Job seekers face long odds

The first day he ran a help wanted ad for a clerk job at his Algonquin liquor store, Peter Kalisz had nearly 30 people come in to EDA Liquors to apply in person.

At the newly reopened Algonquin Wal-Mart, there were between 100 and 200 applicants for each of the 130 jobs its renovation created.

Nearly 250 people have applied for a building and grounds manager position at Jacobs High School since the job was posted online June 10.

In McHenry County, where the unemployment rate rose to 10.5 percent in May from 9.8 percent in April, it’s definitely a hirer’s market. Those looking for a job are treading water in the deep end of the applicant pool.

“You have so many people applying for a given position that the employers can pick and choose,” said Jim Pacholski, business services representative for McHenry County Workforce Network.

Pacholski said he has heard of some job postings eliciting thousands of applicants.

The trend continues despite the education level that the job requires as local retailers, nursing homes and schools see a spike in applicants applying for limited positions.

Recently, McHenry County College saw more than three times the number of applicants compared with openings when hiring 15 new instructors.

“We are seeing across-the-board increases,” said Sandra Hess Moll, MCC director of employment services and recruitment. “For positions that are entry level to part-time, we see people applying who have a much higher skill level than the job requires.”

Local employers say they are happy to have a wider selection from which to hire, but wish it were under better circumstances.

“We don’t like to see people out of work, but we do like to see a lot of high-quality applicants,” said John Light, District 300’s director of human resources.

One special education position in the district recently netted nearly 390 applicants. When the economy was good, Light said, he wouldn’t have seen half that many.

Pacholski said he often counsels people who come into the McHenry County Workforce Network on how to keep their heads above water when they find themselves among the masses in the applicant pool.

“It’s emotionally frustrating, but you really have to stay positive,” Pacholski said.

He recommends starting with a good résumé and an individualized cover letter and lots of follow-up – calls, thank-you letters and maybe even another call.

“Keep your name in front of them,” he said. “It’s a matter of being there at the right time, but also a matter of being persistent and polite.”

The McHenry County Workforce Network offers a free resource room and presentations. For those who qualify, it also offers one-on-one counseling, career assessment assistance, and training for a new career in a growth occupation.

Many of the people Crystal Pines nursing home administrator Irene Glass is seeing apply for positions at her rehab and health center have switched fields to health care because of the growth in the industry.

“People are changing careers to health care because there is always a need for good people in health care,” she said.

But she also is getting a lot of those good people applying for jobs at Crystal Pines. She is getting a “wonderful response” to a recent help wanted ad for looking for nurses and nurses’ assistants.

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