Opportunity knocks at Job Fair 2002

Murat Tandirci has been out of work for four months. The Manassas man, who has a master’s degree and several years of computer programming experience, was among hundreds of job seekers passing out resumes left and right at the Jobs 2002 Expo on Wednesday.

“I’ve been applying for jobs online for three months but I just gave up — you don’t see anyone, you don’t talk to anyone,” said Tandirci, who thinks personal contacts are the key to landing a tech job in today’s tight market.

He wasn’t sure what to expect of the job fair, but other participants were confident they would find work. Employers ranging from 7-Eleven and Taco Bell to government defense contractor Sverdrup Technology Inc. recruited at the fair, sponsored by the Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger.

The annual expo, in its fourth year, was held at Grace E. Metz Middle School in Manassas.

More than 1,200 job seekers showed up during the first two hours of the expo, and the main rush wasn’t expected until later in the evening.

Job seekers turned out in suits and sweat shirts, practicing their interviewing skills in a “ready room” and filling out any form that could lead to work.

Dale City resident Robert Anderson needs a job to help pay for his tuition at Northern Virginia Community College.

Currently working for a temp agency, the 25-year-old said he has been looking for a steady job for four months. The difficulty in finding one is that laid-off workers with several years’ experience are snapping up all the entry-level jobs, he said.

Many employers said they have been inundated with resumes in recent months.

Mike McCartney, a financial analyst with Primerica, said he’s seen about 2,000 resumes in the past month and received a positive response at the fair.

“We’re talking to a lot of people out of the tech field. They’re either tired of the work or tired of being in and out of work,” he said.

Some companies said applicants were plenty but finding someone with the right skills and expertise was a challenge.

Finding people to work on unmanned military aircraft is like finding a needle in a haystack for Manassas company Aurora Flight Sciences.

“A lot of people are interested but they’re just not qualified,” said Louise Stevens, human resources manager for the company.

She said she would be lucky to find one suitable candidate for three open positions at Jobs 2002, but the fair provided good exposure and possible employees for administrative positions.

Wendy Johnson of Moja, an information and telecommunications company in Manassas, said she has seen a big increase in job seekers over the past eight months and open jobs fill fast.

She said she has recruited at three recent job fairs and found three new employees.

Juli Aubrey, one of the organizers of Jobs 2002, said the turnout was much better than expected. She said one man told her he was hired on the spot and two other job seekers left the fair with interviews scheduled.

Anderson said he would prefer to find work as an electrician, but he’s not being picky. “I’m open to everything right now.”

Staff writer Kate Bissell can be reached at (703) 878-8068.

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