dna.jpgWant to know if you’re a descendant of Genghis Khan?

All you have to do is refer a software engineer looking for a job to DNAnexus, a Silicon Valley-based start up. If they hire the guy or gal you get $20,000 and your full genome sequenced, something that could cost thousands of dollars if you did it on your own.

It’s a unique offer for a unique problem — a company having trouble finding enough workers to hire. In this economy, with 14 million Americans out of work, it might seem strange that an employer would go to such lengths to hire employees, but in some areas of the country and in some sectors, including technology, there supposedly aren’t enough workers to go around.

And surprisingly, companies offering referral bonuses are up overall, according to the Society for Human Resource Management:

In 2011, 63 percent of organizations reported using hiring bonuses, and 41 percent used or were planning to use retention bonuses.

In addition, 66 percent of respondents reported having an employee referral bonus program (up from 59 percent in mid-2010).

“During the economic downturn, many employers reduced staff and asked remaining employees to do more with less. As the job market improves, these organizations are using tactics such as employee referral bonus programs to not only attract proven performers but also help retain the employees who make referrals,” said Kathi Myers, director at Buck Consultants. “Involvement in the hiring process engages employees and strengthens their ties to the organization.”

Such bonuses range from $500 for clerical worker referrals to about $2,500 for executive hires, according to a WorldatWork study.

So DNAnexus’ referral bonus sounds way over the top, no? Well, not to the company’s CEO and co-founder, Andreas Sundquist, PhD.

“There is no shortage of creative thinking in Silicon Valley for incentivizing people to find the very best talent,” he said. “To rise above the noise, we wanted to do something that represented the unique aspects of our segment of the technology industry.”

Oh yeah, it’s unique. But will it produce results? The offer was announced last Wednesday and so far the company has gotten a few referrals but no hires given the short time period.

The software engineers they’re looking for don’t have to have experience working with DNA to land this gig; and here’s a list of the the types of skill sets the company wants:

* theoretical algorithms / machine learning / computational genomics
* systems / web services / security engineering
* UI/UX and data visualization
* quality engineering

“This is a truly unique opportunity for software engineers to make their mark in architecting the definitive data platform for DNA and change forever how people investigate and access genetic data,” said Sundquist.

And the company’s referral gimmick is part of that.

“We are entering an era where it will become routine to sequence an individual’s DNA for use in improving personal health,” he maintained. “This recruiting campaign is a reflection of our commitment to democratizing access to DNA data and to building one of the best engineering teams in Silicon Valley.”

You have to hurry though. The offer ends on July 31.

Alas, if you have no techies to refer you can always try your hand at DNA sequencing yourself. Seriously, there are actually DNA testing home kits.

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