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September 20, 1993|Amy Harmon | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Miles Olsen was laid off from his job at a Philadelphia bank last summer, the California native decided to find employment in the West. But he had little money for travel and no access to current West Coast newspapers.

So the 28-year-old special-assets analyst flipped on his computer. Two months later, with the help of a modem and an on-line information service, he had a job at California Republic Bank in Bakersfield.

"It was so much easier, and I found that it allowed for much greater precision," Olsen says. "I'd log on and type in the parameters of my search and boom--there was the list."

Once a daunting process reserved for computer nerds looking for computer nerd jobs, the electronic job search is gaining popularity as employers and job-seekers alike discover the benefits of a medium that allows for the instant communication of massive amounts of information at minimal cost.

Moreover, users can limit their looking to specific jobs. Searches can be tailored by category and location. Cover letters and resumes can be sent with the touch of a button. E-mail, which can be retrieved whenever a recruiter has time, is sometimes more likely to elicit a response than a phone call or follow-up letter.

Certainly, the on-line job search is in its infancy. Big newspapers generally carry more job listings, particularly on Sundays, than do many of these services. (And some newspapers are taking a look at offering on-line versions of their own want ads.)

What's more, the computer search can be difficult for the technologically challenged job-seeker, and the listings still tend to concentrate on computer-related jobs.

But more and more employers are becoming electronically enthused. E-Span, a popular job search service carried on such major on-line services as Compuserve and America Online, says the number of companies listing openings with it has nearly doubled in the last year. About 4,000 listings are now available on E-Span.

Walt Disney Co.'s Imagineering division is planning to patent an experiment in electronic recruiting that it pioneered this summer, in which it set up its own computer bulletin board and took out print advertisements with a modem number for applicants to call. When they dialed the number, they were greeted with an on-line questionnaire designed to identify the research and creative skills Disney was looking for.

The company, deluged with paper resumes on a daily basis, sees the bulletin board as a way to save time and money by creating a low-overhead screening process. "Recruiting is a very expensive process for us," says Imagineering's Trevor Bryant. "Having the right people apply in the first place makes a huge difference."

Bill Warren, a longtime human resources executive at Rockwell International, recently helped found the Online Career Center, a growing consortium of 40 companies, including Bank of America, Charles Schwab, Kraft General Foods, Alcoa, Cummins Engine, Procter & Gamble, Dean Witter Reynolds, Hyatt and the Computer Task Group.

The firms have agreed to list all of their job openings in a common format on the Internet, a worldwide network of networks that can be accessed at little or no cost by millions of users. In fact, anyone with a computer and modem can gain Internet access for less than $20 a month.

Both E-Span and the Career Center charge employers for their listings, so the service is free to job-seekers, except for the subscription fee they pay for on-line access, which ranges from about $5 to $20 a month.

A recent random sampling of one of the Internet jobs groups, "," included recruiting offers from Virgin Games in Irvine, Boss Film Digital Studios in Marina del Rey, the Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS in New York and the University of Arizona.

Local bulletin boards, including LA Online, the city's largest bulletin board service, sometimes have job listings as well.

Beyond job listings, the major on-line services--the Internet, Prodigy, Compuserve and America Online--also give subscribers access to a variety of databases that can be used to search for background information on potential employers. On Compuserve, for example, these include S&P Online, Magazine Database Plus and Investext.


Times researcher Adam Bauman contributed to this story.

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