The Dos and Don'ts of Temping

Posted by Cara Scharf on June 16, 2011
The Dos and Don'ts of Temping

When you join a temp agency, you're essentially contracting out your job search to a well-connected group of people. Good temp agencies can get you in the door at companies you may not otherwise know or have access to, which is extremely valuable.

But like any business partnership, you need to know the ins and outs before jumping in. Be selective when choosing an agency, and don't expect to sit back and let your contacts there do all the work once you do find a good one.

So how do you make the right decisions when it comes to temping?  Start by considering the following dos and don'ts for choosing an agency that will find you work that meets your needs.

DO Research Agencies

Temp agencies aren't all the same. Some are national and some are local. Some offer benefits, such as healthcare and vacation time. Some represent specific industries, such as advertising or IT. Some only fill certain roles, such as administrating or accounting. Some only hire for temporary positions, temp-to-hire positions, or both. Plus each agency has a unique set of clients. Make a list of the factors that are most important to your job satisfaction, and make sure the agency you choose fits your needs.   

DON'T Settle for Just Any Agency
A good temp agency not only wants to please its clients, it also wants to keep you happy-and employed. An agency that treats you anonymously and doesn't consider your goals should raise a red flag. Also, a temp agency should never charge you directly for their services. The following questions will help you determine whether an agency will give you a fair shot at job openings:

.    How do you decide who to employ? A good agency should conduct some sort of screening, and only accept employees they are confident they can place.
.    How many resumes do you send for one opening? The higher the number, the lower your chance of getting a job.
.    Do you post jobs on job boards or keep openings within the agency? Again, a bigger applicant pool means a smaller chance of scoring a job.
.    On average, how long do employees wait between assignments? Less downtime demonstrates that an agency works hard to get its employees consistent work.
.    What percentage of employees eventually get hired by the client? If your goal is full-time employment, choose an agency with a successful track record in getting employees hired.

DO Prepare for the Agency Interview
To keep clients happy, good temp agencies only hire talent with fitting qualifications. That means you'll be grilled on your resume and experience just as you would for a normal position, and you'll be tested on skills such as Microsoft Office, typing, and data entry. Prepare the same way you would for any other interview: do your research, be on time, and look your best.

DON'T Ignore the Fine Print
When an agency gives you a contract, and it should if legit, read and understand the terms. Realize that you are an employee of the temp agency, therefore most of your transactions-getting paid, asking for time off, etc.-will go through the agency and not your supervisor. Also, be aware of the agency's policy on getting hired by a client. You might think you're being sly by making connections at a company and then working those connections on your own to get a full-time job, but most contracts forbid this.

DON'T Sit Back and Let Jobs Happen
"A lot of people come to us, go through our process, and then never call. But to stay top of mind, you should call," says Rachel Wasserman, senior branch manager of global staffing company Ranstad. Don't be a stalker, but make sure to check in regularly with your agency and let them know you're still looking. To stay on top of things, ask your agency to tell you when and where your resume will be submitted. Wasserman even tells her employees to continue looking at other temp agencies and independent jobs. Don't get complacent just because an agency might be out looking for you.

DO be Flexible
If you reject several positions, the agency may stop offering them to you. So try to be open to what comes along. Give a few temporary positions a shot even if you were hoping for temp-to-hire work, and don't be afraid to work for a company you've never considered. One of the advantages of temping is that you can sample several experiences without making a commitment; if you're unhappy with one position, remember it won't last forever.

About the Author