A collection of local Housing and Urban Development recruiters spent their Saturday behind the old wooden desks of a Latino community center here this weekend, helping demystify civil service hiring for people in search of a job.

They had positions to offer - Special Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Housing, for example; or civil engineer in the Federal Insurance Administration. The recruiters conducted interviews for those positions, gave strategic advice on filling out federal job applications, and in both English and Spanish, urged Hispanics to consider working at HUD.

"It's really kind of an outreach program," explained Cecilia Bankins, who is heading a HUD recruitment effort that began in June. Officials at HUD's Washington headquarters want to strengthen its affirmative action program. Bankins said, by hiring more blacks and women in high level positions and more Hispanics at every level of employment.

"The big push is for Hispanics," said Patricia Chavez, a staffing assistant on the special task force conducting the program. Of more than 4,000 in the Washington offices, only about 50 are Hispanics, and that is a figure HUD officials say, that badly needs improvement.

So yesterday's workshop, held at the Latino-oriented Centro Wilson on Irving Street NW, was billed as a "job fair," and timed to coincide with National Hispanic Heritage Week, which begins today. The week's opening ceremonies are at noon today at the HUD building. On Tuesday, another job fair will be conducted in Room 2135 of HUD. This second day will feature similar workshops and interviews, but representatives from other federal agencies will participate as well.

Since the recruitment effort began, HUD headquarters has hired 16 Hispanies. Bankins said, for positions ranging from secretary to computer specialist. Some of them learned of the available jobs when recruiters visited the Southwest, seeking out applicants; others were contacted by community agencies, which have received weekly job announcements from HUD.