ATHENS, Tenn. (WATE) — For weeks, employers have been struggling to find workers to fill their open positions.

In order to do so, companies are getting clever to attract possible new hires.

DENSO, the automotive parts manufacturing company, is looking to fill 70 positions at the Athens location, according to Marty Deschenes, President of the DENSO Athens location.

“As the economy has heated back up, our requirements have gone up and that’s really triggered a hiring boom, not just for us, but I think for many industries in the area,” Deschenes said.

Deschenes said his staff has been figuring out creative ways to make it easy for people to apply.

A drive-thru job fair is one of those ideas.

“During this time of COVID, you drive through for food, you’ve been driving through for prescriptions, and even you can get a COVID vaccination through a drive-thru. So why don’t we have a drive-thru job fair,” Deschenes said.

Deschenes said no resume was needed in order to apply.

Once drivers pull up to the job fair this Thursday, they’ll be greeted by a DENSO associate, fill out a short form and give their contact information.

Those people applying will also have a chance to win a pair of tickets to Dollywood — something Deschenes was very excited to offer.

Deschenes said they’ll hire just about anyone; from fresh out of high school to someone wanting a change, and no experience necessary.

“The ideal candidate has a thirst to learn, wants to work as part of a team and wants to grow a career here with DENSO. We’re very much focused on growing your career here,” Deschenes said.

He said new employees will be trained for whatever position they fill, and working for DENSO is a good chance to start a new career for life.

They often have employees stay for 20 or more years, with room to grow, such as Deschenes himself.

Deschenes said DENSO offers great benefits, paid vacation and holidays, and the open roles offer opportunities to build a career in manufacturing with a global Fortune 500 company.

He said a manufacturing career isn’t what it used to be, and it’s most likely not what people think.

Deschenes said starting a new career at DENSO is a great way to learn technical skills.

“Our jobs are highly, they’re machine operators, our equipment is highly automated and robotic. A manufacturing job today is truly a technical job as much as anything else,” Deschenes said.

He said that at the hiring event on Thursday, they will also inform the applicants exactly what DENSO does, and how they can help without any experience.

That event is from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Athens location (2400 Denso Drive).

If you can’t make it to the event, you can apply at

Deschenes said they will be calling applicants in the coming weeks after the hiring event.

Anakeesta offers hiring bonus

DENSO isn’t the only company in East Tennessee beefing up the incentives to attract new employees.

Michele Canney, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Anakeesta, said they aren’t in too bad of a spot, but they need to fill 30 positions to be ready for the busy summer season.

She said they have been hosting job fairs and trying to get the word out for several weeks.

“We have incredibly competitive rates that we offer in each of our departments and divisions. We also have a $400 sign-on bonus that we are offering anybody who comes to Anakeesta,” Canney said.

Canney said Anakeesta has offered sign on bonuses in the past, but never for $400.

She said on top of that, any current employees who refer a new hire will earn a $150 bonus.

“To get an exceptional employee that wants to be at Anakeesta, and stay at Anakeesta, it’s definitely worth the investment,” Canney said.

Like DENSO, Canney said Anakeesta is also hoping to hire some staff willing to stay for a while.

She said there are plenty of opportunities to grow, and a wide range of positions open.

“I think one of the things that Anakeesta has developed over the last three and a half years since we’ve opened, is that we have great management staff. So, when people start at Anakeesta, they seem to stay at Anakeesta, because they really just become part of the family,” Canney said.

Canney said previous years, they usually rely on J-1 foreign exchange students to a good amount of positions.

That changed during the pandemic.

However, they were able to employ some students through the Student Ministries, and this year they will have some J1 students from the Dominican Republic and Thailand.

Even if Anakeesta isn’t fully staffed by the time summer business picks up, Canney said guests won’t be able to tell a difference.

“I’m really not at all worried about guest experience because the quality of staff that we have is just so fantastic,” Canney said.

Canney said anyone looking for a job can apply at Anakeesta on their website here.

Larger companies aren’t the only employers offering hiring bonuses

Small, locally-owned companies are also jumping in offering competitive rates to staff their business properly.

Bettina Hamblin, owner of Knoxville Farmacy, said she is still in need of employees.

She’s now offering a $250 signing bonus for new workers.