BRADENTON -- The Manatee County Public Library System brought job applications out of the computer screen and into real life Monday afternoon.
More than two dozen area companies and organizations -- including Bright House Networks, Manatee County Sheriff's Office and Manatee County Government -- spoke to job applicants to fill full- and part-time positions. The fair ran from 2 to 4 p.m. at the library's central branch, and more than 400 job seekers attended.
Most 21st-century job applicants are used to filling out applications online. Ericka Dow, information services supervisor at the central branch, said job seekers make up much of the population who use the library's extended-use computers.
But job fairs like the one on Monday help bring a personable touch to the hiring process.
"I feel like I have accomplished more here in one afternoon than I have in one month on the computer sending in job applications," said Gail Schenck. "It's more personable and they can see if you're energetic, outgoing, and professional and if you're a right fit for the company."
Most organizations and businesses recruited at Monday's fair because they knew it would attract talent from the geographic pool they seek to hire.
"We're always hiring in this area, and there's a big candidate pool here and sometimes we miss it," said Christian Gardner, recruiter for Bright House. The telecommunications company, recently merged with Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, is hiring for up to 100 positions in its call center
on State Road 64 as well as other positions in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
"We try to stay local," said Kathleen Ritchie, human resources services specialist for Manatee County. "We have gone over the bridge before and don't see as much response because of gas prices, among other things."
Others need to recruit and hire for Florida's upcoming busy tourist season. Chance Anderson, store manager of the Manatee Avenue Fresh Market, said he hopes to hire up to 12 more entry-level clerks before the season begins.
Mary Murray, store manager of the Lakewood Ranch Fresh Market, was looking to hire up to 30 entry-level positions on Monday.
"Her location is always busier than mine," Anderson said.
Several employment agencies attended the fair to place applicants in a variety of industries, from manufacturing and welding to administrative and clerical work.
"We volunteer to come to job fairs so we can find talent to use with a variety of our customers," said Nicole Eckrote, recruiter for Kelly Services.
Other organizations, such as Goodwill Manasota and Whole Child Manatee, were on site to help applicants with latent parts of the employment process such as finding child care, accessing employment-related state services and refining resumes.
"A lot of the Florida KidCare application can be confusing," said Kim Ross, adviser for Whole Child Manatee. Florida KidCare is a state-sponsored healthcare program for children ages 18 and under. "We have intensive knowledge of the process to assure families can get what they need. It's not always an income need."
Job fairs help agencies like Whole Child Manatee "reach out to populations we otherwise don't have access to," she said.
Kathleen Goeller, career development facilitator for Goodwill Manasota, spent the afternoon helping applicants update resumes and use the correct vernacular for the jobs they seek.
"The biggest problem we see is dialogue," Goeller said. "They're not identifying the job description that they're applying for. The other issue we see is formatting and layout."
Assuring applicants don't misspell words on resumes is essential -- not just because of credibility issues, Goeller said, but because employers often use electronic filtering systems with online applications. If a word is misspelled, the resume may get sent to an "unqualified" folder before it's seen by human eyes.
Karl Zahradka was excited about Monday's job fair because he didn't have to travel far from his downtown Bradenton home to continue his search for a management position. He recently attended a Keiser University job fair.
"I come to the library often to use the computer for job-searching," Zahradka said. "I'm glad to see different vendors here than at the Keiser job fair. I was afraid they would all be the same."
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter@jayohday.