To recruit the wily Rat, headhunters must first weigh cheesy options

R. Fink

'You can tell the labor market is tight,' Mrs. Rat said to her spouse as they left the obstetrician's office. 'Otherwise headhunters wouldn't prospect a recruit before it even reaches term.'

'I think it's just coincidence,' the whiskered one replied, but he knew better. He had entered his unborn progeny in a trade show sweepstakes contest in a misguided attempt to avoid impropriety by entering his own name. Now Baby Rat was showing up on the lists of nearly every high-tech recruiter in the country.

It wasn't the Rat's first brush with private-sector privateers. The demand for high-tech talent had been driven to frenzied levels by the shortage of skilled geeks. And, with stock options no longer the draw they once were, headhunters were digging ever deeper into the barrel to fill positions with someone'anyone.

Body snatching was nothing new to the cyberrodent, of course. He'd learned to sniff out a corporate staffing raid on his department from a mile away, and many a vendor has felt his wrath when caught courting his troops.

Pick a card

The wise old Rat even printed up business cards for his entire tech staff with a common e-mail address and phone number so he could filter out the bottom feeders that scavenge names from the win-a-free-lunch fishbowls at local restaurants.

Lately, however, things clearly had gotten so tight for companies trying to fill technical positions that the recruiters were aggressively pursuing anyone with a pulse.

The ratlings recently spotted a man in a raincoat and a red fedora following them from a computer show. They flagged down a passing law enforcement officer for help. It turned out the guy was a human resources director for a Linux start-up.

Soon thereafter, the recruiters began coming after the Rat'in swarms.

It's not that the whiskered one has never before been courted by the private sector. He's usually flattered when someone calls him out of the blue based on his reputation as a tough customer'except when the motive is clearly to shift him into a contractor job rather than have to deal with him as a customer.

But the most recent batch of inquiries has seemed less than polished. Consider one example.

'Hello, Mr. Rat. I was recently given your card by a colleague who thought you were someone we should talk to,' said a recruiter from Microsoft Corp.

I bet, mused the Rat. Jim Allchin must have noticed all that nasty e-mail I sent while he was on sabbatical. 'Oh, really?' the wirebiter replied.

'Yes. I have a number of opportunities you may be interested in. Now what exactly is it that you do?'

The worm began to turn. 'You're calling me, and you don't know what I do?'

The headhunter tap-danced. 'Well, what would it take to get you to move to Washington state and work for us?'

The Rat picked up his last pay statement and read off a number.

'Oh, I don't think we could match that as base,' the recruiter said, 'but we could certainly offer you an attractive stock option package.'

'Yeah?' the furry one replied, trying to suppress a laugh. 'The government currently gives me options on something a bit more attractive than Microsoft stock.'

'What's that?' inquired the headhunter.

'All the surplus cheese I can carry home.' The Rat hung up.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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