Staff Photo by TIm Barber Convergys recruiting manager Tamara Burks, right, and trainer Ken Overly, second from right, talk with job hopeful Jaime Barfield, seated, after her two-hour computer test at the Eastgate business. Kristen Ricketts, bottom center, and Aaron Cummings, third from left, continue their testing.
By 11:30 Wednesday morning, Chris Flanders was gainfully employed.
After seven months with no work, the 20-year-old arrived early Wednesday for a job fair at customer service company Convergys.
His initiative paid off, and he was told to start work Monday.
"I was struggling financially, and I didn't ever think I would be struggling like this," Mr. Flanders said.
Mr. Flanders was one of almost 430 applicants who came to a hiring event at Convergys' offices at Northgate Mall. The company is filling 108 seasonal positions that start at $10 an hour, with an increase to $11.50 an hour plus incentives.
The applicant pool included people with master's degrees and years of work experience, said Tamara Burks, recruiting manager for Convergys.
"With jobs being few and far between, when someone hears about an employer that is hiring a large number of people, that's going to bring individuals out," Ms. Burks said.
The positions will serve the health care industry, but the company also provides customer service for a big box retailer and a satellite TV company.
Job seekers were required to fill out an application and complete an online test, a process that took about three hours. Those applicants who arrived at Convergys offices before the official 10 a.m. start time were allowed an early shot at the jobs.
Pam Kelly was among them, arriving at 9:30 a.m. to secure a place in line. Ms. Kelly has been out of work since April and had just received her second extension of unemployment, something she said she was extremely grateful to have. In the first month and a half after she lost her last job, she applied for 20 posts and got only two interviews.
"I've been down about (the economy)," she said. "It seems like everything is going up, and when you don't have a regular job, you really notice it."
Kristen Ricketts went to the fair in hopes of landing a job after being out of work for more than a year. She left her job as a manager at the Boathouse restaurant to help care for her brother's children while he was serving in Iraq. But with a 3-year-old daughter of her own, she had to make a hard choice.
"I just decided I needed to get a job," she said.
Kerry Moore showed up at the Convergys offices Wednesday morning dressed professionally with copies of her resume in hand. The former financial services trainer had been laid off in January and looking for work since then. She was worried about the large number of applicants creating a great deal of competition.
"I really hope I'm the one chosen," she said.
Ms. Burks said she had seen a lot of people like Ms. Moore, who may be overqualified for the customer service positions. She said the company would not turn those people down, but rather look at them more closely for other jobs within the company.
"For a lot of applicants, they have been unemployed for such a long time that they need a job, and you can only do so much," Ms. Burks said. "When you hear that a large employer is having an open house and inviting you to come in, you'd be a fool not to go ahead, get dressed and come out."