iPads for everyone: the Autonomy approach to attraction

Software company Autonomy is giving every interviewee an iPad - whether they get the job or not. Then again, it can afford to.

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Autonomy boss Dr Mike Lynch, who's previously topped MT's Top 100 Entrepreneurs list, didn't get where he is today by following the crowd. Now his Cambridge-based software group is taking an equally novel approach to attracting the best candidates to interview: it's offering a free iPad. And not just to those who go on to get the job - to anyone who even makes it to the interview stage. Let's hope his HR department are sufficiently picky, or that could be a very expensive offer. Although since he's just announced a 17% jump in profits, to $379m, it's not as though he's short of a few quid.

Generally speaking, it's a pretty bad time to be young and unemployed. Unless you're a techie based in the Cambridge area, that is. According to Lynch, competition is fierce for the best talent, with one (unnamed) firm offering a free iPhone. So Autonomy is going one better, proffering a free £700 iPad - even to the 80% of interviewees who don't go on to get a job there. 'You want to make sure that you get the very best through the door,' Lynch is quoted as saying in the Daily Mail (of all places). 'What you do is dangle an iPad... and they come and see you.' We bet they do. In fact, we bet they do the rounds of all the best freebie-offerers; as Lynch himself admits: 'By the time you've done a decent interview round in Cambridge you're kitted out.'

Now we're all for companies going the extra mile to attract top talent. But this does seem to be a plan with one or two flaws. For one thing, if you're the kind of person who's applying to Autonomy, you're probably more likely than the average punter to have an iPad already - and if you do, what's in it for you? Alternatively, you might argue that rather than attracting the best, it'll just attract people who really, really, want an iPad; if these people have enough about them to get their foot in the door, but no real interest in the job itself, you may end up kissing a lot of frogs before finding your prince. Surely Autonomy's name and reputation is such that most ambitious types in the sector will want to work for them for all the right reasons, without the need for bribes?

Indeed, earlier this week Autonomy announced record annual revenues (up 18% to $870m) and profits (up 17% to $379m), not to mention a 43% operating margin. Not bad for a 'year of transition', as Lynch called it. So in fairness, it can probably afford to lose a few hundred iPads down the back of the sofa without losing too much sleep over it.

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