Thursday, July 24, 2008 | 2 a.m.
In this economy, an employment center is an unlikely place to find an upbeat group.
Hunting for a job with large employers in Las Vegas, including big casinos preparing to open, can be an intimidating and discouraging process. An interview with a hiring agent isn’t always guaranteed, and securing an interview doesn’t always yield a job.
The cattle call atmosphere can be hard on self-esteem. Big crowds of applicants cause some people to wonder whether the teeming masses are all applying for the same 10 jobs.
Station Casinos executives know this. It’s one reason they have, in recent years, sent scouts to pretend to apply for jobs at competing casinos to find ways to improve their hiring process.
The results of that work are on display in the company’s employment operation for Aliante Station, which will open Nov. 11 with more than 1,000 workers.
The company has leased the second floor of an office building across the street from the casino. It’s a quiet warren of cubicles and small rooms. Applicants are called from clipboard lists like patients at a clinic — but without the typical wait of a doctor’s visit.
Applicants who have answered a few basic screening questions over the phone or the Internet assemble for scheduled interviews in the downstairs lobby, which has fewer than 10 chairs and even fewer people waiting in them.
They are called by name to an elevator that takes them to a second-floor waiting room, then are ushered into another waiting area where they watch a company video and wait for an interview with one of more than 20 recruiters.
An interview is granted to every applicant who can legally work in the United States, has the appropriate educational background (if applying for a technical or management job), and submits an application within a two-week window.
Interviews for housekeeping, maintenance, kitchen help and security began last week and end this week. Interviews for other departments will begin over the next couple of weeks.
Station has also put a lot of thought into how it turns away people seeking employment. The company opens up jobs and within days cuts off the number of applicants it will consider.
Because the company expects to hear from more than 100,000 job-seekers — at least as many as applied at the company’s Red Rock Resort in 2005 — those who don’t meet the basic requirements won’t be called. Enough qualified applicants are passing the initial screening process that there has been no need to schedule more interviews, which can give applicants false hope, said Valerie Murzl, Station Casinos’ vice president of human resources.
Those called to the employment center, an expected 25 percent of the applicant pool, have a good shot at a job, she said.
Before they leave, job seekers are asked to give feedback on the process.
As he moved from one hushed room to another Monday, job seeker James Waller said he felt “pretty confident” about his chances. The North Las Vegas resident, who works at Lowe’s, said he is seeking companies with more local advancement opportunities.
After a few minutes with Waller, it’s clear he’s a glass-half-full kind of guy. He might be just as optimistic staring down a crowd instead of sitting in a waiting room with one other job applicant.
“The economy works in cycles, and here in Las Vegas, after a downturn, it picks up better than before,” he said before entering his interview. “I’d rather look at the bright side of things.”
As he left the building, he still had a smile on his face.
“Everyone was really friendly. It usually feels like you’re at the DMV.”