Michelle Harris, 23, a recent college graduate, signs in for her appointment… (Los Angeles Times, Brian…)
At a job fair in West Los Angeles, hundreds of unemployed and underemployed workers lined up to apply for positions at the new Target store opening in downtown Los Angeles in October.
Many applicants, dressed in business attire and carrying resumes, showed up as early as 6:30 a.m. at the Olympic Collection Banquet, Conference and Entertainment Center, hoping to land one of 250 positions, including cashiers, sales clerks and backroom stockers.
"Anything I can get, I'll apply for it," said Ozzy Buckley, 18, who was wearing a pinstriped suit. "I've been applying for jobs since January, handing out resumes, and haven't gotten anything yet."
The odds may be stacked against him. Simone Tatro, newly appointed manager of the downtown Target store, said the retailer had already received about 4,000 applications online. That means only 6.25% of applicants will land a job, even if no more people apply. By early afternoon, about 500 people had passed through the fair, and the company had already made about 100 job offers.
"It was a little more than what we expected," Tatro said. "We were pleasantly surprised."
Target has plans to open three smaller-scale urban stores, dubbed CityTargets, in Los Angeles. A Westwood store near UCLA opened last month. The downtown Target store in the Fig at 7th mall is debuting Oct. 14., while a third location in the Beverly Connection shopping center near the Beverly Center will open in March.
Target has streamlined the hiring process for new stores, Tatro said. Job-seekers can apply and take an assessment test on the spot, then are ushered upstairs to be interviewed by two-person teams consisting of Target employees from other stores. If applicants pass, they are taken into a bathroom for on-site drug testing and extended a conditional offer, pending a background check.
"The majority will know if they have a job on the same day they apply," Tatro said. "We have this down to a science."
Sitting in a row of people waiting to be interviewed, Chris Henderson thumbed through his BlackBerry.
The 31-year-old recently quit his job as a TV director in Salt Lake City and moved to Burbank to pursue a career in film and television writing -- and he was looking for any job he could get.
"I've applied to retail jobs, serving jobs," Henderson said. "There are more jobs out there, but also more unemployed people who want to get jobs." He has applied for at least 100 positions and heard back from only six employers. "It's hard to even get interviews," he added.
Andrew Tafoya, 39, agrees. He's been out of work for 21/2 years after being laid off as a computer technician at Goodwill. The first year without a job, Tafoya said, he applied for up to 40 positions a month. But now he may send out his resume 10 times a month.
"I really thought that with my experience, I'd find a position doing something," the Lincoln Heights resident said. "I even went back to school to change careers, and that didn't work."
Tafoya sat in a banquet room surrounded by other hopefuls, finishing the last questions on his assessment exam. He hopes to get a supervisor's job at Target. But he would settle for anything.
"I just want a job," he said. "Doesn't matter if it's at a shoe store, a sports store, a liquor store. Anything."