CHESTER-In tough economic times, nobody wants to gamble on a job.
That's why, on Wednesday, Melissa Wells, 34, of Lisbon, was among the dozens of job seekers checking out 100 part-time and full-time positions at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort.
Wells worked at Mountaineer two years ago, but transportation issues forced her to leave her housekeeping job. "They were really nice and understanding about the whole thing," she said.
Wells said she enjoyed the job, which involved cleaning and replenishing rooms in the Grande Hotel, and she's glad to have the chance to work there again. On Wednesday, she attended Mountaineer's annual job fair and interviewed with a hiring manager.
Wells said she hopes to get another housekeeping job. "I loved the hours, and I was able to stay busy," she said. "It worked out perfectly because I was able to be with my kids in the evening."
Mountaineer wants people to know that, despite the economic downturn and challenges to the gaming industry in West Virginia, the casino's employment outlook is strong, said Vince Azzarello, senior director of human resources at Mountaineer.
In a news release, the casino, which, like other racetrack casinos in West Virginia, faces increasing competition from bordering states, went so far as to call it a "hiring boom."
"We are fortunate to be surrounded by such great communities, and we are thrilled to announce that we are ... keeping jobs on the forefront," he said.
Most of the jobs are in the food and beverage departments, but there also are openings in gaming, including casino dealer, casino floor supervisor, casino pit manager, poker dealer and poker floor supervisor.
Gaming positions require extra training and a license from the West Virginia Lottery Commission, Azzarello said. All jobs at Mountaineer require a license from the West Virginia Racing Commission.
Mountaineer collaborates with West Virginia Northern Community College to develop a pool of qualified candidates. The college currently is offering an "Intro to Casino Gaming" class on-site, while a course for blackjack dealers is scheduled for April 29 to May 23.
Azzarello said the current hiring push is partly seasonal and partly to fill vacancies. "We're not expanding, but the good news is we're not reducing," he said. "We're always recruiting. We're always looking for good people who can help us take care of our guests."
Azzarello said the employment picture at Mountaineer has stabilized in the last few years, with the casino drawing from both West Virginia and Ohio. Among Hancock County's biggest employers, Mountaineer currently employs between 1,270 and 1,300 people, he said.
The ideal candidate is someone who, while possessing certain skills, also has a certain personality, Azzarello said. "We want fun, exciting people ... who are able to engage the customer. Our guests come with an expectation; they come here to have fun," he said.
"Little things" such as smiling, being welcoming and thanking customers also are important, he said.
As for wages, Azzarello said, "We like to think we're competitive." Some employees who start at minimum wage also have the opportunity to earn tips. What's more, part-time positions often can lead to full-time positions, he said.
"A lot of our dealers have transferred over from food and beverage, and housekeeping, once they became certified," he said. Employees are eligible for a transfer after six months.