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Job hopefuls bite on McDonald’s hiring day opportunity

Jose Echevarria spent 10 years selling and marketing condos, townhouses and single-family homes throughout Illinois before the bottom fell out in 2008. He has worked a few other jobs since, such as maintenance work. On Tuesday, he took his job search to the McDonald’s restaurant in Humboldt Park, joining more than 400 other job hopefuls.

The restaurant was one of 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants nationwide participating in the Oak Brook-based company’s first “National Hiring Day,” aimed at filling 50,000 jobs and convincing people that a “McJob” can lead to a rewarding career. About 800 jobs will be filled at the 450 McDonald’s restaurants throughout the Chicago area.

Applicants were given quick on-the-spot interviews Tuesday and were informed they would hear back within a week.

Echevarria, a 41-year-old father of three, has worked as a McDonald’s cashier in the past and said he hopes he would quickly move into a management job if hired this time.

“Wherever they need help, I am willing,” he said.

The Humboldt Park restaurant’s owner/operators John and Carmen DeCarrier, who started their careers as McDonald’s crew members, said they will hire eight to 10 people at that site, and 40 more at their nine other McDonald’s in Chicago. At Humboldt Park, 325 people applied, and another 100 people are expected to submit applications for later consideration. Their restaurant at Western and Armitage had 125 applicants, while the others averaged 50 to 75, said John DeCarrier.

“I was impressed by the applicants’ willingness, eagerness and ambition,” DeCarrier said. “Many have been looking for a job for a while.”

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the company won’t have the total number of applicants from the hiring event until next week.

Starting pay varies by location and an employee’s experience, but ranges from minimum wage for hourly employees to $50,000 yearly for salaried managers. Crew members get 401(k) retirement plans, one week’s paid vacation the first year and family and individual health care coverage, said Hilton Hall, a McDonald’s training consultant who helped interview applicants in Humboldt Park.

Hall recalled starting his career as a manager trainee 20 years ago at a McDonald’s in Wauconda, where the restaurant won a contest for sales, cleanliness, customer counts and other measures. As a result, he won an all-expense-paid, 10-day trip to Jamaica for himself and his wife.

Melissa Bilske, 30, of Humboldt Park, has been job searching since June, when she was laid off as a cleaning person at a downtown fitness club.

“I keep applying and applying, but I get no calls back,” said Bilske.

Sonia Delgado, 42, said she enjoyed her five years working at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in her native Puerto Rico when she was younger. “Every job is a door opening,” Delgado said. “If you love what you do, you can go anywhere.”

John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based jobs consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., said people without college degrees suffered more than their college-educated peers during the recession. The March unemployment rate for people with a high-school degree stood at 9.5 percent, and for those without a high-school degree at 13.7 percent, compared with the 8.8 percent nationwide rate, Challenger said.

Jobs such as those at McDonald’s are important to the community because they provide work for neighborhood residents and show that the economy is improving, he said.

In west suburban Crest Hill, Elsie Abrokwah, 23, and her brother, Daniel Abrokwah, 20, both of Joliet, applied for jobs. The two came to the United States from Ghana about three months ago to go to school; she wants to be a nurse, he wants to be an accountant.

Ghana does not have any McDonald’s, but the siblings knew about the fast-food restaurant from the Internet. They have been eating at the Crest Hill location since arriving in Joliet. Daniel likes the “fried potatoes” (french fries). Elsie is a hamburger fan.

“We came here to eat, that’s how we heard about McDonald’s hiring,” Elsie said. “We said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ ”

The Crest Hill restaurant’s manager, Dennis Rosenwinkel, said the site was looking to hire six to 10 part- and full-time workers.

Rosenwinkel has been with the company for 30 years. He started working as a cook at a Bolingbrook McDonald’s when he was in high school.

“It’s a good company, very stable,” he said. “And with the economy being the way it is, I still have a job. That’s the thing. Nowadays, if you’re with a company five years, you’re lucky.”

Contributing: Joliet Herald News

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