Six Flags job fair puts applicants in the spotlight

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 5, 2011; 6:16 PM

Ikea Hunter didn't know quite what to expect at her job interview Saturday, but she was relatively certain it wouldn't involve dancing with one of her prospective employer's managers.

Yet there she was at Six Flags America in Prince George's County, explaining to park services manager Justin Litton how to do "the 21st Century-style Bump."

"I go low, you go high," Hunter said.

"I got no rhythm," Litton said.

"That's okay," Hunter said - and she bumped hips with him as other job-seekers began a rhythmic clap.

Hunter went low.

Litton went off-beat.

Everybody laughed.

Then Hunter, a 16-year-old Washingtonian, was given a conditional job offer to work on the Six Flags admissions team this summer.

So it went at the Six Flags job fair, at which the park - one of the region's largest providers of summer jobs - sought to fill some of its 2,500 seasonal gigs.

In previous years, the job fairs were fairly traditional.

This year, not so much.

About 1,000 job seekers came in for group interviews and were given 60 seconds each to stand up in front of some of the park's managers and seasonal supervisors and do . . . something.

One woman did 20 pushups. A teenage girl moonwalked, then shrieked like Michael Jackson. A young man did jumping jacks. Somebody drew a picture. Somebody else belted a gospel song.

Malerie Matthews, a 16-year-old from Upper Marlboro, made up a poem:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

I want a job

How about you?

She was hired as a ride attendant.

"I thought they'd ask me some questions and give me a tour of the park, and then I'd go home," she said.

"It's a different interview style," said Brad McClain, a human resources supervisor. "But we're not your typical employer."

There were role-playing sessions during the interviews, too. But the 60-second showcases were key.

Went to a job fair and a talent show broke out!

"We're looking for the most engaging, outgoing people," said Julia Filz, the park's spokeswoman. "We want people who aren't shy. In this business, you can't be shy."

The company wanted engaging. It wanted outgoing.

It wanted people who are willing to do the Dougie on command.

"Who knows how to Dougie?" aquatics supervisor Olivia Lawson asked a group of applicants, referring to a dance that's popular with the kids. "Teach me how to Dougie."

Two giggling teenagers stepped forward. They herked and jerked. Lawson hooted.

Six Flags positions pay anywhere from minimum wage to $10 an hour. The bright green polo shirts that park employees wear are the opposite of cool. Working conditions can be brutal. (You try operating the Flying Carousel when it's 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity.)

And yet 25,000 people apply for the jobs at the park every year.

"A lot of people talk about wanting to work at Six Flags," said Davion Brandon, an 18-year-old from Landover. "People were talking about it all winter."

He applied to be a ride operator.

He, too, found himself doing the Dougie.

He got the job - one of about 400 people to leave with conditional job offers on Saturday.

"It's a relief for me," he said.

Herman Coleman also danced. He also got a job.

But Herman Coleman is 57 years old. Most of the applicants on Saturday were young enough to be his grandchildren. They Dougied; he did the Mashed Potato and the Cool Jerk.

"I won my first audition," he said.

There will be another Six Flags job fair on Saturday at Anne Arundel Community College. Dance shoes optional.

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