Everyone from recent college degrees to late-career jobs lined up in South Lake Union to learn about openings at Amazon, which held job fairs in Seattle and five other US cities Tuesday as part of a push to fill about 30,000 positions nationwide, including more than 10,000 locally.
While national unemployment is at a historically low level, some applicants described a tougher job market than official statistics would indicate.
During lunch hour, the wait was about an hour and 20 minutes in a line wrapped around the South Lake Union block where Amazon held the event. A spokesman for the company said thousands of people had signed up to attend the Seattle event.
Amazon employees answered basic questions and sent water to people waiting. Inside, several Amazon employees provided information on jobs that run the spectrum in terms of skills, function and location. The offer includes roles as drivers for contract deliveries, warehouse workers, coders and company officials in the surrounding headquarters towers, and positions at the company's 18 technology hubs around the country.
Aspirants were given information, interview and resume tips and some corporate swag to take away, but no offers were extended at the event. Amazon recently revealed that it has more than 53,500 employees in the Greater Seattle area.
Amazon ranked seventh on a list of listed companies that software developers, product managers, and designers want or love to work with, according to a survey of 3,600 of them conducted by jobs hired. In Seattle, Amazon ranked fourth behind Microsoft (which was fifth overall) Redfin and Zillow Group.
Job seekers waiting in line under rainy skies talked about their Amazon hopes and beliefs with the provision that their names should not be used so as not to pose their chances.
A woman who took time off from her career as an actuary to raise her children and recently taught part-time at a community college in the area, was looking for information on jobs in business administration.
"What attracts me is the number of employees they are expected to hire, and hopefully not just 30-something technicians," she said. "Hopefully, there are people in all walks of life."
Another woman, recently graduating with a degree in human development, said the job market is tough. She is looking for positions in human resources, logistics or operations. "Everyone wants experience," she said. Amazon, she said, is "a place that is great for growth and I can have a career."
Near her was a man interested in supply chain management. He has a job in this field with another major local employer – Boeing – but said he has to expose sensors elsewhere.
"With the 737 problems, it looks like it might be time to look for different opportunities out there," he said.
He said he sees Amazon as a place where people can work across multiple functions with fewer layers of management compared to Boeing. He added that people he has talked to from the aerospace industry tend to like Amazon, while those who come from tech say "it's actually too close. … it's 50-50 from people I know."
A woman from Spokane, where Amazon has a new fulfillment center, ran across the state for the job fair (and to visit her sister on her birthday), and after a career of radio, commercial production, reception and warehouse stints, she's looking for a role to take her to retirement.
"I just need one last stable job, man. That's why I'm here. "
She said she wanted to learn more about the company culture. "It would be nice to see that a big company can also have a heart."
The actuary who returned to full-time employment said that her perception of Amazon as an employer was mixed. "I hope they are better on the inside than the impression I got on the outside," she said. She added that she has been horrified by what she has heard about the conditions at the company's fulfillment centers, but that she also has acquaintances who work in the company who like what they do.
"It's hard to say when you're not there," she added.