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First Ever City Job Fair Leaves Many Frustrated With Hiring Process

Updated 11/09/12 - 4:15 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- About 3,000 people lined up for the city's first-ever jobs fair on Friday – some of them waiting in line for up to six hours – hoping to apply for work with the city, but many left frustrated after learning the only way to apply for a job was to go online.

WBBM Newsradio's Bernie Tafoya reports Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped by the job fair, expecting a warm welcome from job seekers, but instead ran into lots of ticked-off people.

More than 3,000 people showed up for the 55 posted job openings, but city hiring rules require all applications be filed online, so many of those who attended left frustrated at having to stand in line for hours, without being able to actually apply for a job.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Bernie Tafoya Reports


Anthony Rodgers was the first person in line at Kennedy-King College on Friday, showing up at 3 a.m. for a job fair that didn't open until 9 a.m. By the time it started, a line of people hoping to land a job with the city, or one of its sister agencies, had snaked around the block.

"I need a job. I need a job, that's the bottom line. … The best way to get a job? Be there before your employer's there," Rodgers said.

His goal was the same as everyone else in line – to get a job. But many said the job fair wasn't what they were expecting – a chance to sit down and apply for or interview for a job, not simply meet a few city officials and be told they had to apply online.

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CBS 2's Susanna Song reports the event was more about networking and learning about available positions with the city and its sister agencies.

City officials were not conducting job interviews, or hiring anyone on the spot. Officials said all job applications for city jobs must be done online, because of city hiring rules and the federal Shakman decree that bans political-based hiring for most city jobs.

However, city representatives did offer assistance in applying for jobs online using computers provided by the city, and also informed job seekers about workshops on résumé writing and job interview skills.

CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot reports the event left many of those job seekers wondering why someone didn't tell them from the start to use their computers to apply for a city job, rather than stand in line for hours in the cold.

Cherrie Moore said, "They just got fliers of resources, things we could have got on the Internet, things we probably already know about."

Rodney Booker said, "I stood in line for four hours. They better give me a Wal-Mart gift card, or something."

Job seeker Keyonya Mills was frustrated by the miscommunication.

"They could have said, go online, fill out the application. If you do not know how to fill out a application, come to Kennedy-King College and we'll train you. They have people wrapped around this entire building thinking this is a job fair and this is not a job fair", Mills said.

Michael Williams compared the job fair to standing in a soup line, only to find out there's no soup.

"This isn't really a job fair, it's just a meet-and-greet," he said. "It's nothing, they're just telling you what's going on with their business, but they're not really receiving any applications, or any résumés. It's nothing."

Williams had even dressed in a suit and tie to make a good impression, hoping for at least a preliminary job interview, but said all the effort simply went to waste.

"I tried to dress for the part, you know, just to make a good impression, but you don't have to make an impression in there. They're just telling you mumbo jumbo."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an unannounced visit to the job fair, and was approached by some frustrated job hunters.

"Excuse me Mr. Mayor, I have a question. I came down here, I stood in line for four hours, expecting to get a job interview, or fill out an application. And I stood in line for four hours to get a flyer telling me to go online," one woman in line complained.

The mayor later addressed reporters about the situation.

"The reason there's frustration is not for the two to three hours here, it's for the two to three years they've been waiting [for a job]," he said. "My goal was to get us organized … our job is to help people find a job. Even if we don't have it, to get them organized."

The mayor also said he spoke to some people in line who appreciated the help they did get at the job fair.

Kenneth Williams said it gave him an opportunity to get more information about the city jobs that are available, find out what kinds of jobs he personally qualifies for, and give some people his résumé.

"It's worth a shot. You know, it's better than sitting at home, waiting for someone to knock on the door and say, 'Hey, you got a job,'" he said. "I hope that this pans out for me, and for a lot of people, because as you can see, it's a lot of people that need it."

Bobby Jefferson said, even though people won't be hired on the spot, the event was worth the long lines.

"Of course; I'm one step closer," he said.

Some of those in line already have jobs, but are barely making enough money to stay afloat, so they're looking for more work.

Marie Cunningham said she's "a single mom trying to get more income right now, because part-time is just not enough. It's not meeting all my needs, so now I need to try to get something else."

She said she's hoping to get a job with the CTA or the Chicago Park District.

The city of Chicago and its sister agencies are hiring for positions ranging from seasonal jobs to full-time employment. The jobs range from police officers to bus drivers to working for the city's inspector general.

The salaries for available city jobs featured at the job fair range from $30,000 to $110,000 a year.

City human resources officials apologized for not being clearer from the start that people attending the job fair wouldn't get interviews, or a chance to be hired right away.

Despite the complaints, the mayor's office said the job fair was a success, and another would be held next year.

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