Career Management: Tips for Making a Temp Agency your Best Job Search Method

 In Career Tips, Job Search Strategy

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

It seems that job search discussions around temporary work assignments tend to skip big levels of understanding when it comes to how best to work with them, as well as the great opportunities they present.  To solve that problem, I went right to top for an interview with Kelly Riley, Regional VP of the Virginia/Carolina Region for Randstad, a global HR & Staffing company that specializes in temporary work.  Kelly is a 20-year veteran of this business; and there isn’t a trend in the business she hasn’t seen or created.  To help everyone out there in a current or future job search, I would like to share some of the rich information and insight I learned.

How does a Temporary Employment Agency work?

Essentially, their mission is to attract, recruit and match talented people for employment at various companies.  When they “place” a person on an assignment, you work for the agency at a specific business they are contracted with.  You are paid by the agency. The agency is paid by the business.  Your performance on the job is assessed by the contracting company where you perform the work.  That said, if you blow it with that company, the agency is most likely not going to place you on other assignments.

When an agency is reviewing a candidate, they are, of course, looking at their skills, talent and experience; but they are also looking for cultural and personal fit.  They want to ensure that you not only can perform the job, but that you personally will work well in the environment.  They want to retain the candidate AND satisfy the contracting business.

Do Temp Agencies specialize in certain types of positions or openings?

Most agencies do have areas that they specialize in, but usually that is based on their geographic market.  In larger city areas with some domination of industries, they may specialize in serving those industries or predominant positions in those industries.  In a more rural setting or smaller city, a temp agency will most likely have positions that are more general in nature, covering a wide array of needs for the community.  As an example, Randstad specializes in manufacturing, logistics and administrative openings.  This means that they want to attract people with background in those areas.

What is the best approach to take if a job seeker wants temp work?

Job seekers need to do their research and homework.  Just as different companies have cultures or personalities, so do temp agencies.  A job seeker should go online and review postings to see what kind of positions the agency fills and what kind of skills or experience are needed.  If possible, ask around to find out what the agency is like to work for.  Like all companies, some are a dream to work for and others aren’t.  If you are new to the area, make sure you understand what the going wages are for the positions you are pursuing.  There can be radical differences for wages in the same job from a city like San Diego versus Little Rock.

Assuming the research has been done, a job seeker should go to the online site for the agency, fill out a profile and, if requested, submit a resume.  Once that is completed, call a recruiter/consultant for an appointment.  When making phone contact with a recruiter, indicate what steps you’ve taken, such as profile submittal.  It is important to meet with the recruiter, as it will give you and the recruiter an opportunity for further discovery about each other.  You are interviewing for a job when you meet a recruiter, so you need to keep that in mind to ensure you aren’t getting too casual.

Over the course of time when you and a recruiter meet, they can tell whether or not they believe they can place you. If yes, the recruiter will then move into a mode of testing possible match ups with you and openings they currently have.

After you have the offer from the recruiter, then the nature of the conversation changes.  You need to ensure your understanding of “how things work” for ongoing communication with the recruiter for when you are both working and not working for the agency.  If they present a job opening they think you fit, your job is to scrutinize it like anything you would find for yourself.  It doesn’t penalize you to turn down an assignment.  They do, however, want honest feedback about your decline so they know how to judge your fit to future openings.

What are the opportunities by taking a Temp Job?

Kelly Riley is a perfect example.  She started out over 20 years ago working on a temp assignment for Randstad; and look where she is now!  Procuring a temp job can be a gateway to permanent job placement.  It happens all the time.  Even if the job you are doing or the area you are in doesn’t have immediate openings, as an insider you can learn where opportunities might be, as well as expand your networking with people there.  Kelly does caution, however, that if you start hitting up your business manager too early in the game for a permanent placement, it could backfire.  She noted that there have been instances where the temp asked too early and the manager dismissed them because they felt pressured.  The best step is to consult with your recruiter to let them know your desire to work there permanently and then let them help facilitate the process.

The pearl of wisdom is that temp agencies should be part of your overall job search methods, but not the only one.  Never be dependent on any one source of seeking employment. Temp agencies can provide income during your job search, expand your network and create real potential for long term employment. It’s a great job search method and should be part of your job search activities.

And now I would like to invite you to claim your Free Instant Access to the Career Makeover Newsletter AND eWorkbook “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – both dedicated to Your career success, when you visit From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – Your Career Change Agent from

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