WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With thousands of Americans looking for jobs, many businesses are saying: Sorry, we're not hiring. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is sending out another message: Come right this way.
Donna Gill Lumpkin is one of more than 270,000 people to apply for about 2,950 jobs at the FBI.
After years of being outgunned in the battle for job applicants by corporations who could pay bigger salaries, hundreds of thousands of job seekers are applying for FBI positions.
The FBI announced a hiring blitz in January to fill more than 2,100 professional staff positions. The job postings run the gamut from scientists to accountants to auto mechanics. In addition, the bureau said it wants to hire 850 FBI agents.
What happened next caught many at the FBI by surprise. More than 270,000 people applied over about six weeks. The FBI said about 70,000 people seek positions in a normal year.
But this isn't a normal year. Just ask Donna Gill Lumpkin, a divorced mother of two who lives in Maryland. Gill Lumpkin lost her job selling radio ad time in November. "The competition is really stiff," she said. "There's a lot of people out of work. A lot of people looking for a job."
Gill Lumpkin has applied for a job as an FBI recruiter. If the FBI thinks she has the skills for the post, that's just one step toward a job. She'll have to undergo an FBI background check and take polygraph and drug tests. Watch the applications pile up at the FBI »
The FBI official in charge of human resources concedes the FBI is benefiting a bit from the sour economy and getting a flood of applications this year. "In years past it was often difficult to find people with the science and technology background or chemistry background or a biology background because we were competing with the private sector," said FBI Assistant Director John Raucci.
Raucci said during the dotcom explosion, the FBI had a difficult time competing with dotcom start-up salaries. "Now, what we offer is stability, we offer a job and I think a very exciting environment in which to work," said Raucci.
Raucci said the average starting salary at the FBI is about $35,000 per year. But he adds those with extraordinary academic credentials and prior job experience start at a much higher rate.
Donna Gill Lumpkin said the stability of a job with the federal government and the good benefits such as health insurance attracted her to apply. "In this tough economic climate right now the federal government, I think, is one of the most steady and stable places anyone could be."
The stakes are high for Gill Lumpkin, who has a 12-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. She said her children are covered under her ex-husband's health insurance. But she needs coverage for herself. And she is not able to put any money away right now for her children's college years. "Right now the college fund is on pause," said Gill Lumpkin. "It's the survival fund. We are trying to survive."