Dr. Hal Butler wants to hire a receptionist for his Hagerstown dental practice. Thus far, more than 200 people have applied.
John Kelly wants to hire five new workers for his Mount Airy, Md., sign company. He’s got stacks of applications — some from people who, he said, are far overqualified.
“It’s heartbreaking, really,” Kelly said. “I’ve worked in large companies myself. Some of the resumes we’re getting are people who should be in companies like that. But these people just need a job.”
So it is in an economy where new job opportunities still are scarce and unemployment rates remain higher than before the recession.
Even now, however, some jobs are going begging.
For instance, Leroy Rassa still is looking for a repair technician he wants to hire for his Martinsburg, W.Va., company.
He sweetened the wage and benefits package with fully paid health insurance and a sign-on bonus, but “I’ve seen probably less than a handful” of applicants, Rassa said.
And, except for one applicant who lived too far away and another who wanted a higher metro-area wage, “most of them aren’t qualified,” Rassa said. “They’re people looking for work. People are just looking to find anything they can.”
The Herald-Mail talked to officials at eight of the companies that have run advertisements in its Help Wanted classified ads section this past week.
All are offering jobs that will be full time — an employment plum increasingly hard to find after a recession in which many firms nationwide cut their work forces and then, cut costs in another way by making any new jobs part time, with fewer benefits.
Many applicants, one job
MEC Inc., an electrical contracting and service company based in Hagerstown, has seen “absolutely no recovery” in the area economy, said Greg Mills, vice president and director of business development.
But right now, it needs an administrative assistant/customer service dispatcher to replace a worker who left for a job elsewhere, Mills said.
Thus far, its “help wanted” ad has drawn a “very large number” — more than 100 applications, he said. “We’re seeing some very talented” applicants, he said.
MEC has more than 30 employees.
Before the recession began in 2007, companies commonly posted a “help wanted” ad as soon as an employee gave notice. But many employers have said that after the recession began, the question was whether they could get by without hiring someone else.
Mills said he’s had to consider that, too. “That’s a tragedy to have to distribute work” among your other employees, asking each to do more, he said.
“Our industry has seen very, very little (economic) improvement, if anything,” Mills said. “... For the most part, the construction industry, especially commercial construction, is still doing very, very bad. Dismal.”
Of all of the kinds of work that MEC does, one “is still very vibrant,” business-wise, he said. The work of servicing electrical equipment at commercial, industrial and residential facilities has been strong the past two years, he said.
As to business in 2013, Mills said his opinion is “cautiously optimistic, but pretty slow start.”
Many applicants, three jobs
Greenlawn Cemetery, Rider Jet Center and Schurz Inc. have received many applications for the full-time jobs they’ve been advertising.
Response has been good for the customer service representative job he’s offering, said David Rider, owner of the jet center. With about 15 employees, it maintains aircraft and provides several other services at Hagerstown Regional Airport.
The new worker will replace one who is leaving, Rider said.
He said the jet center, which he has owned for more than 10 years, is planning to expand — despite the economy.
“We’re looking to expand so that we can survive, not because the business is there, but if we don’t do something, we’re just going to wither away,” he said.
“Quite frankly, there isn’t anything that gives me any warm fuzzy feelings about this economy right now,” Rider said.
The nation’s debt ceiling and the seeming inability of Congress to agree what to do about the mounting debt is creating a lot of uncertainty for business, he said.
Meantime, at Greenlawn Cemetery in Williamsport, co-owner Greg Snook wants to hire a relief driver who also would do cemetery maintenance to replace an employee who’s going back to school, Snook said.
He’s received “probably about 75 applications to date,” he said.
The cemetery business is steady year after year, but the recession seems to have caused more people to consider cremation, which is cheaper than traditional burial, Snook said.
And then, in terms of employment offers, there’s one from Schurz Communications Inc.
Schurz, which owns 27 media companies including Herald-Mail Media, is looking to hire a Web application developer to develop and maintain software, said Dave Elliott, recruitment manager for Schurz.
Elliott said the full-time job is a corporate position, though the person hired will be based at the Hagerstown offices of Antietam Cable, which is another Schurz property. Someone else held the position previously, he said.
Thus far, applications have been “coming in pretty steadily. It’s been good. We’ve done extensive outreach on that,” he said.
In addition to the newspaper ad, the job has been “heavily advertised on professional tech websites. We’ve reached out to pretty much every local college that has an IT (Information Technologies) major,” he said.
Many responses, one job
Robinwood Dental Center ran pretty much its regular-size “help-wanted” ad this past week, but the response has been anything but regular-size, Dr. Butler said.
The office has received more than 200 applications for the full-time dental receptionist position that Butler wants to hire to replace an employee who left.
In the past two or three years, “when we’ve put ads in the paper, I mean, we’ve gotten a few responses, maybe half-a-dozen. But this time was so many responses, we couldn’t get back to them all,” he said.
Several applicants have said they’ve been looking for work for a year, said a woman who works at the dental center, but asked not to be identified.
“I didn’t have any clue that there were that many people out there wanting to work as receptionists,” she said. Some applicants “seem to be very qualified to do work beyond what we’re requiring,” she said.
Butler said some applicants have “removed themselves when they find out what the pay is. They want a higher amount. This is a common problem in this area because so many people commute to Frederick County and Montgomery County,” where the wages are commonly higher.
“When you tell them, ‘I’m sorry you don’t make this kind of wages in this area,’ they’re not happy,” he said.
Few applicants, one job
Rassa, the owner of Commercial Services in Martinsburg, has heard the same sorts of objection to area wages.
The company, which has been in business for nearly 20 years, does service, repair, installation and maintenance work on refrigeration, heating and air conditioning, and restaurant equipment.
He wants to hire a full-time repair technician, giving the company a total of eight employees, counting Rassa.
In addition to a sign-on bonus and health insurance, Rassa is offering paid training and a “competitive wage and benefits package” that includes a retirement plan, up to three weeks’ vacation, and paid holiday and sick time.
But few people have applied.
Asked how much the job pays, Rassa said it depends on the person’s level of experience. In general, the pay range for this position is “$18 to mid-$20s per hour,” he said.
Trying to find a new employee has been just part of the problem.
The other part was trying to decide whether to replace both of the employees who gave notice recently that they are leaving. With the economy still slow, Rassa said he decided to advertise just one opening.
“I’m going to replace the two (who are leaving) with just one person — if I can find somebody qualified,” he said. “And if I can’t, I guess I’m just doing more hours myself.”
Seeking more applicants
Another company feeling hard-put to find new employees is Charles W. Karper Inc.
The trucking company, which is based in Chambersburg, Pa., and has a terminal in Winchester, Va., has been advertising for people who own tractor-trailer rigs to pull its flat-bed trailers throughout the region.
The advertisement, which says drivers will be “home every night” and receive “top pay with full fuel surcharge,” has drawn “quite a few phone calls, (but) I’m not getting as many as I would like,” Karper President Tom Smith said.
The company has about 50 employees, including independent contractors, he said. In business since 1929, Karper mostly hauls building materials, such as blocks and steel beams, for manufacturers, he said.
Smith said the economy “wasn’t very good” last year, but is shaping up better thus far for 2013.
“I started seeing some of my main customers getting a nice backlog of work maybe five months ago,” he said.
Seeking five employees
Normally, Kelly might have had a tough time getting people not only interested in the new jobs he’s offering at DMS Signs, but qualified, too.
The economy — and a new strategy — has helped to change that.
“The sign industry is a fairly specific industry,” Kelly said. “You have highly technical technicians who make signs. Every once in a while, a sign company goes out of business and those employees become available.”
So after some lean years in the recession, Kelly and his wife, Maura, hired a business development specialist to contact potential new customers for the sign design, installation and service work DMS does. That led to a “very strong” 2012 and a good start this year, Kelly said.
Now, the couple, who bought the business in 2007, has decided to add five full-time employees to the 18 they have now, John Kelly said.
The Kellys want to hire two experienced sign installers who, their help wanted ad says, would “work up to heights of 100 feet in a bucket platform.” In addition, they want to hire a shop apprentice with experience using small power tools. And they need two sign fabricators, experienced in working with plastic and metal, trim capping and vinyl application.
“I have been inundated in a good way with applicants,” John Kelly said.
Several of them are students at area technical schools that he contacted after learning of the work-study programs they offer. Hiring such students could encourage “new talent in the industry, a constant stream” and lead to employment full time for the new understudies, he said.
Besides those from students, applications have come from “people who are probably overqualified. For instance, for our shop apprentice, we’ve gotten applications from people who managed major business complexes and supervised, say, a crew of 15 people,” Kelly said.
“We’re not the right fit” for people with such lofty credentials “because you want people who will stay” even after the economy improves, he said.
But, he said, he has received applications from people who are “service technicians for electrical companies. That is a better fit. I think we’ve got some candidates there.
“And we’ve gotten a fair number of high school kids who had some experience and just want a job and who are willing to work hard. That’s the type we’re interested in for some of these entry-level positions.”