Right away, it was clear this wasn't an everyday job interview, not with some 50 candidates singing and dancing the Hokey Pokey.
Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants, which will open a Sacramento location at 1625 Watt Ave. on July 26, on Monday hosted groups of 50 job candidates at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish on Arden Way in Sacramento.
The restaurant, which will feature Farrell's employees in signature turn-of-the-20th-century apparel and performing any number of high-energy singing, dancing and entertainment routines, plans to hire up to 250. Open positions include servers, cooks, dishwashers, office personnel, fountain artisans and managers.
Last week's three-day job fair drew about 1,500 applications. That was step one in a three-step hiring process. On Monday, Farrell's began step two, sorting through auditions of about 400 applicants, 50 at a time. They are competing for jobs that pay $8 to $10 an hour.
Auditions is the right word as prospective restaurant "cast members" sang, danced, hollered, clapped and laughed through 90 raucous minutes before more than a half dozen company judges.
It was not a day to be shy.
Farrell's is on the lookout for servers and other in-house workers who smile relentlessly, are quick with a joke and generally in possession of a 10,000-watt personality.
"We like to say that Farrell's puts smiles on people's faces, and we can't do that unless our own people have smiles on their faces," said Michael Fleming, the company CEO who was one of Monday's judges. "We're looking for people who bring that energy naturally ... You can kind of tell right away."
Monday's first group of 50 was ushered into a large room at 11 a.m. amid drum-pounding and high-pitched screams whipped up by vest- and hat-wearing Max Werderman, Farrell's entertainment coordinator, and his partner, Jake Koeppl. They kept the pep rally atmosphere going for the next 90 minutes with gyrations, clapping, out-of-the-blue shouts and hoots and rimshot-worthy punchlines.
Job candidates in Monday's first group ran the gamut, from high school-age to 50-plus.
The group included a pair of 17-year-old identical twins - Celine and Brooke Earnhardt from El Camino High School. Both wore cowgirl boots and were quick on the draw with smiles and one-liners.
Auditions began by pairing up candidates who had about 30 seconds to learn all they could about each other. They then reassembled center stage, and each partner had just seconds to sell the other to the judges as a likely Farrell's employee.
Some candidates were clearly nervous; others acted like they had been performing live musical comedy routines for years.
Mcclane Sjolund, a 17-year-old from Jesuit High School, stood out not only for his high energy, twisting dance moves and quick wit, but his ability to tie a bowtie on command - a skill he demonstrated when Koeppl ripped open his purple neckwear.
Sjolund did an encore when he re-tied the bowtie of a fellow job candidate whose neckwear was torn apart.
Part two of Monday's auditions required candidates to either sing or tell a joke when their number was called, with zero hesitation.
They responded with knock-knock jokes, contemporary pop hits and musical renditions as basic as "Happy Birthday To You."
Marquis Johnson, a 22-year-old who recently moved to Sacramento from Oakland, brought down the house with an elaborate Farrell's rap that touted the charms of his potential employer.
"I've been working on that for quite a while," he said with a laugh.
The morning session ended with a frantic, round-the-circle, double-handslap with Werderman, Koeppl and all the judges, plus a hip-shaking dance routine, again including the judges.
Farrell's says the unique audition process was created by "an expert game show contestant and was developed based on how some of the most successful game shows find their contestants."
Werderman, who was in constant motion and full voice for the initial session on Monday, conceded: "It's a busy two days, for sure."
Job candidates who auditioned Monday were told that finalists can expect to be called by Wednesday for a last step in the process - a final sit-down interview.
Lake Forest-based Farrell's currently operates five restaurants in Southern California and one in Hawaii. The chain's return to Sacramento comes more than 40 years after 23 people were killed when a jet taking off from Sacramento Executive Airport across the street crashed into a Farrell's.
Farrell's dates back to 1963, with its first restaurant in Portland, Ore. By 1970, there were 58 restaurants. Marriott Corp. bought the company in 1971 and the chain grew to 130 outlets nationwide.
By 1990, the chain had been sold again and almost all its locations had closed. In 2009, Lake Forest-based Parlour Enterprises Inc. assumed ownership and set up a restaurant format based on the original entertainment concept.
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.