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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hopeful take advantage of J.C. Penney seasonal hiring event in Spokane

Elise Haugen, assistant manager at the NorthTown mall J.C.Penney, speaks to job applicants about holiday work, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

With less than 70 days left to get Christmas shopping done, the J.C. Penney retail chain conducted a nationwide hiring event Tuesday, with plans to hire more than 120 people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

With applications and resumes in hand, roughly 10 people were waiting at the J.C. Penney store at NorthTown mall shortly before 2 p.m. The applicants included teenagers looking for after-school work and middle-aged women looking to bolster their cash reserves for the coming holiday season.

At the top of the hour, the first of the day’s job-seekers were ushered in by store management for the first of what they hoped would be a series of group interviews with potential employees through the day.

In one session, eight applicants sat in a circle in a conference room in the back of the store. Store assistant manager Elise Haugen went back and forth, asking questions of group members and explaining job requirements.

“Who likes to smile?” she said.

She explained that customer service is the company’s top priority. She provided applicants with a number of scenarios in which a customer would not be happy, but said it is an employee’s job to serve the customer and to be happy while doing it. If there are no customers, Haugen said, then employees don’t have jobs.

“We can teach them anything,” said Devin Codd, general manager of the J.C. Penney at NorthTown. “but we can’t teach them to smile.”

Codd said his store is expected to hire about 60 part-time, seasonal employees in the next two to three weeks. That is up from about 50 he hired in 2016. Between his store and the J.C. Penney at the Spokane Valley Mall, he said, the company will hire more than 100 people.

The Plano, Texas-based retailer said it plans to hire 40,000 people across the country this holiday season, with 900 of those hires in the state of Washington. The company plans to hire about 200 associates in Idaho, acscording to company spokesman Carter English. He said more than 20 new employees will be needed in J.C. Penney stores in Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston and Ponderay.

In a year that hasn’t been great for the nation’s large department store chains, seasonal hiring is expected to closely mirror 2016 levels, if not posting a slight increase, in 2017.

According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm, retailers have announced more than 6,000 store closures and 67,000 job cuts in the first eight months of 2017. Despite these numbers, the firm told the Detroit Free Press that retailers still projected the highest number of hiring announcements for any industry, with more than 248,000.

In September, the Washington Employment Security Department said retailers across the state are expected to add nearly 13,000 workers this fall in preparation for the busy Christmas holiday season, with about 600 of those jobs being in the Spokane metro area.

Amazon is hiring 120,000 seasonal workers across the country. Macy’s announced it would hire about 80,000 seasonal workers for positions in its stores, call centers, distribution centers and warehouses. And Target said it is hiring 100,000 seasonal positions for the holidays.

In August, J.C. Penney conducted a single-day hiring event for its back-to-school sales season. Codd said it was successful and pumped him up for the holiday hiring season. He expected to interview about 50 people Tuesday. For those who missed Tuesday’s hiring event, Codd said, he will talk with anyone who puts in an application at the NorthTown location.

Jacob Caputo, 18, arrived at NorthTown hiring event at 2 p.m.. Currently attending the NEWTECH Skill Center in north Spokane, he wants a job for after school. He said he’s been applying online for jobs but hasn’t landed many interviews, so he was excited to actually be able to talk to someone about the best way to get hired.

“I’m trying to learn the right way to apply for jobs,” Caputo said.