Nordstrom is looking for a few nice people. REALLY nice people. People so warm and friendly that you will desperately want to buy something from them.
The Seattle-based department store chain, widely celebrated for its attentive and almost too-cheerful service, will open its first Baltimore-area store at Towson Town Center Sept. 11. This weekend, it begins the process of hiring some 500 to 600 wonderful "people people" by placing ads in several local publications.
With unemployment in the state at 6.7 percent, Nordstrom is expecting applications to at least match the 3,000 received when the chain opened its first Maryland store at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda last year, said Tonya Young, manager of the Towson Town store.
The ad will tell job-seekers that they can receive applications by mail or that they can pick them up starting Wednesday at the Sheraton Towson Hotel, where Nordstrom is to begin conducting interviews the following week, or at the new Nordstrom Espresso Bar, which is to open that day on the first level of Towson Town.
Christopher Schardt, manager of Towson Town Center, is expecting a crowd. "We've been getting inquiries on hiring for Nordstrom for almost two years now," he said.
Ms. Young said Nordstrom would be looking for "really positive people" who will look you straight in the eye and flash a winning smile. Experience in retailing is not required, she said.
"The common denominator is that they're happy people, that they're people who really enjoy working with the public," said Ms. Young.
Applicants at the Towson Town store will be competing for jobs as salespeople, merchandise handlers, security guards and cleaning workers. Nordstrom will not be hiring buyers or managers, because it has a policy of promoting from within.
"Everyone will start on the floor," said Ms. Young, who added that the best people hired could be put on a fast track toward assistant-manager positions that are to be filled by Christmas.
Hiring is serious business at Nordstrom, where employees will have to buy into the company's almost-religious tradition of catering to the customer. "That's a mantle they have to bear," Ms. Young said.
The store manager said applicants would be hired after a "rigorous process" that would include two, maybe three, interviews.
Salaries start at $5.25 an hour for some of the cleaning positions. For salespeople, salaries vary by department and earnings depend largely on commissions. The company provides health insurance, a 401(k) retirement plan and a profit-sharing retirement plan, she said.
Nordstrom's employee requirements have created some controversy for the company. In Seattle, union representatives accused Nordstrom several years ago of violating wage-and-hour laws by pressuring employees to work "off the clock" writing thank-you letters to customers.
A civil suit on those charges is pending in Washington state courts. Betsy Rosenman, a Nordstrom attorney in Seattle, said the company was "aggressively fighting this claim," although she added that "I can't say to you that in every single instance that it's not true."