Research in Motion has its challenges but the chance to work for a company that was once Canada’s high-tech darling and has nowhere to go but up is what lured them to a job fair in Toronto for the BlackBerry maker, job seeking hopefuls say.

RIM is looking to fill 600 positions, in fields such as software development and testing, hardware engineering and technical support. Most of the jobs are at its Waterloo, Ont., headquarters, with some openings based in Mississauga, Ont., said Ali Rajah, the company’s global talent acquisition leader.

The hiring boom comes just eight months after the company laid off 2,000 people, 11 per cent of its global workforce. Some of them were back trying to get hired again by RIM, among the hundreds of job seekers at the career fair Thursday at the Metro Toronto Covention Centre.

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Ali Rajah, RIM's global talent acquisition leader, says the company wants to fill 600 positions. (Prithi Yelaja/CBC)

"The technology business is cyclical," said Rajah. "RIM is growing considerably — few companies are growing at the same rate. We’re looking for talent, fresh ideas and innovative people to address that growth."

Toronto is just one stop in RIM’s recruitment drive with job fairs already held in Halifax and Dallas, Texas. Successful applicants, who had been pre-screened before coming to the invitation-only event, will be notified in four to 12 weeks, Rajah said.

Clutching resumés, dressed in suits and beaming with hope, the predominantly male job seekers brushed off RIM’s past missteps including outages, product delays, loss of market share to Apple and Android devices, along with a dwindling stock price.

RIM is rebounding, they point out.

In January, company co-founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis stepped aside as co-CEOs and appointed RIM insider Thorsten Heins to the helm.

While tech experts and analysts were impressed with RIM’s long-awaited update to its PlayBook tablet that was unveiled in January, some believe it may not be enough to turn the company’s fortunes around.

Six voices from the job fair:

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Colin Davidson, who was laid off from RIM last year, was at the job fair trying to get hired again. (Prithi Yelaja/CBC)

 

1. Colin Davidson, 56, a software developer with 30 years experience. He was laid off by RIM last June. Why he is back?

"They’re a good company. They pay well and treat you well. Their management style is friendly. You get to work on very interesting stuff. They have a good bonus program if they make their numbers," he said, adding he is surprised at all the negative publicity the company gets.

"Their sales have actually gone up. They have a big captive market in business and government that use their BlackBerrys because of their secure encryption and that is not going to go away. But they’ve got to appeal to the general public if they want to grow more."

He is dubious about RIM’s strategy of developing and using their own apps on devices rather than just using Android apps, which have a broader appeal but would be less lucrative for RIM in the long run.

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Anthony Abhumhen wants to be part of what he sees as the momentum at RIM. (Prithi Yelaja/CBC)

 

2. Anthony Abhumhen, 39, a hardware engineer with 10 years experience, who is doing contract work and attending college.

 "RIM is Canadian and it’s in our backyard, so a job with them means being able to contribute to the Canadian economy. That’s important to me," he said.

"Apple has peaked. With RIM there’s room to grow and I want to be part of that momentum." Though Abhumhen has commuted to a job in the U.S. in the past, he says his wife doesn’t want to relocate there.

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Lambert Rishi says landing a job with RIM would be a dream come true. (Prithi Yelaja/CBC)

 

3. Lambert Rishi, 31, four years experience in routing and switching.

"It’s one of the biggest smartphone companies in the world. To have RIM on your resumé makes you stand out from the competition. Working for them would be a dream job for me," he said.

"Of course they’ve had their problems but what company doesn’t?" His advice? "They need to associate RIM with the BlackBerry brand. Everyone knows Apple makes the iPhone but a lot of people around the world haven’t heard of RIM even though they know about BlackBerry."

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Job seeker Pranouti Mehta recently arrived from India. (Prithi Yelaja/CBC)

 

4. Pranouti Mehta, 37, two years experience in software testing. Immigrated from India in January.

"First reason I want to work for RIM is I own a BlackBerry and it’s absolutely great. I love it," she said. "If you have a BlackBerry in India it’s a status symbol." The price for a BlackBerry Curve, for example, in India has come down to $125 from $500 last year, she said. "RIM has come up with innovative ideas in the marketplace."

Adds her husband Mihir, "We’re newcomers here and we want to start contributing to this country as soon as possible. Working at RIM as our first job would be an immigrant success story."

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Budhaditya Chatterjee is prepared to move to Waterloo, Ont., to work for RIM. (Prithi Yelaja/CBC)

 

5. Budhaditya Chatterjee, 33, five years working in IT customer support, immigrated from India in February.

"I’ve always wanted to work for RIM because it’s a big name in technology," he said. "They have their challenges but they’re trying to change things and get back into shape to be No. 1 again. To do that they need to bring in the right people, like me," he chuckles.

Would he move to Waterloo for a job? "We’ve already come 12,000 miles to make Canada our home, so what’s a little more distance?"

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Maninder Grewal, a recent graduate of Centennial College, was happy to get an invitation to the job fair, saying most employers want experience. (Prithi Yelaja/CBC)

 

6. Maninder Grewal, 24, Centennial College computing graduate.

As a recent graduate, he says he’s happy to have been invited to the job fair. "There’s not that much opportunity for freshers. Most places look for experience," he said. As for RIM’s recent woes, "Ups and downs happen in every business. It doesn’t matter."