Hundreds of workers line up to compete for call center jobs

Springfield, Mo. -- Twenty eight jobs might seem like a lot until you realize you're just one applicant in a line of 300 others.  Job candidates faced multiple rounds of questioning for a chance to work full-time at an Expedia call center in Springfield.

"It could set me up for a future.  It could really set me up for a future," said 22-year-old Michael Hortsman.

Hortsman was eager to stand out from the crowd at the career event at the Hilton Garden Inn Tuesday.  He billed himself as a skilled salesman for Expedia's incoming call center.

"I've always kind of liked the sales end of everything.  I feel like I can sell whatever I want to, and I make my own paycheck," he said.

The positions all these candidates are vying for pay $10.50 per hour with a chance to make more based on commissions.  But for people like Amanda Houtz, a mom of two, it's more about the benefits.

"Mhusband is a mechanic.  He doesn't have insurance.  If he gets hurt, he's out of work.  So this is just imperative that my family has this," Houtz said.

Houtz is the mother of a 2-year-old daughter and five-month-old son who spent the first few weeks of his life in the intensive care unit of the hospital.  The experience was difficult for the young family and resulted in unexpected medical bills.

"We kind of had to play a lot of catch up on our mortgage and our bills," Houtz said.

By the numbers, Greene County has lower unemployment than a lot of places.  In Springfield and the surrounding area, the unemployment rate stands at 6.1 percent.  It's 6.7 for Missouri as a whole and even higher nationwide.  Those numbers don't take in account the underemployed or those who have given up the job search all together.

"I'm fairly personable, or at least I like to think I am. I don't get upset that easily, so I think I could be a right fit to help people," Houtz said.

Job candidates like Houtz and  faced multiple rounds of interviews Tuesday.  All of them were eager for a chance to build a better future for themselves and their families.

"I want to make something I can have a career in, and I feel like I need a change to make a good career," Hortsman said.

Both Houtz and Hortsman made it through two rounds of interviews Tuesday.  Expedia launched its call center in Springfield in 2010 with 240 positions.  They now  employ more than 900 people in Springfield alone.