In job openings at Venetian restaurant, applicants see ray of hope
There’s no universal source for the drive needed to overcome the lost confidence that’s shaken many job seekers amid the worst economy in years. It can be found in the face of a dependent child, the uncertain eyes of a loving partner or wherever people look for that extra push when they want to give up the chase.
So there they were midday Tuesday, more than 200 people lined up outside of a Venetian meeting room, each waiting for job interviews that could land work in a new restaurant, each having tapped a motivational source. Some arrived solo, others with friends or children. Many recalled when they had a job, their own place to live, a car that started and enough money to buy food and fill a gas tank.
“I had an apartment, a car and was doing good, and I’ve lost just about everything,” said Laura Russo, a 27-year-old single mom who was laid off 18 months ago from a $12.25-an-hour job and who, along with her child, now lives with her parents. “I’ve never been flat broke, but now I’m broke.”
She wore black jeans, flats and a pullover shirt that she purchased for a couple of dollars at a thrift store. It was her best outfit.
“Some nights I can’t sleep. I think I shouldn’t be this old and in this position,” said the 2002 Boulder City High School graduate. “I feel discouraged a lot of the time, but I keep trying.”
She’s applied for more than 100 jobs, many through websites. She learned from a morning TV news program of Tuesday’s interviews for 140 positions at the Public House restaurant, which is set to open in December at the Venetian. The interviews continue through Thursday afternoon in Galileo Room 901 of the Sands Expo Center. No appointments are necessary.
Chris Calderon, human resources director for Block 16 Hospitality Gastropub, operator of the mid-market pub and eatery, says he understands how difficult it is for many of the applicants to come out for another potential round of rejection. “You sometimes see the loss of hope in people’s eyes,” Calderon said.
Screeners asked a series of questions designed to gauge applicants’ commitment to customer service. What’s your idea of good service? Give me an example of a time you went above and beyond for a guest? There’s no right answer. The quality of responses were judged for their sincerity. “It’s almost a gut feeling to me,” said interviewer Hugo Moreno, general manager of Gastropub’s Holsteins at the Cosmopolitan.
Moreno has been in the food and beverage business since the late 1990s, and he recognized the stress that Russo and other applicants were under. Some had one part-time job and were seeking to fill the hole with a second. Others were seeking full-time employment.
Five years ago, when the economy was booming, the process was much easier on all involved. There were so many good-paying jobs in the Las Vegas Valley that a significant number of employers, particularly mom-and-pop business operators, could not find workers to fill openings. No longer.
“Now it is a lot of high stakes,” Moreno said.
“We’ve all been on the other side of the interview, and it’s tough, very tough,” he said.
Russo said she was willing to take any job. She has worked as a food server, a guest room attendant and will work for minimum wage. She simply wants to make enough money to raise her young child in their own place.
She looked at the others in line and acknowledged “that I think of them as competitors.” No matter, she offers advice for others seeking work.
“Just don’t give up,” she says. “Stay confident. It’s pretty nerve-wracking. These interviews are pretty nerve-wracking.”