Today is McDonald's National Hiring Day, a move to sign up 50,000 employees, many for its 2,600 franchises across the country. The young and old, the curious and desperate applied online and in person for crew, management, and support positions -- answering a 35-question assessment test.
It's the hamburger chain's biggest push for new hires, with reports around the country of packed McDonald's restaurants. The recruiting campaign comes at a time when the American economy is at long last generating new jobs after a nearly three-year slowdown.
George Dys, 61, said he applied for a manager position online after his local McDonald's in Rhode Island had run out of paper applications. He said the online application took about 20 minutes, with 15 minutes for the assessment questions.
"I'm just hoping for the best now," said Dys, who has been looking for a permanent slot since being laid off in 2008 while working at various contract jobs in between.
Dys said he has taken several similar assessment tests, such as for sales jobs with Verizon and AT&T.
One question, obtained from McDonald's career website, asked: While you are working, you overhear a pair of coworkers on break. The two are talking about another team member because she works too slowly. What would you be MOST likely to do?
-Tell the team member that others are talking about her and she should work faster.
-Keep working on my own tasks and say nothing to the coworkers.
-Suggest that the coworkers directly talk with the person who works too slowly.
-Tell the coworkers not to complain about another team member.
-Suggest that the coworkers talk about their concerns with the supervisor.
While most job hunters may get nervous at the possibility of being critiqued, the questions are for the benefit of both applicant and employer, said Rob Amrine of the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department.
Amrine said there were at least four clients from his organization applying to McDonald's as part of its hiring day. The organization has about 900 clients, concentrated in the Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand areas of South Carolina.
Amrine said more service or sales jobs at other companies have been asking similar questions in the past three years. The purpose is to find if the job is a good match with an applicant, if an employee works better with customers or in the kitchen area. Making the right fit reduces employee turnover, he said.
"It's not unusual and it's actually a good thing for the applicant so there is a tendency for the best match possible," said Amrine, calling it a "positive improvement in the industry."
Amrine said the tests vary, with some employers asking only five questions. Amrine, whose organization works with persons with disabilities, said it can be difficult to find the correct job match.
"It's all about a career, not necessarily just a job," Amrine said. "I try to work with a McDonald's franchise owner and typically the franchise owner has multiple McDonald's restaurants."
Amrine's organization has its own assessment methods through its Skilled Workforce Apprentice Training, or SWAT, program. There is additional training, job shadowing, or help with a physical device if a client has a physical disability.
"We do a lot of listening and evaluating with the client to create an individual employment plan," Amrine said.
John Pfeiffer, executive director of the Inspiration Corporation which helps those affected by poverty, said his organization copied McDonald's career development model for their "Inspiration University."
Pfeiffer said he was "delighted" to hear about McDonald's National Hiring Day. Just 25 miles away from McDonald's Corporation headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., Inspiration Corporation is based in Chicago. The unemployment rate in the Windy City is about 9.4 percent, according to the Illinois Employment Security Department's figure for January. The national unemployment rate is 8.8 percent.
Pfeiffer said communities in the surrounding areas, including around Garfield Park, may have an unofficial unemployment rate as high as 20 to 30 percent, including people who have dropped out of searching for employment. Many of the people the Inspiration Corporation works with also face multiple barriers to finding a job, including homelessness, incarceration or lack of skills, according to Pfeiffer.
"An entry level job is a way into the labor market," Pfeiffer said. "For us, the first step is a very important step. For many people, the first barrier can feel insurmountable. We could break that cycle."