Surrounded by hunting gear, a full-size mounted lion and red fox, and Bass Pro Shops’ NASCAR stock car, between 30 and 40 aspiring salespeople awaited their interviews on Monday.
“I’ve never seen a job fair like this,” Jerry Foriester of Columbia said. “It’s comfortable; it relieves some of the pressure.”
Foriester, a hunter and fisherman from Columbia, is the retired former owner of a health care management company. He had just interviewed for a part-time sales position at the Bass Pro Shops store that will open in February. His wife, Joann, who accompanied him, had been browsing the displays and said she had found a Christmas gift idea in the store’s catalog.
It was an afternoon made possible by a new concept in hiring fairs.
Bass Pro Shops has transformed the expo center at the Holiday Inn Select Executive Center into a showroom for the store’s products. The company hopes that in addition to luring applicants, it will generate a buzz for the store’s retail sales.
“They’re showing bass fishing videos inside,” said Don Baker of Columbia. “It makes me want to get out and go fishing.”
Baker, a computer programmer and network administrator laid off last week, said he’d gotten a positive impression of Bass Pro Shops based on how well the event was organized.
Promotions Manager Kristie Williams said that during the fair, Bass Pro Shops expected to hire 180 of the 200 full- and part-time employees it will need for the new store. The company was expecting 1,000 applicants at the three-day event, but by 4 p.m. Tuesday had already had more than 1,400 applicants.
Williams estimated more than 2,300 people would apply before the fair ended. As many as 15 interviewers were on hand to screen the applicants. At one point on Monday, there was a 45-minute wait for interviews.
“We’re very happy with the turnout,” Williams said. “We’ve seen a lot of qualified applicants.”
Williams estimated that 98 percent of the visitors were applicants, but some had brought family or friends just to browse. She said some applicants had even returned with their kids to show them the boats and animals on display.
The closest Bass Pro Shops location is in St. Charles, and Williams said the event-style approach to hiring is especially useful in areas that might be less familiar with the store.
“We want to give the community a feeling for what Bass Pro Shops is all about,” Williams said.
The fair is the first of its kind for Bass Pro Shops, and Vice President of Human Resources Mike Rowland said he was not aware of any other retailer hiring in this way.
“It’s a great idea,” said John Dooney of the Society for Human Resource Management in Washington, D.C. “They’re generating a lot of attention and killing two birds with one stone.”
The 82,000-square-foot store on Vandiver Drive is scheduled to open Feb. 17. Williams said that the company was especially looking for outdoor enthusiasts and that previous sales experience was a plus.
The fair is taking place through 7 p.m. today. The Holiday Inn is at 2200 I-70 Drive SW. Applicants must apply in person.