According to the American Staffing Association, in the U.S. there were 2.86 million people per day employed by staffing and contract firms in the first quarter of 2013. Also, approximately 11.5 million total people are employed by temporary and contract firms over the course of a year. As more and more businesses gravitate towards the use of contract and temporary workers, it is important to understand how to properly work with a staffing agency in your efforts to become and stay employed.
Here are five suggestions to keep in mind about staffing firms as you consider this path to new employment.
- Realize they work with you, not for you. It is important to understand that it is not the responsibility of staffing firms to find you a job. Instead, they help businesses and other organizations to help locate the best people who fit their desired skills and culture. It is critical that they are always meeting good people that are available in the marketplace, so they do want to know you. But making the right fit for you and the company often comes down to a combination of opportunity and timing. Therefore, I’d strongly recommend starting the process of getting to know employment firms early in your search to give yourself the best chance of finding a good match.
- They can help open some doors that you can’t. Sometimes the quickest path into companies, especially larger organizations, is through staffing firms. This gives them the opportunity to try out people as temporary employees in order to help them reduce their risk of finding the right long-term individuals for their business. This “try before you buy” approach can be a healthy way for employees to get hired too, as they will better understand the organization they’d be joining, helping to eliminate improper expectations.
- Focus on developing good working relationships, not simply transactions. I find that too many people look to staffing firms to simply help them find any job, rather than the right one. But in the long run, this doesn’t ultimately help you, the company, or the agency. I would instead suggest taking the time to find firms that put the emphasis on finding a good match for both you and the company. In order to accomplish this, the agency needs to be able to properly assess both your situation and the needs of their client in order to make a good fit for all parties. I’d recommend seeking out staffing firms that make a habit of meeting every candidate they work with and every company they place people at.
- Great way to gain experience and flexibility. When a person is at an early stage of their career, trying to gain experience is often the greatest challenge. Later in life, finding work that can provide them the sense of freedom and flexibility they desire while still utilizing their knowledge and skills can seem elusive. Working temporary and contract assignments can be a great way to help both situations.
- Don’t solely rely on this method. While working with staffing agencies will usually yield better results for most than simply spending your time applying to ads, I wouldn’t simply wait on them to find your next position either. Companies still would prefer to hire a known and trusted referral for free than have to pay an employment firm, so personal networking is always the best way to get a new job. I’d suggest spending about 70-80% of your job search time doing personal networking, 10-20% making good connections at staffing firms, and the remainder of your efforts applying to job ads.
Finding meaningful work often takes time and effort, and learning to make networking a lifestyle and prioritizing relationships should be your focus. While you’re doing so, just keep in mind that working with a good staffing firm can also greatly aid your search, and a trusted recruiter can be an invaluable resource to you throughout your career.