Less than a month after announcing plans to open a software development center in downtown Baton Rouge, IBM is busy searching for employees to meet its needs.

The company held a job fair Tuesday at the Baton Rouge Marriott on Hilton Avenue, a daylong event that drew hundreds of people who were interested in working for the company.

A line of people snaked through a hotel hallway, coming to a stop outside a large ballroom. The applicants were dressed in everything from business suits to blue jeans.

Felton Thomas Jr. stood in the middle of the line Tuesday, right in front of a banner displaying smiling IBM employees. Thomas is a recent graduate of Remington College and he was looking to do something with personal computers for IBM.

“I’m optimistic, I hope I get a shot,” he said.

IBM is set to open a software development center at the former site of The Advocate by spring 2015. The company said it will have 800 local employees by 2016.

Alice Douzier, of Baton Rouge, said she was applying for an upper-level information technology position with IBM.

Douzier said she’s working for a company, but looking to move to IBM.

“This is exciting,” she said.

IBM officials on the scene would not discuss the fair or the turnout, referring all comments to Pasha Ray Dahncke, a company spokeswoman. In an email Tuesday afternoon, Dahncke said IBM had an “overwhelming response” at the job fair and saw “many qualified and top candidates.”

Paul Bailey, of Baton Rouge, said he already has a second interview lined up with IBM. Bailey said he is talking to the company about a senior application developer job. Bailey is a state employee, but he said he’s looking at going into the private sector because of the ongoing salary freeze.

“It’s great that people here have an opportunity to work for a company like IBM,” said Bailey, who was holding an IBM tote bag, a souvenir of his interview.

Bailey said he was in line for about an hour before he met with officials with the company. After they spent a few minutes reviewing his résumé and 10 minutes interviewing him, he then spent five minutes lining up a second interview for next week.

Tuesday’s job fair comes after IBM conducted a “campus blitz” earlier this month speaking to seniors and recent graduates at LSU, Southern University, the University of New Orleans, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Southeastern Louisiana University.

Dahncke said about 500 students showed up for the campus tour and more stops are in the works.

Sebastian van Delden, head of the computer science and industrial technology department at Southeastern, said at least 60 students gave their résumés to IBM officials and participated in an informal meet-and-greet when the company visited his campus April 10.

Two days later, IBM came back to interview four students, who are set to graduate from Southeastern this spring, van Delden said.

“I know they were very interested in our graduates,” he said.

IBM and the Ameritas Technologies, a software development and information technology office in downtown Baton Rouge, are great things for Southeastern computer science students, van Delden said.

“Our graduating seniors know that IBM is a good opportunity for them,” he said. “And for our freshmen and sophomores, this gives them encouragement and direction to stay with their computer science degrees. They can see the payoffs in the good opportunities at IBM and Ameritas.”

IBM plans to open a temporary Baton Rouge office this spring in the Essen Centre office building. The company has said it will have 300 local employees by the end of 2014.

Dahncke said IBM will make more campus visits and hold more local job fairs in the future. Information about hiring activity can be found at http://www.ibmlouisiana.com/jobs/.