A Guide to Working With a Temp Agency
Follow these tips to get your foot in the door at bustling companies.
What is a temp and why would you even bother with a job that isn’t full-time? A temp is a short-term contract worker. You then get hired by a temp agency (also called a staffing agency) to work at a company for a set period of time, which gives you an excellent opportunity to test the waters of a job or career without committing to all the trappings of a position. Plus, if you happen to have a positive experience temping for a company, it may wind up turning into something more permanent when the circumstances allow.
Another upside: Temp jobs exist in plenty of industries, roles, and companies—even the elite ones. Backed by a temp agency, you could get your foot in the door at a company you haven’t had luck with on your own.
If you've been floundering lately, with no real job prospects on the horizon, a temp agency just might be the answer to your proverbial prayers. It’s important to understand the process of temporary work and how to maximize temp jobs. Start with this guide.
Why are temps needed?
Commonly, temp jobs are seasonal (customer service reps during the holidays; accountants during tax time) or based around a defined project (web developers required to launch a new company website; registered nurses needed to implement a vaccine rollout) when there just aren't enough (or any) full-time workers to get the work done.
Furthermore, as more and more corporations struggle to fill roles, they are turning to temp agencies to find qualified candidates—that would be you. A temp agency can alleviate some of the strain of an overworked staff; other times it might be called on to cover a worker who is on leave.
Note: You’ve probably heard the term “gig economy” for a while now, but temp work is something totally different. Gig work refers to freelancing, for which you’re an independent contractor. When you get work through a temp agency, however, you’re technically an employee of that agency and you’ll get a W-2 form.
How does a temp agency work?
Companies hire a temp agency to find them people who can fill roles for a set period of time. All you have to do is sign up with an agency much the same way you’d apply to a job. The agency will interview you and will match you with the appropriate clients.
The interview is designed to determine your top skills and work preferences so that the staffing agency places you accordingly. At that point, you’ll usually get a work assignment agreement or contract to get started. It’ll likely cover pay rate, per diem rate, travel expenses, and the like.
You do want to watch the fine print, however. Many staffing firms will require you to sign a contract that says you’ll exclusively work with them and only them. Meaning, you can’t sign up with more than one temp agency.
And some agencies may try to charge you a placement fee, which is generally a red flag. Do some research to find out what is typical for your field, and to make sure that you’re working with a reputable agency. (The American Staffing Association is a great resource.)
Examples of temp jobs
- Administrative assistants and office managers
- Computer support specialists
- Customer service representatives
- Data entry professionals
- Seasonal retail sales workers
- Software testers
- Substitute teachers
- Warehouse workers
Advantages of temp work
As a temp, you can gain valuable experience in different industries and work environments. For recent graduates especially, contract work can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses as you evaluate your next career move.
Here are some other benefits of temp work:
- It can be a resume builder. Temp work might give you the opportunity to build skills you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to if you were just taking on a permanent position, says Woodruff.
- It allows you some flexibility. For certain types of contract work, especially in fields like health care, you can choose to work for a certain period of time and then take a break before starting another assignment.
- You might discover a new passion. Maybe you’ve never worked in a particular industry, say health care, before. You might learn that the environment really suits you and taps into skills you didn’t get to use otherwise
- You won’t have to deal with the politics of a full-time role. Sometimes in permanent positions, there are a lot of internal factors at play that prevent you from advancing. With contract work, you’re just there to do a job and get it done as best as possible, drama free.
- It’s less of a hassle. You don’t have to go out and find your next job, remember to send your invoice, or figure out your taxes. A temp agency takes care of all of that.
Tips for working with a staffing agency
1. Be open to the positions that are available. The more flexible you are, the more available contract work there is.
2. Roll up your sleeves and dive in. You’re there for a limited amount of time, so you need to make the most of it. In order to make an immediate impact, you need to be able to communicate and relate to all types of people.
3. Treat it like a full-time job. Learn about the company and its values, policies, and needs. Making a good impression can lead to more work…
How to go from temp to permanent
Many staffing agency positions can become permanent. In fact, some companies purposely use temp agencies so they can do a trial run with candidates before offering them full-time work. It behooves you to show the company you’re a responsible, committed worker who should be considered for permanent employment.
It’s also important to communicate regularly with your agency rep so they understand your short- and long-term goals. That way, if your aim is to come away with a permanent job, they can place you in jobs that have the most permanent potential.
Keep in mind that should a company become interested in hiring you full-time, they will have to do it through the agency. Typically, they must pay the agency a fee to release you so you can start working directly for the company.
One important thing worth noting, however, is that when you go from temp to perm, you might actually take a pay cut. Temps typically get paid more on contract positions than they would for a full-time job. That’s the case across all niches.
However, the other benefits and opportunities that only full timers get (like longer-term job security, more comprehensive health insurance, a pension plan, and paid time off) can make up the difference.
Find a temp agency today
Ready to fill your income gap, or get a chance to test out different types of work with fewer strings attached? Monster’s got you covered. Upload up to five versions of your resume for free—each tailored to the types of temp jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill temp positions as quickly as possible. It’s time to get to work.