Everyone from recent college grads to late-career job switchers lined up in South Lake Union to learn about openings at Amazon, which held job fairs in Seattle and five other U.S. cities Tuesday as part of a push to fill some 30,000 positions nationwide, including more than 10,000 locally.
While the national unemployment rate is at a historic low, some applicants described a tougher job market than the official statistics would indicate.
During the noon hour, the wait was about an hour and 20 minutes in a line that wrapped around the South Lake Union block where Amazon held the event. A company spokeswoman said thousands of people had registered to attend the Seattle event.
Amazon employees answered basic questions and passed out water to people waiting. Inside, more Amazon employees provided information on jobs that run the gamut in terms of skills, function and location. On offer are roles as contract delivery drivers, warehouse workers, coders and corporate functionaries in the surrounding headquarters towers, and positions in the company’s 18 tech hubs around the country.
Aspirants were given information, tips on interviewing and resumes, and some corporate swag to take away, but no offers were extended at the event. Amazon recently disclosed it has more than 53,500 employees in the Greater Seattle area.
Amazon ranked seventh on a list of publicly traded companies that software developers, product managers and designers would like or love to work at, according to a survey of 3,600 of them conducted by jobs marketplace Hired. In Seattle, Amazon ranked fourth behind Microsoft (which was fifth overall) Redfin and Zillow Group.
Job applicants waiting in line under rainy skies talked about their Amazon hopes and perceptions with the stipulation that their names not be used so as not to imperil their chances.
A woman who took time away from her career as an actuary to raise her children and lately taught part time at an area community college was looking for information about jobs in corporate finance.
“What’s attracting me is the number of employees that they’re supposedly hiring, and hopefully not just 30-something techs,” she said. “Hopefully it’s people of all walks of life.”
Another woman, recently graduated with a degree in human development, said the job market is tough. She’s looking for positions in human resources, logistics or operations. “Everyone wants experience,” she said. Amazon, she said, is “somewhere that’s great for growth and I could have a career.”
Near her in line, a man was interested in supply-chain management. He has a job in that field at another large local employer — Boeing — but said he needs to put out feelers elsewhere.
“With the 737 issues, it’s looking like maybe it’s time to look for different opportunities out there,” he said.
He said he perceives Amazon as a place where people can work across multiple functions with fewer layers of management compared to Boeing. He added that people he’s talked to from the aviation industry tend to like Amazon, while those coming from tech say “it’s actually too stuffy. … It’s 50-50 from the people I know.”
A woman from Spokane, where Amazon has a new fulfillment center, drove across the state for the job fair (and to visit her sister on her birthday). After a career including stints in radio, commercial production, reception and warehousing, she’s looking for a role to take her into 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’d be nice to see that a big corporation could have a heart, too.”
The actuary returning to full-time work said her perception of Amazon as an employer was mixed. “I’m hoping they’re better on the inside than the impression I’ve gotten on the outside,” she said. She added that she’s been dismayed by what she’s heard about conditions in the company’s fulfillment centers, but that she also has acquaintances working at the company who like what they do.
“It’s hard to tell when you’re not in there,” she added.