Newcomers looking for their big break into the Saint John workforce called on Sears on Wednesday, the first day of the company's job fair for a call centre opening in the spring.
Some newcomers who applied for jobs said they'd been looking for work in Saint John for months, without success.
"I'm crossing my fingers, hoping everything will be OK," said Merav Yakir, who delivered her resumé Wednesday.
Yakir said she's been in Canada for 10 months and for almost half that time, she's looked for employment.
"It's hard," she said. "Especially if you're a newcomer."
Khuram Shazhad and his wife, Nabeela Iram, told a similar story about the challenges they faced. They said they've been looking for jobs for seven months and haven't landed anything.
"If you don't have a job, you can't survive," said Shazhad. "Nobody is going to pay your bills."
Iram said she doesn't speak French but can speak Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi.
And she hopes that's an asset to a service centre that will be serving a multicultural customer base.
Statistics Canada says the country's South Asian population is growing considerably faster than the overall population.
The vast majority of that group is of East Indian descent.
'We need a lot of people'
Sears Canada said its hiring staff made contact with 163 people on the first day of the job fair.
Some were interviewed Wednesday while others left after dropping off their resumés, hoping to be called back.
"We need a lot of people," said Vincent Power, Sears's vice-president of corporate affairs and communications.
The centre is to open in the spring and Sears aims to have 350 people trained and ready to go.
Sears said about 25 per cent of its call volume will be handled in French. Most of those francophone calls will be directed to Edmundston, where another call centre will open with 180 workers.
Although Sears hopes to have some bilingual workers in Saint John, the language is not required for everyone.
"All are welcome," said Power.
People dropping off resumés in the late afternoon said they expected the jobs to pay about $14 an hour.
Iram, Shazhad and Yakir said the lineup Wednesday morning was impressive, extending about 30 metres from one side of the mall to the Tim Hortons outlet at the other.
One man left the site, saying he had already been hired but he declined to be interviewed.
Iram said at this point in her job search, she's not being picky.
"At this point, any kind of job," she said. "Like, I can do anything."
The hiring centre inside Loch Lomond Mall in east Saint John will be open again Thursday from noon until 5 p.m.