At a job fair in West Los Angeles, hundreds of the unemployed and under-employed lined up to apply for positions at the new Target store opening in downtown L.A. in October.
Many applicants, dressed in business attire and clutching resumes, showed up as early as 6:30 a.m. at the Olympic Collection Conference Center, hoping to land one of 250 open spots, including cashier, sales clerk and backroom stocker.
"Anything I can get, I'll apply for it," said Ozzy Buckley, 18, clad in 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 has already received roughly 4,000 applications online. That means only 6.25% of applicants will land a job, even if no more people apply.
"It was a little more than what we expected," Tatro said. "We were pleasantly surprised."
Target has streamlined the hiring process to staff 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 comprised of Target employees from other stores. If an applicant passes muster, they are hustled 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 just 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's applied for at least 100 positions and only heard back from six places. "It's hard to even get interviews," he added.
Andrew Tafoya, 39, agrees. He's been out of work for 2 1/2 years after being laid off from a computer technician gig at Goodwill.
The first year without a job, Tafoya said he would apply for up to 40 position a month. But now he's become discouraged and may send out his resume 10 times a month.
"I really thought that with my experience, I'd find a position doing something," said the Lincoln Heights resident. "I even went back to school to change careers, and that didn't work."
So now Tafoya is in a banquet room surrounded by other hopefuls, finishing the last questions on his assessment exam. He's hoping to snag a supervisor role at Target. But he'd 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."