By Ryan Cornell
The parking lot of Lord Fairfax Community College filled with cars; it looked like a theatrical performance or maybe a competitive sports event was taking place. In a way, you could say there was a little bit of both on display at the Navy Federal Credit Union's job fair held Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m.
The credit union, which was hiring more than 100 people to partly fill 400 positions -- Vice President of Winchester Contact Center Operations Susan Brooks said the remaining spots will be filled over the next five years -- for its new contact center in Winchester, was expecting to interview approximately 300 to 400 people.
Brooks said they were looking to hire people who have a service background and are looking for a long-term career. Depending on the length of the applicants' answers, she said the average interviews were lasting between 15 and 20 minutes. She declined to comment on the salary.
One applicant with a service background, Johnny Kent, had experience working in restaurants. Kent graduated from George Mason University in December with a degree in criminal justice and said he had been out of work for the past four weeks.
Nate, who preferred not to give his last name, had scheduled his interview in advance and was waiting outside the building. He said he currently works at a job that is a five-minute walk from his home in Winchester, but viewed the job at Navy Federal as an opportunity to move up.
"I have years of customer service and prior military experience," he said. "So working with that combination should be a good translation."
The fair comes at a time when Virginia's unemployment rate continues to fall. The Associated Press reported in May that the state's jobless rate fell to 5.2 percent in April, the lowest since November 2008 and a 0.7 percent decrease from last year. Compared to the national average of 7.5 percent, Virginia's unemployment is the second-lowest of any state east of the Mississippi River.
Two applicants, Rhonda Brown and Elizabeth Nicholas, sat on a bench outside waiting up to an hour for their interviews.
Nicholas said she liked the way the credit union was run from her own experiences as a customer. Although retired, she said she was looking for part-time work to pay for some upgrades to her house.
Brown, a Front Royal resident who works at BEE L.C. in Winchester, said she had heard the credit union has a lot of career opportunities.
"I worked in Langley for years," Brown said. "I'll never do that again. It's too long of a drive."
Indeed, it's shorter than commuting the 70 miles from Winchester to Washington, D.C. Or, as the DCist reported in May, one computer programmer who wakes up at 3 a.m. to commute from Harrington, Del. to Rosslyn by car, bus and Metro.
"He's insane," said Nicholas. "You'll age or they'll kill you on the road. One of the two."
Brown added, "I wouldn't be able to walk when I got home."
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org