ATLANTIC CITY — During Tuesday’s first hiring event for the coming Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, a human resources team member got a microphone and welcomed the room of applicants.
“You are the future. You are our rock stars,” he said to a room full of job hopefuls.
Then the room erupted in applause and cheers. This was not a typical job fair — but it was for the Hard Rock brand.
To fill the more than 3,000 job openings for the casino and hotel expected to open this summer, Hard Rock welcomed interested applicants to the floor of Showboat Hotel Atlantic City Tuesday and Wednesday for the first round.
The career events Tuesday and Wednesday were targeted specifically toward former Trump Taj Mahal employees, who had been employed at least 30 days before the property closed in October 2016.
The company sent out 1,600 letters and emails to people who formerly worked there, and 1,400 responded to schedule a time slot to come in over these two days, said Matt Harkness, president of Hard Rock’s Atlantic City property.
For Edwin Santiago, 47, of Brigantine, his experience during the career event was also like a reunion.
He worked at Taj for 25 years and reminisced about his time there. He remembered the closing of the building, shaking hands with people he had worked with for years and some people crying. He did that at the career event, too — ran into people he used to work with, shaking hands to reconnect.
“When they closed the Taj Mahal, I felt a little bit depressed. This was my home, and I got used to it,” he said. “Everybody was there and it was like a big family. Everybody was sad when we left.“
Now, he wants to come and join a new family.
The hiring process for Hard Rock across several properties is all about the experience, and to gauge the personalities of those who want to be part of it, employees said. The applicants apply to become “rock stars,” and instead of entering an interview room, they enter a “recording studio,” to which they’re escorted by a “producer.”
The employees all wore T-shirts that read, “I am with the band.”
On Tuesday, the event included group interviews with about 15 to 20 people chatting with three facilitators about their approach to guest services and their personalities. After deliberation, the three decide who will advance.
Those who advanced the first round were then handed a slip that reads: “We’d like to book a second show.”
During the second round, the applicants apply to the specific job desired and schedule a one-on-one interview.
“We’re looking for people who have a personality that the guests are going to find appealing in terms of being able to work with them on their needs,” Harkness said, “somebody that’s going to amplify the experience of the guests.”
More career events will be held later in the year that will be open to all applicants, who will go through a similar application process.
Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International worldwide headquarters, said the most important part of the Hard Rock experience is the people who serve the guests. Hard Rock thought former Taj employees would be able to bring the background necessary to do the job.
“We feel like they bring lots of property knowledge, and certainly understand how the property operates,” Lucas said.
Nancy Negron, 48, of Egg Harbor Township, worked at Taj for about 16 years. The property closed right after she had just bought a house, she said. “It was very sad when they closed,” Negron said. “But I picked myself back up.”
When Negron, who currently works at Showboat, heard Hard Rock was coming to the city, she decided to apply when she heard about the opportunity.
She says she’s now ready to be a rock star.
“Hard Rock has a huge reputation worldwide,” she said. “It’s going to be the happening thing in Atlantic City.”