In one of the roughest job markets in memory, fast-food positions are proving attractive for job seekers of all ages. • Once a workplace ceded largely to teens and part-time workers, fast food is attracting older people with experience, education and marketable skills.
K'wan Banks, 35, went through three rounds of interviews to land a job at a metro Atlanta McDonald's. The Everest College graduate has a commercial driver's license and work experience with Avis car rentals. Getting a job at McDonald's, where she is now in training to be a manager, was tougher than she expected.
"I didn't think McDonald's was that serious," she said.
Restaurant owners can afford to be picky as the competition for every opening gets tougher.
Keith Lollis, who operates three McDonald's restaurants around Atlanta, said his establishments were begging for workers not long ago. Job applicants used to arrive dressed in jeans; he now sees more men in suits and ties or khaki pants and oxford shirts. Women come in dresses. Perhaps one in 10 applicants has a college education, up from one in 30 or 40 less than a year ago.
The restaurant industry is the country's second-largest private employer, behind health care. Of the industry's workers, 42 percent are age 24 or younger, and upward mobility is a big draw. More than 90 percent of salaried employees started out hourly, according to industry statistics.
Before the recession, Aziz Hashim's restaurants had trouble finding enough workers. A lot of young people weren't interested in fast-food jobs. They are interested now, said Hashim, chief executive of National Restaurant Development
"If we open up even a very modest job opening, it would not be unusual for us to get 50 or 100 applications," said Hashim, who has restaurants in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Jacksonville and Orlando.
"There are lots of people who want these jobs, need them and would love to have them," said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based Challenger Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm.