They don't have to ride a horse, carry a six gun or track their quarry all the way to California, though that might help, but Atlantic Research Corp. is turning its employes into bounty hunters.

The pay is good--$1,000 a head--and there's a chance to win a free trip to the Caribbean.

The Alexandria rocketry and research firm is paying its employes rewards for bagging new workers for hard-to-fill jobs, ranging from communications test equipment technicians to electronics engineers.

Six Atlantic Research workers have collected their $1,000 bounties since the company put up "Wanted Posters" and started offering rewards a few weeks ago, said Lambert C. Murphy, director of administration for the company.

Murphy said the bounty-hunting program was launched because even more costly recruiting methods had failed to fill the vacancies "for technical people that are very difficult to find."

Atlantic Research's turn to bounty hunters illustrates one of the paradoxes of the recession: Although unemployment is at the highest level in years, there is a shortage of applicants for jobs requiring special skills.

"It's pretty hard to fill these positions now, with high interest rates and high relocation costs" that make would-be recruits less willing to move, Murphy explained.

"We've used career counselors, head hunters, job fairs and sent our own people out on recruiting trips."

With 1,500 people on the payroll, Atlantic Research now has 75 job openings, including two dozen or so for which employes can collect bounties. Most are engineering or high-tech slots, although two marketing positions are on the bounty list.

Most of the jobs on the bounty list are for experienced college graduates, but there are several that don't require a degree, including technicians and machinists, skilled workers rarely found in Washington because there are few manufacturing plants here.

"We've paid a $500 bounty for machinists before," Murphy added. "Now we've upped the bounty and opened up the program" to management employes who previously couldn't collect for recruiting.

Every worker who collects a $1,000 bounty also becomes eligible for a drawing for the top recruiting prize--a cruise in the Caribbean.