SAN FRANCISCO - Somebody forgot to tell NextCard Inc. that the party is over for dot-com businesses.
The online credit card company is feeling so giddy it recently spent $25,000 to host a cocktail reception for prospective employees at a San Francisco art gallery.
The bash featured a raffle of prizes that included an electric car.
With NextCard seeking to increase its work force by one-third, or 200 employees, CEO John Hashman viewed the reception as a necessary expense in a market where there are still more dot-com jobs than qualified employees.
''This is one of the things that you have to do to get noticed,'' Hashman said. ''It's crazy. There is still a fierce competition for people.''
Nearly 200 guests showed up, and NextCard wound up interviewing 156 of them for a wide range of jobs offering annual salaries ranging from $40,000 to $120,000.
The paucity of qualified tech workers is so acute that NextCard has started recruiting from the ranks of struggling dot-coms before they fail, even placing job openings on companies' internal computer bulletin boards.
''We are definitely reaping the benefits of all the companies that are going under,'' said NextCard recruiter Kristin Carbury.
Guests at NextCard's party included recent layoff victims from Pets.com, Eve.com, TheMan.com, Carclub.com and Creditland.com. None had landed a job with NextCard within two weeks after the party.
Some out-of-work Internet workers have taken stock of the dot-com carnage and decided they need to find new jobs quickly.
''There are so many people getting laid off now that the applicant pool is getting pretty large,'' said Jennifer Rowley, who lost a management position at Completecar.com. ''A lot of people are starting to say, 'Uh, oh.' ''
Hashman said he hasn't seen any signs of panic among job candidates. If anything, dot-com workers seem pickier than ever, he said, and not just about the hors d'oeuvres served at NextCard's hiring party.
''Two years ago, about the only things that (prospective employees) asked were, 'What's your idea, do you have funding and do you give pre-IPO stock options?' Now they want to know your business plan, what the analysts think of your company and how long it will be before you're profitable.''
On The Net: