Orange County job fair draws 700 seekers through rain

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About 700 people turned out for a job fair at an Orange County recreation center, temporarily transformed into a hiring hall.

The whirl among 33 employers with 600 job openings looked a bit like speed-dating for the unemployed.

Participants lined up before the doors opened. Wearing suits and business attire, resumes in hand, they packed into the basketball gym at the Fountain Valley Recreation Center.

"The going's been a little bit tough and I'm hoping to find something here today," said Victoria Starling, who has been looking for work since she moved to Aliso Viejo from New Jersey two months ago. Starling is one of many who hoped to impress company reps.

Chris Strom with the Orange County Workforce Investment Board said the long lines meant job seekers had about 30 seconds to make their pitch.

"These lines for some of these employers are quite deep, and you're waiting your turn and you're not going to get a long period of time at the table with the hiring manager," said Strom, the county's One-Stop Job Center manager, "so you've got to be prepared to make a great introduction so that hiring manager remembers you."

At the One-Stop Job Center, job hunters get free use of computers and phones, as well as help with resume writing and career planning.

Making a great impression is exactly what Charles Downey of Orange County planned to do. It's not Downey's first job fair, but he targeted about five employers at this one.

"My background is in telecommunications, dealing with computers [and the] convergence of voice and data," Downey said. "You've got to give it a shot every time. You have to come by and ask the right questions."

He stood in one of the longest lines — the Irvine Company, which was looking to fill 50 openings.

Once he got to the table, Downey made his pitch, talking about his background in telecommunications, customer service and office skills. He told the Irvine Company representative he was well-rounded. His pitch was direct, his handshake firm.

The Irvine Company rep told Downey he has an impressive background and the rep would follow-up with Downey directly.

The Orange County Workforce Investment Board sponsored the free job fair.

"Some people may get job offers on the spot, but the goal is to move them to the head of the application pool for that first or second job interview," said Strom.

Strom said there has been fewer people showing up at the fairs in recent years as the economy picks up and more people land steady work.

The 33 employers at the Fountain Valley job fair included Kaiser Permanente, State Farm Insurance, Quicksilver and Comerica Bank.

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