"Sometimes you make a bad hire," says Harley G. McKinnie, personnel director of the American Trucking Associations, Inc. The employe "just does not work out.

"You get 75 applications. You narrow them down to 10 to see. Then there are three you want to hire. But you hire a bum."

When that happens, the employe gets fired, for his or her -- and the office's -- own good.

"It's a mistaken kindness," says McKinnie, to keep an unsuitable employe on the rolls. "It comes back to haunt the office."

That's the harsh reality of the business world, but it can be tempered.

At the trucking association, McKinnie offers an "outplacement service" for staffers leaving voluntarily and involuntarily. It doesn't guarantee them a new job, but, she says, it gives them a head start in the job-hunting process.

An out-of-work job-hunter herself at one stage in her career, McKinnie says she can sympathize with people in the same plight. "When I have to terminate somebody, I don't want to send them out in the snow."

It is, she says, a "very stressful" situation. "I've had men cry."

But if she moves quickly through the termination "and gets on with their future, they don't leave with a bad taste."

January, she believes, is a good month to find job openings. For one thing, workers interested in switching jobs hold off between the Thanksgiving and New Year's holidays -- "They stay on to get their bonus or gift or go to the Christmas party." Others who are dissatisfied with their current job seem to make a New Year's resolution to find a different one.

To departing staffers, McKinnie's office offers resume-writing advice. "You might have to write it two or three times."

She takes them through interviewing techniques, and for some, even explains how to read newspaper want-ads. "Start with the 'A's," she says, and go through to the end. "You may be looking for a personnel job, but the add could read 'Admin/personnel.'"

And if they're eligible, she tells them to apply for unemployment compensation. "It gives them a goodly sum to buy food and pay the rent" while looking.

One service McKinnie considers particularlly valuable is her list of phone numbers, of personnel offices of governmental and education institutions in the Washington area who do a lot of hiring. Most, though not all, of the numbers are recordings, updated regularly with new job vacancies.

While she has gotten little feedback from exiting staffers, her outplacement service, she believes, must be doing some good because claims for unemployment compensation are down.

A check with some of the numbers this week showed a variety of job openings advertised -- from data processing clerk at $7,800 on American University's "Dial-a-Job" line to a $24,000 post as financial service manager at Gallaudet College.

Most recordings provide the job title, a brief description of responsibilities and a phone number to call for information about applying. A few list the salary. Many federal jobs require Civil Service status.

In Montgomery County, a job recording was established about two years ago, says Elaine Truman, senior personnel specialist in the county's personnel office. It is seen as a supplement to the biweekly Employment Opportunities Bulletin posted in county buildings.

It has been a boon particularly, she says, to handicapped workers and those living outside Montgomery County "who don't normally go to the library" to read the bulletin.

The recording includes "all the positions we're accepting applications for," an average of "about 20 or so job titles." The service also has relieved her staff of the "nightmare" of repeatedly reading the bulletin (sometimes a 15-minute task) over the phone.

"I have no doubt," says Truman, "people have ultimately gotten hired using it." Though she doesn't keep track of the number of callers the recording gets, "people are always complaining the number is busy."