Expectations at the Hewlett-Packard career fair were exceeded by far, according to an organizer.

HP held the event Monday at Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas in an effort to fill jobs at its new Conway site. The company announced in June 2008 it would locate a state-of-the-art customer service and technical support center in Conway with 1,200 employees. T.J. Johnston of the Conway Development Corporation told a group touring the facility last week that the facility is being built for 1,436 workers.

Shannon Marnitz, HP Central Arkansas site director, said, "In order to fill 1,200 jobs, you have to do a lot of interviewing."

The event was set up as a prescreening for applicants, she said. HP managers talked to applicants about five minutes to get an idea if they were a good fit.

Marnitz said last week HP was planning the event for about 1,000 people.

"It is far beyond our expectations," she said about 1:30 p.m. Monday. "We are very pleased with the turnout as well as the candidate pool. They were lining up before we opened. It’s been a constant stream all day. We’ve had well over 1,000 already."

She said the types of candidates seen had been "a huge mix."

Marnitz continued, "We’ve been absolutely thrilled with what we’ve seen. The candidates have been so quality. It makes it hard to draw the line. It’s a good problem for HP to have, and hopefully it challenges everybody to be at the top of their game." 

She added, "We’ve really enjoyed the partnership with the community."

A man leaving the job fair, who asked to be identified only as Brian, said of the career fair, "It went well — quick, very streamlined for the amount of applicants. I came out with a second interview."

He said he interviewed for two of the three categories in which jobs are available at HP Conway. 

"I’m excited," he said. "I have a friend who works for HP, and he loves it. I think it’s great for Conway and HP, and I think it can be a great future."

Twyla Byrd of Flower Mound, Texas, said she heard about the HP career fair after being laid off from Verizon and thought it might be a good opportunity to return to Arkansas and be near her family.

"I felt like it went great," she said. "Since my layoff, I’ve been to several job fairs, none of which were very fruitful or organized. They gave a presentation before they ever sent you in. The jobs were broken into groups so you can choose which one best fit you. It was actually a very good experience. It sounds like a really good company to work for."

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)