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Crowds Seek Jobs at New Valley Marriott

Times Staff Writer

Nearly a thousand prospective desk clerks, housekeepers, waiters and others stood in line Monday in Woodland Hills, looking for jobs with the new Warner Center Marriott Hotel.

Construction workers putting finishing touches on the hotel gazed down at the line spilling onto the sidewalk next to the building. Steve Hyken, a 35-year-old from Panorama City who said he wanted to be a bellhop, was the first one there, arriving at 5:30 a.m.

“We’re very pleased with the quality of applicants and with the number,” said Tony Hewes, personnel director for the 473-room hotel.

Hewes said he has 450 positions to fill and that he expects more than 3,000 job candidates to apply by the time interviews end on Jan. 14. Those hired are scheduled to start a week later, and the hotel’s executives intend to open for business Feb. 1.

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Alan Fuerstman, resident manager for the hotel, said every new hotel the chain opens goes through a similar job-selection process. Fuerstman said many of the applicants were qualified for the better-paying jobs. He said that, if minimum-wage jobs are hard to fill, the hotel will advertise more in lower-income neighborhoods.

Hewes said he didn’t expect many people to have hotel experience. “If we have the luxury of finding experienced hotel people, we’d be more than happy to take them,” he said. “But what we really want is enthusiasm.”

Debbie Blank, 31, a job candidate from Woodland Hills, seemed to have the kind of attitude Hewes wanted. She said she was excited at the prospect of a housekeeping job that pays $4.20 an hour.

“I’m ready any time they are,” she said.

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Blank said she used to clean condominiums in Hawaii but returned to California recently to be closer to home.

Hewes said the hotel is looking for about 120 people to work in the kitchens and 60 to serve food. Waiters and waitresses will earn the minimum wage, $3.35 an hour before tips. But banquet food servers and bartenders, the highest-paying positions available at the hotel, will make $9 an hour.

60 Needed for Front Desk

The hotel is looking for nearly 60 people to work at the front desk. The positions include bellhops, who will make $3.50 an hour, and reservations clerks and concierges, who will earn $6 an hour.

Applicants, who were allowed inside at 10 a.m., filled out forms, then looked at two boards that listed the jobs and corresponding hourly wages. Some job hunters said they were confused by titles; one complained that he didn’t know “guest service attendant” meant the same thing as bellhop.

While waiting to be interviewed, job candidates sat on couches in lounges, watching videos about the Marriott hotel chain. One-on-one interviews were conducted by department managers at small tables behind heavy curtains. Most interviews lasted less than 10 minutes.

Rob Sitton, 21, of Canoga Park said his interviewer merely asked when he could start work as a waiter. Sitton, who works in a pizza restaurant, said he wants to work in a hotel to get the big tips business travelers leave.

A Van Nuys woman who supervises the housekeeping crew of another hotel said she thought Marriott might be a better employer.

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Applicants had a variety of backgrounds. One woman looking for a housekeeping job said she moved here from the Philippines three weeks ago.

Joel Cone, 32, who described himself as a “typical unemployed actor,” said he has worked for real estate and travel agencies. The Reseda resident, who showed up after seeing a newspaper advertisement, said he wanted to work at the front desk for the “people contact.”

Set Alarm for 4 a.m.

Hyken, who had set his alarm clock for 4 a.m. to be first in line, said he arrived before dawn so he wouldn’t be “just another number.”

But the former vacuum cleaner company representative found himself behind several dozen other eager job seekers for the first interviews, even though he was the first one there for the application forms. By the time he finished the forms, others had gone ahead.


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