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How to Work Successfully with a Temporary Staffing Firm

By Chris Mitchell and Brian Beaudry

Doing temporary work has many benefits, in addition to paying bills. Your skills stay up-to-date, and you may have an inside track to a permanent job. Temporary work also expands your network, and helps you gain experience with new employers.

Working with a staffing agency that specializes in temporary positions gives job seekers access to an abundance of opportunities and recruiters with access to hiring companies.

Employers turn to the staffing firm for help filling temporary needs. It is important to know how best to work with a staffing firm.

There are many misconceptions about how the relationship between recruiters and candidates work. Not understanding the intricacies of these relationships can lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and in some cases hurt feelings. Here are some tips for successfully working with a staffing agency that can help you make the most of your temporary job search.

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Know Your Employer

When you take a contract or temp position through a staffing firm, the agency is technically your employer.

Although, you will report to a manager at the company, your paycheck, W-9 and benefits will come from the staffing firm.

This can be confusing to many first-time temps.

Many companies use staffing firms specifically because they are set up to handle the complicated pay and benefit structure of contract workers.

You may be concerned that this arrangement may be a hurdle in turning your temporary role into a permanent one, but don’t worry.

There are no guarantees that a temporary job will become permanent, but if it does transferring payroll and benefits information is easy and won’t serve as a barrier.

Understand Who Your Recruiter Really Works For

Staffing agencies are hired, and paid, by organizations who are looking for employees and need help finding them. This means that their primary purpose is to find the right talent for their clients -- and not jobs for their candidates. Understanding a recruiter’s underlying motivation may save some hurt feelings and keep the relationship positive.

However, recruiters can’t do their jobs without the right candidates. Yes, they want to place you, but not at the expense of their clients. They will not send you to an interview for which they feel you are unprepared or not a complete fit. It makes them look bad. Staffing firms are different from employment agencies. If you work with an employment agency, you are the client; with a staffing firm the company is the client.

Understand the Firm's Expectations

A skilled recruiter will work with you early on to set expectations around communication (frequency and method), feedback, and the process he or she follows for distributing your resume and setting up interviews.

For example, you should know the answers to these questions before you accept your first assignment from the firm:

  • What can you expect from working with a recruiter?
  • How often will they be in touch? Every day, once a month?
  • How long will it take before you get a temp job?
  • Will they share feedback about your resume and interviews?

If you don’t get the answers to your questions, or are unclear on the process, ask!

Insist on Transparency and Open Communication

The recruiter at your staffing agency should be open and honest with you, providing feedback that will help you emphasize your strengths to potential employers, being truthful when a job just isn’t the right fit (even if it’s at your dream company), and keeping you informed throughout the interview and hiring process.

However, you need to reciprocate. Recruiters can only do their jobs well when candidates are honest with them. Don’t accept a temp job knowing that you have two interviews for permanent roles the next week, or tell the recruiter that you have a 2-week vacation planned just when the job starts.

You may be hesitant to share this information for fear that it will impact your consideration for a position, but if your recruiter knows ahead of time they can work with it. If they don’t, and have to tell employers after the fact, it can damage your reputation -- and theirs. Tell them the whole story from the beginning so they can best manage that information and assist you in finding the right position.

Negotiate Early (with the Staffing Recruiter)

The best (and really only) time to negotiate your pay for a temp position is during the initial stages of the interview process.

At the onset of matching you with a position, your recruiter will present you with a position and the rate. If you’re unhappy with the fee structure, speak up! Once you have accepted the offer, it’s too late.

Take Charge of Your Search

You may be working with a staffing agency, or several, but you’re the boss of your job search.

This means knowing where your resume is going. Make sure you keep a list of where your resume is submitted. If employers are getting your resume from multiple recruiters (and potentially directly from you), it makes you look disorganized and sloppy -- not traits you want to highlight in a job search.

Experienced recruiters will check with you prior to submitting your resume to make sure the position is a good fit. If your staffing firm doesn’t have that policy, insist on it.

Get the Right Fit

There are many staffing firms and recruiters wanting to work with you and you need to make sure you get the right fit. Finding a recruiter who specializes in your functional area or industry is a necessity. As importantly, you want to find a person you feel comfortable telling your whole story to (the great and the maybe-not-so-great) and who you trust to give you honest feedback.

Following these tips will help you work most successfully with a staffing firm so you can make the most of your search and find temporary positions that will help further your career.

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About the authors...

Chris Mitchell is the Director of Recruiting in the Technology division of WinterWyman Contract Staffing and Brian Beaudry is a Principal Staffing Manager in the Accounting, Finance & Administrative division of WinterWyman Contract Staffing. In addition to overseeing a team of 12 tech recruiters, Chris’ focus is on recruiting Database, QA, Project Management and Business Analysis professionals in the New York and Boston markets while Brian works with all levels of Accounting & Finance (Clerk through CFO) contractors in the greater NYC area. Contact Chris at cmitchell@winterwyman.com and Brian at bbeaudry@winterwyman.com. To keep abreast of happenings in the contract staffing world, follow WinterWyman Contract Staffing's LinkedIn page, and check out @WWcontracts on Twitter.