Amazon job fair draws hundreds to northern Virginia

ARLINGTON, Va. - They arrived by foot, car, Uber and scooter. Some wore their best interview suits, others wrinkled T-shirts.

Many already had jobs - no surprise in an era of historically low unemployment and a booming national economy. But now Amazon, the world's largest Internet company, was beckoning. And these folks wanted in.

"I really want someone to give me a chance. Everyone wants to work here," said Leo Versel, 26, of Rockville, Maryland, one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in a line that snaked down 12th Street South and around the corner onto Army Navy Drive in Arlington on Tuesday morning.

Also hopeful was John Mackell, 26, of Bladensburg, Maryland, who works in security and graduated two years ago from Towson University. "I feel like they're very diverse in their hiring," he said. "And Amazon is one of the leading companies out there."

The retail giant's first Career Day drew a racially, ethnically and age-diverse crowd to the northern Virginia neighborhood where the company plans a second headquarters that should employ 400 people by year's end and 25,000 within a decade.

Event organizers opened the doors early and extended hours until 8 p.m. once they gauged the numbers.

This - these lines of eager job-seekers, the newly polished résumés - was the reception they were hoping for when Amazon chose Arlington's Crystal City for the headquarters campus last winter. Similar events were being held in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville and Seattle, where Amazon is based. (Company founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)


"I'm looking for a job in user experience or user interface or front-end development," said Amalia Cowan, 27, of Rockville, a year out of college and "looking to get my foot in the door."

"Everyone else has tech and human resources, and I pretty much fit the bill on the legal side," said retired attorney Benny Estorga, 68, a Los Angeles-area resident who was visiting his son's family in the Washington region and wants to be able to spend more time with them.

Amazon "may make me a mail clerk, but I don't care," Estorga said. "If I can get a job, I will move out here."

To the disappointment of some, Amazon wasn't offering jobs Tuesday or officially taking résumés. Rather, the event was a chance for potential applicants to talk to recruiters, get tips on how to advance, and learn about jobs and businesses within the company.

"I had high expectations," Morteza Loghmani, 52, said as he left the event about 11 a.m. "It was encouraging, but it looks like it's more selling of Amazon - it seemed like they mostly were promoting their brand."

Inside the tent housing the event, scores of employees wearing blue-branded T-shirts talked to small clusters of hopefuls, explaining the culture and the attitude that is rewarded within the company.

Baskets of fruit and bottled water were available outside and inside. People wandered among booths labeled "military recruiting," "Alexa services," "training and certifications," "warehouse-drivers-shopping" and more.

"Your supervisor may ask what was your bias toward action," senior recruiter Justin Joseph told a half-dozen anxious job-seekers. "We look for focus on customers. . . . You may have applied online and that's great, but I'm taking hard copies as well because we're going to go through them all."

Six hands thrust forward with neatly printed résumés.


"I want a part-time job, because I'm a mom with a special-needs kid who's going to kindergarten this year and I'd like to find a place where I can feel good about myself for five hours a day," Liana Pidlusky, 42, of Alexandria, Virginia, told a reporter. She worked in finance before becoming a mother and hopes to return to the field.

The company is facing heightened scrutiny over antitrust issues and has been criticized for poor working conditions in warehouses, harsh productivity quotas and an overreliance on contract workers.

But those who turned out Tuesday weren't focused on the negative.

Rane Om, 33, of Stafford, Virginia, who is between jobs, said she would work "wherever they think I belong."

"Tell me where you need me," she said. "I like cybersecurity or physical security."

Elsewhere, a woman wheeled a baby carrier through the crowd, her child adorned in an Amazon onesie. Others lined up for résumé reviews and interview tips.

The line continued to wind down the block throughout the afternoon, and as the sun came out, Amazon contractors handed out bottles of water. By 6 p.m., Amazon officials said, about 4,000 potential job-seekers had entered the tent. Others were still waiting.

Mark Clinard, a manager at a wine importer who arrived in the morning, said he believed he had strategies and know-how that Amazon needs.

"Alcohol sales. Because they don't have an alcohol sales plan. They've tried and failed three times, and I think I have the solution," Clinard said. "It's the only section of the direct consumer market they're missing."

Jaida Hodge, 24, said she was "looking for a complete career change." The Capitol Heights, Maryland, resident had worked for an Amazon vendor and now wants to become "a receptionist, or maybe something in the IT field."

Robert Williams, 30, came from New York specifically for the event.

"I'm in finance now, and I like Amazon as a growth company," he said. "I think it would be a cool opportunity."