Even as corporate America is paring down its workforce, many companies are still using incentives to attract new hires. In a recent e-mail survey, 90 of 378 Corporate Meetings & Incentives readers said they have started to offer recruiting incentives.

Today, however, those incentives are less likely to include recent attention-grabbers such as stock options, car leases, and large, forgivable relocation loans. “This was all fueled by the hyper-economy,” says Robert Voth, a Cleveland-based director of Christian & Timbers (www.ctnet.com), a top executive recruiting firm.

Hiring incentives have “been a really hot issue for the last few years,” agrees John Kitson, senior vice president of human resources with First Banks in St. Louis and president of the Employment Management Association within the Society for Human Resources Managers (www.shrm.org). “They may decline temporarily as people become more available with layoffs. But then the baby boomers are going to start retiring, and the workforce isn't going to be what it was five or 10 years ago.”

Many companies, recruitment firms, and even Web sites offer rewards to people who refer applicants. First Banks, with $6 billion in assets and about 2,500 employees, runs an ongoing employee referral program. Individuals earn McDonald's gift certificates for each application or resume received, and their names are entered into drawings for prizes such as DVD players and baseball tickets. Departments or regional divisions referring the most applicants are treated to special lunches or ice cream socials.

High-demand positions with a dearth of qualified applicants are most likely to net hefty hiring or referral rewards, Voth says. But the focus on stock options as a recruiting tool is dwindling. Instead, Voth sees more recruits seeking a total rewards package that combines a compelling future, total pay, individual growth, and a positive workplace. “If you simply focus on options or cash, you're truly missing the bigger picture.”