Out-of-bounds perks?

When you go out on a limb in asking for new job benefits, it helps if you know just how far is too far

This past spring was a watershed season for hiring. Staff-starved, cash-rich companies were giving away everything from $10,000 referral bonuses to BMWs to bring in new employees.

But even though some of the excesses may be gone, some job hunters can still expect to see nice benefits in addition to their paychecks.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Interwoven Inc., which makes software for building Web sites, gave BMW Z3s - or the cash equivalent - to new more than a dozen hires this year. That reward program has just ended, according to Jack Jia, who heads the company's recruitment effort.

The BMWs did the trick, Jia says. Not only did prospective hires come in saying, "Aren't you the company that's giving away BMWs?" but the offer also generated positive press for the company.

What's next? Well, Interwoven now offers a recruitment bonus for existing employees who find new people - a $5,000 donation to a charity of their choice, plus an even larger amount as a cash bonus. The company also offers the usual perks - or what have become typical perks for some staff-hungry companies in Silicon Valley - such as group events and personal trainers. And another recruitment program may be in the works.

But no matter how much a company is willing to offer, there's always someone who wants more. "One engineer wanted a $55,000 signing bonus," says Christine Hirsch, a recruiter at Chicago-based HRT Internet LLC's Recruiters World service.

Sounds like a fairly experienced information technology professional with a strong sense of his own accomplishments, right? Wrong. He was fresh out of school and was going after an entry-level job.

"Because of the competition in the marketplace, recent grads have a feeling that they have all the cards, they have all the power and all the control. Well, sometimes that's true," says Alex Arrieta, a recruiter at Glendale, Calif.-based Disney Stores.

For example, one recent hire Hirsch placed wanted his new employer to pay for his relocation expenses - as well as the relocation expenses of his roommate and his brother. Hirsch says she advised the company to spring for it - it wouldn't have added much more cost to the move than, say, moving an engineer's spouse and children. "These are things that would have been outrageous five years ago," Hirsch says. "But sometimes to attract and retain people, you respond to outrageous demands."

Trombly is a Computerworld reporter.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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