Like any other business, there are great temporary job agencies and there are not so great agencies. Here is how to choose the best agency for your needs and get good job opportunities.
I've heard clients tell some wonderful stories about using agencies to find great, well paying jobs that led to full time employment. Unfortunately, I've also heard some disappointing stories from clients who were not treated with respect at temp agencies. So, you need to be armed with a bit of information to ensure your experience with a temp employment agency is positive.
You can look for local temporary job agencies online or in the phone book or ask at your employment resource center; many employment resource centers compile a list of temp agencies in the area.
Networking is the good way to find out which temporary job agencies are the best in your area. Try talking to friends who have used temporary placement agencies, or if you have a local employment resource center, talk to staff and clients there to get recommendations on which temp agencies have the best reputation in your area.
The staff at employment resource centers may not be willing or able to come right out and tell you that a specific agency is terrible (although they will very likely know the good and bad ones in your area) simply because they may need to be careful about avoiding bad mouthing companies in their city. However, the job seekers that you can easily meet at employment resource centers will usually be completely willing to tell you which agencies are great and which are not worth your time if they have experience dealing with local staffing agencies.
There are plenty of temp job agencies out there. Some are general and fill positions in all kinds of industries, while others are more specific and are known for filling jobs in specific industries. If you're targeting a specific industry or type of job, it's smart to seek out agencies that specialize in that area. Because they are industry specialists, those agencies will have the best connections in your industry.
The process for signing on with a temp job agency varies; different agencies have different procedures. It's best to call the agency ahead of time or go in personally and ask about their procedure. Some agencies will simply ask you for a resume, some will ask you to fill out their application form, while others will want you to come in for an initial interview and skills testing.
People get nervous about going through this initial interview process with agencies, but it's actually a sign that you're with a good agency if they are interviewing and testing you. If a temp employment agency requires some initial interviewing and testing before you sign on with them, it means they are taking the time to get to know you and your strengths so they can place you in an appropriate job.
It can be very beneficial to go through the testing offered by an agency because that testing will help you to quantify your skills when you are interviewing with all kinds of employers and assess whether your skills are in line with employers' expectations. For example, if your test results are low in a particular area, you'll be able to target areas for improvement and work on building those skills. Some temp agencies even have programs you can work through on your own to build specific skills. If your test results are strong, you will be able to quote them in any interview when an employer asks about those specific skills.
You can sign on with more than one temp employment agency. Some agencies will tell you that you must work exclusively for them, be very careful with these agencies. It is completely reasonable for you to sign on with more than one agency in order to have access to many job opportunities. Do be careful to find a balance and avoid signing on with too many agencies. If you're turning down work constantly from one agency because you're doing contracts for another agency, you will likely stop getting calls from the agency that you are turning down.
While the procedures for signing on with a temporary placement agency vary, you will typically be required to fill out an employment application form when you first go into the agency.
Bring your resume and reference list with you. They will likely want to have your resume on file, and your resume can help you remember details you need when filling out the application form.
The better agencies will put you through a thorough skills assessment test and an interview. This part of the process is a sign that you are dealing with a good agency so don't be put off by the fact that you are going through so much screening.
Treat entire process like any other job interview. You want to make the person at the staffing agency feel completely confident that he or she could recommend you to employers and you would represent the agency well and do a great job. Dress in a way that feels comfortable but is also professional and interview appropriate. Do not wear casual clothing because it is "just a temp agency".
Be very honest about the hours you are available for work. If you say you can work more hours than you can actually work and then you turn down a lot of jobs because of hours the agency will stop offering you jobs.
Also, be very honest where you are willing to work. If you say that you are willing to work in a city that is a long commute from your home, make sure you have worked out the logistics of making such a commute and determined whether such a commute would be worthwhile. It's better to be honest about the distance you are willing to travel at the outset than to be constantly turning down jobs because of the commute. Eventually the agency will think you don't really want to work, and they will stop offering you jobs.
Once you've signed on with a temp employment agency, you can't just sit back and wait for them to get you a job. It's important to keep in contact with the staff there on a regular basis so you are at the top of their minds when new job openings arise. Call about once a week just to check in, and do your best to speak with the same person each time. That way you'll build a relationship with someone at the agency who will think of you immediately when job leads arise.
Calling this often may feel a bit aggressive for some people, and it's true that you wouldn't call any other employer this frequently. However, this level of assertiveness is acceptable and even expected when you are dealing with temporary job agencies. Recruiters work with a lot of candidates, so it's inevitable that some people will slip their minds. Calling once a week to ask about job leads is necessary and completely appropriate when working with temporary job agencies.
Once the agency determines you would be a good fit for a particular job opportunity, you may have to interview with the employer. Treat this interview as real interview. Do not minimize it because it is just for a temp position. Bring copies of all of your job search documents, also someone at the temporary agency will probably give these documents to the employer, he or she may not have them on hand, so it's always wise to be prepared with your job search documents (resume, reference sheet) at any type of interview.
Continue your job search. If you are looking for work outside of temporary job agencies, do not neglect you job search. Again, signing on with temporary job agencies can open up some great opportunities for you, bit it is not a reason to stop using other strategies for finding job leads at the same time.