In job openings at Venetian restaurant, applicants see ray of hope

Hugo Capistran interviews a candidate on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, for a position at the Public House restaurant at the Venetian.

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A rendering of the lounge of Public House, a new restaurant slated to open in December at the Venetian.

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.”

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  1. Not knocking those looking for jobs because I HAVE BEEN THERE, but I found TWO glaring things in this article:

    1. You do NOT come with friends or drag your kids to a job interview. There has to be someone who can watch the kids for an hour or two. Yeah, drag your 3 kids with you; that'll be impressive to the future employer. And friends should just stay home, or wait out side but not come into the interview area.

    2. The 22 year old that is a single mom and now living with her parents. "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". JEANS for a job interview??? For the "couple of dollars" she spent at Goodwill or Salvation Army (or even Savers) - she couldn't find a dress pair of slacks and nice top to wear????? I KNOW these stores have "dress clothes". She could apply for 200 jobs and go on 200 interviews, but it won't matter if she doesn't dress appropriately - no matter what the job is. Your appearance is half the battle in getting a job. It says a lot about how you feel about yourself. If you can't go that extra distance for yourself, how are you going to handle going the extra distance, in this case, the customers coming to the restaurant?

    Maybe I'm just old fashioned....

    Yes, times are tough; as I said I've been there. But if you REALLY want a job, you dress appropriately and go on the interview "solo". No excuses.

  2. Somethings are universal:

    Regardless of how one dresses in the interview the quality of work is still the same.

    Answering these out-dated interview questions has never solved the issue of turnover being so high in the restaurant industry.

    They can ask as many insipid questions as they want in order to gauge customer service, but no one knows how they'll really perform until the day they start.

    The interview process is so skewed and subjective that it's not a good test of anyone's true ability and skills. Interviewers will judge your appearance and then consider your skills.

    They are looking for young, attractive people to work the front of house who will leave within 6 months because the mgmt hired all of their inexperienced friends who have no idea how to run a new restaurant and Mexicans will take all of the work in the back of the house.

    Mexicans working in the BOH is not a terrible thing it's just how it is. I just wish HR would stop this dog and pony show acting as if everyone has a fair chance. They should go down the line of 120 people and pick and choose and save everyone the effort, time and stress.

  3. Also, regarding CHAZBEANs comment:

    Stating you graduated from UNLV or any college is hugely frowned upon in this town because it means you can think for yourself and make independent decisions.

    Vegas corporations say they want educated employees, but what they require is a docile workforce that won't innovate their current business practices.

    Outside corporations won't move here because our population lacks an education because casinos, hotels and restaurants don't want it. Vegas has a huge docile workforce that just works with the cards they are dealt. They want the money and are thus clock-in/clock-out employees. They are just consumers.

  4. "If u put on your resume u graduated UNLV that is the kiss of death."

    I remember during the "heyday" of my job hunting, I read posts here (or at the Sun) and other Vegas job boards that many were not even adding their college education and degrees on their resumes because people were so desperate to get any kind of job, that having a degree or two was definitely the kiss of death. With college listed, employers weren't even looking a those resumes.