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May 05, 1997|GREG MILLER

Worker Wars: Having recently been named one of the best places to work in Silicon Valley by two trade magazines, Cisco Systems Inc. in San Jose shouldn't have much trouble recruiting employees.

But no company can escape today's high-tech job market crunch, and Cisco's latest recruitment techniques are a sign of how cutthroat some companies can be under such pressure. No longer content to search out job hunters, Cisco is now going after "passive job seekers, people who are happy and successful in their jobs, not out there in the want ads or talking to headhunters," says Michael McNeal, Cisco's employment manager.

Cisco tries to dislodge workers from other companies by doing everything from luring them to the company's Web site to hitting them up at wine festivals.

"There's no civility, the gloves are off and the battle is joined," said Gene Raphaelian, vice president at the Gartner Group in San Jose, a firm that studies the tech job market. Raphaelian and McNeal were speakers at an employment conference at UC Berkeley last week.

While nationwide about 10% of all information technology jobs are unfilled, Cisco's vacancy rate has dropped from 7% to 3% in the last year. McNeal attributes the turnaround to several successful ploys.

For example, the company places banner ads on the Dilbert cartoon Web site, a favorite workday destination in offices around the country. The ad links to Cisco's home page, where visitors are invited to fill out a profile so that a Cisco employee of similar age and background can call and talk about how great the company is.

If that makes other employers unhappy, too bad, McNeal said.

"It's the market we're in," he said. "Tandem drove a van through our parking lot with an announcement for a job fair, and Adaptec flew a plane over Apple. If employees are really happy, they don't return the call."

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