual conversation. She had a pressing task: to find a job for the wife of a job prospect she badly wants to hire, a producer she hopes to poach from a New York cable TV station. The candidate accepted the offer on the condition NSI finds his wife a position as a medical researcher. Sure, said the company. Freedman said the assignment is not as difficult as it sounds. Her aunt works at the National Institutes of Health, so she's trying to use the connection to gather information on unfilled jobs.

Another time, Freedman recalled, she immersed herself in the world of child care to help find a nanny for a top candidate who needed someone to watch her child during the day.

"If we can't make it so it's attractive for an employee to come here, other companies will do it for them," Freedman said.

The accommodating Network Solutions Inc. drew the line at one recent query. When a techie asked the company to move his horses along with his furniture, Freedman respectfully declined. Company guidelines allow for the transport of household items and members of the family, but, alas, no pets. NSI, like many companies, distinguishes between perks on which it must pay taxes (the horses) and those which are tax-free (the kids and their bikes). Eventually, the company coughed up $1,000 for miscellaneous expenses, which the anxious techie used to help move his ponies.

Research suggests that technical workers nationwide change jobs an average of once every 17 months, a statistic that causes some to wonder why companies wish to be so accommodating. In some cases, company executives hope to bring in workers with material promises, and to retain them with lifestyle and culture concessions. Others simply need to gear up their operations as soon as possible, long-term consequences be damned.

That's not to say that local companies capitulate to every item on the techie wish list. Many firms are quick to draw the line at new BMWs, apparently a common techie request. (Several companies, however, offer employees a snazzy leased car if they promise to stay put for two or three years.) But firms really get their hackles up at the notion of handing out ownership stakes, said John Dorment, personnel director for Cvent.com, an event Web site.

"I've had people come in, junior- to mid-level developers, asking for outrageous amounts of equity," Dorment said. "People really over-evaluate what they should be getting. I try to reason with them. 'No, I'm sorry, that's not possible at this point in time.' If it's a deal breaker, it's a deal breaker."

Veteran recruiters in the tech industry said they don't know whether to laugh or fume when tech hotshots pull out their lists of demands. Paul Villella, president and chief executive of the recruiting site HireStrategy.com, recalled being in a group interview with a candidate whose wristwatch alarm went off. The recruit pulled out a pear, informed corporate officials that he needed to eat one every few hours because of a medical condition, and offhandedly said he expected the firm to pay for his daily snacks.

There was no job offer.

Villella said the demands he hears have wavered a bit since the stock market's downturn, but many employees he screens still have their chutzpah intact.

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