Why Is It So Hard To Get An $8 An Hour Job At Walmart?

walmart hiring jobs "This is a good day the Lord has made," Meka Allen told Black Voices News last week. "I'm rejoicing and leaping for joy."

Allen had just landed a cashier job at the new Walmart Neighborhood Market in San Bernardino, Calif. An $8.42-an-hour Walmart job may not seem like cause to praise the heavens. For corporate America's critics, Walmart is the Death Star: It's viciously anti-union; receives an endless stream of discrimination suits; and employs 1 percent of America, paying its sales associates, on average, a poverty-level wage.

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Most recently, Walmart investigators discovered that the retail machine had bribed officials all over Mexico to obtain the necessary permits to grow into the country's largest private-sector employer. Walmart then shut down the investigation, The New York Times found, and no one involved was disciplined.

But for Allen, who hasn't had a steady job for three years, a Walmart job was -- finally -- a job. "People like to bash Walmart, but I think there's a lesson here on who really cares for the working class in this country," Desteenie Simmons, who also won a cashier position, told Black Voices News. "A lot of big businesses make elaborate promises about creating jobs, but in reality they are steadily shipping jobs overseas, keeping wages low and boosting their own profits."

No one can deny that Walmart has created a lot of American jobs (click here for a mesmerizing FlowingData animation of Walmart's growth across the U.S.), and the largest retail chain in the world weathered the recession well, recently announcing plans to roll out smaller-format stores. A 2009 study found, however, that if you add in all the mom-and-pop shops that Walmart kills in the process, the whole thing ends up as a wash.

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But for many Americans, Walmart can't grow fast enough. In January 2008, 7,500 people applied for 350 to 400 available jobs at a new Walmart in DeKalb County, Ga., reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Last August, a new Walmart in Springfield, Penn. received 1,000 applications in just two weeks -- for 300 positions. Walmart Executive Vice President Rosalind Brewer told CNNMoney last October that each new Walmart store hires, on average, 450 workers, and since the recession, 5,000 to 6,000 applicants have been vying for one of those jobs. That means just 7.5 to 9 percent of hopefuls will get hired.

By these numbers, Walmart today is more competitive than the Ivy League.

Most of those applicants are unemployed 30-somethings, Brewer told CNNMoney. But the stores are seeing more and more highly skilled job-hunters, from lawyers to real estate execs.

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Walmart often holds job fairs when a new store is opening, but applicants can also always apply online. If the personnel office likes what it sees, it will call an applicant to schedule interviews, usually within a few days or a week. Contenders for sales associate positions can expect two interviews, according to past applicants on Glassdoor.com: one with an hourly manager (usually a department manager) and another with a salaried manager (usually an assistant manager). Those seeking a higher-level position will likely have a third.

The questions are straightforward, according to past applicants, who describe their interviewers as reading off a sheet. They're of the behavioral variety, with lots of "describe's" and "tell me"s, like "Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond expectations to offer excellent customer service," or "Describe a situation where you and a co-worker didn't get along."

Often the questions will be broken down into three parts, for example: "Name a time you worked on a team and encountered a problem. How did you resolve the problem? What was the problem? What was the final outcome?" And if you please the interviewers, you'll most likely receive a provisional offer, pending you come out clean on a drug test.

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If you score a sales associate job, expect an average hourly wage of $8.87-an-hour. That adds up to only $18,400 over a year, just above the poverty level for a family of three, and 14 percent below the average pay of a retail worker, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it's above the minimum wage, and a general policy of internal hiring means associates have a decent chance of rising up to salaried jobs (assistant managers earn an average of $43,747 a year).

That's what happened to Susie Potter, who started out as a cashier at Walmart as an after school gig, and seven years later was an assistant store manager. "I guess, in some ways, I'm grateful for the experience I gained at Walmart," she writes on AOL Jobs, "but I probably would have been a lot happier and a lot richer if I'd gained it elsewhere."

Of course, many jobless Americans today just want the opportunity to gain it somewhere. "Some people claim they don't treat their employees fairly -- that's just not true," former Walmart employee Mavis Wesley told Black Voice News. "Those paychecks however small helped me get an education. In the process, I learned valuable lessons in finances, retail management, merchandising and customer service."

"Oh," she adds, "and the associates and managers are like family."

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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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greg noland

I have just started working at walmart. I work at the Bakery Dept. as a hourly assoc. They told me I would have about 2 weeks of training. Then I am expected to be on my own. I have just completed my first 2 weeks. Well I had 2 days of that 2 weeks of my co-workers helping me out and showing me how to do my expected daily tasks. I am fearful and concerned that I was mislead and told I would get the appropriate training but that didnt happen. Retail stores and corp giants are new to me. I have worked food service before & other jobs but never a huge company like this. Its a way different atmosphere. Even after I was told by friends, and other co-workers the negatives on working at walmart I needed a job and so I took it when it was offered. I am well aware of the negatives of working here. I am going to continue doing my best to learn what I need to learn but its difficult and frustrating when you're told your going to get this and that and then there ends up being no one to help you or answer your questions. I just don't want to be fired or let go for not working fast enough, not learning fast enough, doing something wrong I wasn't supposed to do or was not taught appropriately. I do not know exactly what to do besides just keep trying hard. I am a temp Assoc. Meaning you are hired temporary for 3 months til you are offered the actual full time or part time etc. But now I am actually a 6 month temp assoc. They changed it from 3 -6 months now. All the other associates I talked to say there were to just put out there unprepared and they made it but they only made it because of the other past co-workers who helped them out and showed them what to do. 2 months ago there were 15 associates in Deli/bakery thats the normal numbers it should be. Right when I got hired there were only 8 including me now. They fired almost half of them. I realized yes they got fired for either doing something stupid or against policy but thats alot. Walmart is always hiring year round yep. But its cause either those ex workers either get fired or quit. I know that like only 10-15 percent of people who apply for walmart get hired and I am one of the lucky 10 percent. but I as of now would not recommend working at walmart to anyone I know. The internal employment infrastructure is messed up, it is not a very efficient process. Alot of people in my age group who are hired (18-24) are just young adults who are imature, Get waisted on a daily basis, get high and falsify there drug test, don't put any effort in there work at all and just show up do a sloppy job and then go home and do nothing with there lives. I took a break from school to get more financially stable and to work. Not to be labeled like all the others. I am actually trying to work hard and do something with my life. So its very frustrating not having the appropriate support system that is needed to work here, Not knowing if I have a job next week, but Alteast I am trying. If (u_dont_want_2-Work-here_dont_apply.

September 07 2013 at 3:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
teeessiii

The fact people are begging for $8/hr Walmart jobs is yet another sign that the "job creators" that the Baggers love so much lack the competency and ethics to create living wage jobs that will move America forward. Baggers worshiping incompetent and ineffective corporate executives = morons worshiping other morons.

July 08 2013 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
debbie

walmart is my favotite store. the supercenter store only. you can get anything you need at them. I call it the small town!

June 17 2013 at 10:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
NAOMI

A relative of mine is head of human resources at a Walmart. I asked her why there were so many openings on a regular basis when there are a lot of people out of work. A large percentage do not pass the drug test. Whether it is weed or something else, it will ruin your chances of a job. I am not commenting on whether or not this is the best way to eliminate potential problems as marijuana use is sky high. However, the bigger problem is once the person is hired, they realize they are expected to show up for work, and, not only show up, but not be hung-over or tardy or barely clothed or various and sundry other legitimate reasons for losing the job they worked so hard to get. There are those of you who will disagree with me about the employees, but, before you argue that I am wrong, get the facts please. Thank you.

June 17 2013 at 9:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert Smith

Some jobs that pay minimum wage (if you're in a state that doesn't count tips toward minimum wage) plus tips are good. Like a dominos pizza driver. I made minimum wage plus tips (which average about half minimum wage) and mileage (which today is around 30cents a mile though a standard deducition is 56 a mile (I think). I worked full-time and had health benefits plus 50% off on food. :-) And the job is fairly easy because your sitting down and driving a lot of the time. :-) Once you work a job that has minimum wage plus tips or around that amount it's difficult to go back to a job that only pays minimum wage, though.

June 16 2013 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BTmusicman

I worked for other companies as middle management and at the executive level. I was laid off and stayed that way for 2 1/2 years. I finally landed a job at Walmart. I'm not in sales, I work in claims so receive $3 little more than minimum wage. The pay isn't great but it's a job. I was relieved to get it. My bonus will kick in as well as my 10% discount. All being said, it's not bad.

June 16 2013 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wrigeo

If you don't like it, don't work there.

June 16 2013 at 8:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sherrie

What they aren't saying, is..... Walmart also give their employees 10% discount on everything in the store that is not on clearance or boxed grocery. They have quarterly incentive checks which really add up. They get discounts on their phone bill. Not counting the 20% on optometry, eyewear and hair cuts. The flexability in scheduling is also a plus for people who have health or family health problems and can,t work a regular schedule. These things add up and make a difference when you are needing an income that helps you provide for your family. I am not an unhappy associate.

June 16 2013 at 6:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sherrie's comment
Susanne

I worked there seven years as a part-time cashier, we did receive those quarterly incentive checks but,when our manager was let go, they brought another manager from another store and everything stopped. Part time employees were cut down to four hours a week, i had to go on unemployment till the hours were brought back, which was about 6 months. The incentive checks stopped, but the new manager received a hefty check at the end of the year ..I can go on, but i did leave the company. Good-Luck to all who work there, some have had nothing but good..but then others have had absolutley nothing.

June 16 2013 at 3:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
clark

Did you EVER in your life see the day that people were happy getting and 8 dollar an hour job,,,Good god,things have gotten bad,its heart breaking to read these stories of people just trying to stay alive..There was a time when you could actually get a job and support a family in this country,,,,wow, freek'in depressing..

May 20 2013 at 5:42 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to clark's comment
Bob

Actually most of us DO have better jobs than that Clark.
Thats why it is considered a bottom end job.
There will always be people happy to get the lower end jobs, always have been always will be, even during high employment.
How many of those unemployed people couldn't pass a drug test, are reliable , on time...
Ask any HR person, good help is hard to find nowdays. Seriously.

July 08 2013 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sdlindsey683

its better than no job? stop crying about it. and walmart beats out mom and pop stores cause the prices are still much lower. its called capitalism and theres nothing wrong with it

May 20 2013 at 2:26 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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