City of Winston-Salem job fair

Job candidate Stephen Pierce demonstrates his knowledge of a backhoe to utilities department equipment operator Willy Edmondson during a City of Winston-Salem job fair Wednesday at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. Candidates were asked to demonstrate their skills with equipment including a dump truck with a trailer, a backhoe, a mini-excavator and a skid-steer.

Moving bricks with a backhoe or navigating a snow plow isn’t part of most job interviews.

But for many of the roughly 400 applicants at the City of Winston-Salem’s career expo, it was their chance to shine.

“It takes a certain skill set, so this allows us to assess the dexterity of the individuals,” said Randy Britton, senior community educator for the city. “Our assessors grade them based on a checklist and we’re able to tell who’s good and who’s not so good.”

At Wednesday’s career expo, applicants vied to fill the 80 vacancies in four city departments: vegetation management, utilities, traffic field operations and sanitation.

Some were looking for entry level jobs, while others were seeking advancement in their existing careers with the city.

Applicant Mark Tysor said he accepted a job as a medium operator — where he operates equipment, like backhoes, salt trucks and snow plows — at the last career expo and was looking for a new challenge.

“I’ve learned more, come back better and I’m ready to move up,” said Tysor, who was hoping to get hired in the sanitation department as a dump truck driver. “It’s better pay and different hours.”

Each of the jobs boasted different perks — like four-day work weeks in sanitation and work days that end at 2:30 p.m. in vegetation management.

While jobs were not offered on the spot, standout candidates will be pursued after the initial interviews, following drug screenings and background checks, Britton said.

“I think our benefits are a strong point. We offer a 401(k), a 401(a), a pension plan,” said Saroya Royston, a human resources analyst. “You can go work for a construction company off the street, but nobody beats our benefits.”

The hundreds of applicants had the chance to interview with a panel of four hiring managers — one from each of the hiring departments — at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Education Building throughout the day Wednesday.

Based on the applicants’ preferences and the managers’ assessment of their experience and skills, a decision is made to determine which, if any, the applicants would be a good fit for, Britton said.

Following the interviews, those applicants with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) had the chance to demonstrate their skills on some of the 12 pieces of heavy equipment on-site, which included a dump truck with a trailer, a mini-excavator and a skid-steer.

“We look at their ability to read gauges, understand the hydraulics, operating skill. They’re real targeted assessments,” Britton said. “They all say, ‘I’ve done that before’ so we say, ‘OK, show us.’”

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