StarTek hits challenges in initial hiring for Myrtle Beach operations

A company hoping to hire more than 600 employees in the Myrtle Beach area is having trouble filling its initial need for employees and has scheduled a job fair April 30 at Horry Georgetown Technical College.

StarTek, which announced earlier this year that it will open a new customer service center in Carolina Forest and hire about 665 employees, has gotten 2,000 applications, but has been stuck with less than its initial quota of 100 hires for at least several weeks.

The company is working out of temporary quarters at HGTC’s Grand Strand campus while its new $8 million, 50,000-square-foot facility is being constructed in the Carolina Forest Town Centre.

Morgan Dendy, spokeswoman for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., said she thinks the main reason the company hasn’t found its initial quota of employees is because it needs people who will be available to work eight-hour shifts between 8 a.m. and 1 a.m., 365 days a year.

Rosemary Hanratty, the company’s director of marketing, said StarTek has run into similar situations in other areas where it has call centers.

“Every market has its own quirks,” she said.

Hanratty said she thinks some of the reason may be that the company began its hiring at the same time area businesses have been hiring workers for the summer tourism season, where they may be able to get tips.

Brad Lofton, CEO of the Myrtle Beach area economic development group, said the company’s requirements also may narrow the number of qualified candidates. He noted that it wants employees with neutral accents and recent customer service experience in call centers or the retail, hospitality and service industries.

He said that Blue Cross and Frontier, which have the area’s other call centers, also hold job fairs to fill jobs.

“[A StarTek job] is something you can make a career in,” Hanratty said. “This is something where you can advance. This is year-round.”

Hanratty said she didn’t have the statistics, but can point to a number of employees who started as agents and advanced to management positions.

“There’s lots of success stories we can point to,” she said.

The company got a variance from Horry County to have an average wage that is below the countywide average of $14.36 per hour. Dendy said the County Council agreed to allow the company to have an average wage of $11.02 per hour.

The MBRED needs the variance from the county to offer incentives to employers as long as it receives funding from Horry County.

The county gives MBRED $1.3 million a year.

The economic development effort brought in commitments for more than 1,400 jobs last year, including those at StarTek. Under incentive agreements with the county and state, most have new employees to fill the promised jobs. StarTek has committed to hiring its employees within three years, Lofton said.

People who join StarTek’s Myrtle Beach team at the ground floor level will be paid about $10 per hour, Hanratty said, and according to a news release, will get full benefits after 60 days on the job.

Because the Myrtle Beach operation’s client is a cable or satellite provider, Hanratty said employees hired locally will be eligible for free television programming valued at $2,200 a year. Additionally, Hanratty said StarTek offers employees incentives for things such as coming to work on time.

While StarTek is looking for about 100 employees now, it will begin hiring more once its building is complete in the fall.

Like Hanratty, Lofton said he isn’t worried that jobs at StarTek will remain unfilled.

“We’re not concerned,” he said. “I think they may have to go through a lot of applications.”