The Associated Press
LOUDON, N.H. (AP) - Job interviews as quick as a pit stop replaced the usual blur of race cars at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Thursday when thousands of people turned out for a job fair.
Garages on the track's infield were packed with representatives from more than 170 companies, agencies and organizations. Some job seekers hunched over mechanics' benches to fill out applications, while others used gas pumps outside as makeshift desks.
In the middle of the 1.058-mile oval where NASCAR drivers regularly exceed 100 mph, Rebecca Grey described the much longer, slower route she took to the track after being laid off from a machine operator job in March.
After selling everything she owned and driving to Texas to start a new life, she ended up back in New Hampshire and unemployed when her housing plans fell through. Though the crowds made it hard to spend much time at any one booth, Grey said she appreciated the face-to-face contact because so many companies only accept online applications.
"Online you can't display your personality," said Grey, 36, of Hudson. "It makes you feel inadequate or invisible."
New Hampshire's unemployment rate was 6.8 percent for July, lower than the national jobless rate of 9.4 percent.
In April, more than 10,000 job seekers overwhelmed a similar event in Manchester, forcing organizers to cut off admission after just two hours. But that wasn't a problem at the speedway, which has a crowd capacity of 100,000. Several thousand people had arrived by noon Thursday and were efficiently directed into multiple parking lots and delivered by shuttle buses to the infield.
With Miss New Hampshire strolling around in her tiara and vendors selling fried dough and other treats, the atmosphere at times was more county fair than job fair. Butthere were plenty of business suits and briefcases as well.
Workshops were offered on interviewing skills, networking and other topics. Workers from the job posting and live interview Web site InovaHire.com helped job applicants improve and upload their resumes. By midmorning, Eric Schifone of InovaHire said he had helped people from all kinds of industries, from accountants to welders.
The most common problem, he said, was a jobseeker's failure to highlight specific skills.
"How is an employer supposed to know if you don't put it down?" he said.
Matt Williams and his wife, April, of Concord, both were looking for work. He was fired from a chemical company four months ago; she was laid off last week from her job as a residential counselor. Both said they are contemplating career switches.
"When your age catches up to you, it's hard to find a job," said Matt Williams, 47.
April Williams, 44, said she'd like to get into a computer field. She said the job fair was a good idea but a bit overwhelming.
"It's rush-in, rush-out. Shake hands and go onto the next person," she said. "I don't think employers can get a real feel for a person."
But Janice Pease of Winnisquam said she felt like she had made progress. Also half of an unemployed couple, she's been out of work for six months since the used car company she worked for went out of business. Her husband was laid off from a car dealership.
Pease, who declined to reveal her age, said she's been taking computer courses, recently earned an insurance license and is looking for an inside sales or administrative assistant position. She and her husband were fortunate to have had good careers and savings to carry them through this time.
"There's a lot of desperate people here," she said.
The job fair was sponsored by WMUR-TV, the speedwayand the state.