With the population growing fast, millions of Americans are entering the workforce each day. The best job postings are oversaturated with applicants, allowing employers to pick and choose who they hire from a huge pool of candidates. It’s only the jobs that nobody else wants (despite the great pay!) that are readily available to people who are seeking work.
According to Time, an average of 59 people apply for each open job position. Employers interview around 12% of applicants. Of those interviewed, only 17% are subsequently hired. There’s no denying it: the job market today is tough!
That’s why more job seekers are now enlisting staffing agencies to help them find a job. Many companies employ staffing agencies to find suitable candidates for their open positions. As staffing agencies make their money from helping job seekers find work, they’re often the quickest and easiest way to find work in America.
Today, we’re going to examine how staffing agencies work, what kind of job you could get using one, and how long it might take. We’ll also look at the pros and cons of using a staffing agency to find a job. Finally, we’ll provide tips on how to get a job through a staffing agency.
What are Staffing Agencies and How Do They Work?
So, what exactly are staffing agencies? In essence, they’re a type of company acting as the middleman between the employer and the job seeker. Medium to large-sized companies often pay these agencies to help them fill vacant positions. From the perspective of the employer, staffing agencies save valuable time and money. They take care of the entire hiring process, from start to finish.
When a company has a vacant job position, they’ll contact their staffing agency to let them know. They’ll provide information about the position, including hours, pay, duties, and candidate requirements. The agency then searches their candidate database for potential matches. They can also post the job advertisement online, on behalf of the employer.
It’s the responsibility of the agency to match candidates to suitable positions, depending on their skills, qualifications, and experience. They build up their database of potential candidates by searching through résumés posted online, on websites such as LinkedIn. Job hunters can also contact agencies directly and ask to be included in their database.
Once the agency matches a candidate for a position, they submit their résumé and recommend them for an interview. The agency then helps the candidate to prepare for the interview in any way they can. It’s very much in their interests to get you hired by one of their clients.
What’s the Difference between a Staffing Agency and a Temp Agency?
Staffing agencies come under many names. To name but a few, you may be familiar with the following alternative terms:
- Employment agency, firm, or service
- Recruitment agency, company, or firm
- Executive search agency
- Temporary agency (often shortened to “temp agency”)
- Talent acquisition agency
Somebody who works for a staffing agency may be called a “recruiter”, “headhunter”, or “talent sourcer”.
In essence, these terms all refer to the same type of organization: a company which helps match candidates to jobs. However, different agencies can vary substantially in the types of help that they offer, both to job seekers and clients. For instance, agencies labeled as “talent acquisition” may specialize in finding employees with very specific and rare skills.
Temp agencies are slightly different to other staffing agencies. They deal exclusively with finding candidates to fill temporary positions. According to the United States Department of Labor, to be considered “temporary” the job must last for one year or less.
There are various reasons why an employer may seek a temporary employee:
- They require extra help at busier times of the year, such as over the winter holiday period.
- A permanent employee is on maternity or paternity leave or recovering from an illness or operation.
- A particularly large project or heavy workload necessitates the help of additional employees.
- An employee has unexpectedly left, and temporary staff is needed while the company searches for a new permanent employee.
Other staffing agencies may deal with temporary positions as well as permanent ones.
What Type of Job Could I Get Through an Agency?
According to the American Staffing Association, agencies usually offer four main types of jobs:
- Temporary: These may last for days, weeks or months. The agency will match you to the job, interview you, and place you. Usually, you’ll receive your wage through the agency. You’re classified as an employee of the agency, rather than your place of work.
- Long-term: These work in the same way as temporary positions, but they last for a longer period of time (over a year). The agency is still responsible for placing you in the position and pays you for your work.
- Temporary-to-Hire: These begin as temporary positions. The agency places you with the company and pays your wage during the “trial” period. This allows the company to decide whether to hire you permanently. If they do, you become an employee of the company.
- Permanent: These are also sometimes called placements. For these positions, the company may interview you, as well as or instead of the agency. This allows them to personally decide whether you’re the right fit. If they decide to hire you, you’ll have a permanent job. The company will pay you from the beginning.
Usually, agencies labeled as “staffing agencies” or “temp agencies” focus on temporary or temp-to-hire positions. Recruitment agencies generally specialize in finding employees for permanent positions. However, some staffing agencies also hire candidates for permanent jobs.
Staffing agencies exist for almost all job industries. Whether you’re a bartender, administrative assistant, web developer or therapist, there are agencies specializing in your area of interest.
Why Temp Agencies Are a Good Idea
Now that we’re familiar with what staffing agencies are and how they work, let’s look at the pros and cons. To start with, we’ll go through the advantages of using a staffing agency to help you find a job.
1) Saves You Time
Staffing agencies have the ability to contact multiple companies every day on your behalf. If you lead a busy life and have no time to spare for job hunting, an agency will help immensely.
Once you apply to a staffing agency, they’ll do all the hard work for you. You provide them with your skills, experience, knowledge, and qualifications. You can also advise them on your preferred salary, hours, an area in which you’d like to work. Then, all that’s left to do is sit back and relax.
The agency will scour its available jobs, searching for a potential match. Once they find one, they’ll apply for the job on your behalf, and arrange an interview. Because staffing agencies get paid when you work, they’re invested in finding you work as quickly as possible.
And don’t forget: you’re allowed to use as many agencies as you want simultaneously. With multiple agencies all applying to scores of companies for you, you’ll save plenty of time.
2) It’s a Free Service
It’s completely free to use a staffing agency to help you find a job. This is because you, as the job seeker, are not the client. Staffing agencies have no reason to take money from you, as they get paid by the companies looking for employees.
As a job seeker, you’re essentially the “service” which the agency is selling to the employer. This is a good thing from the job seeker’s perspective, as it means the agency helps you at no cost to you.
Occasionally, you may come across a staffing agency which tries to charge you for using their services. This is not the done thing, and any reputable agency would frown upon this practice. If an agency is trying to charge you to be included in their database, look elsewhere.
3) Not All Jobs are Advertised
When you use the internet to find a job using sites like Indeed, Monster or LinkedIn, you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. So many vacant positions are never published online, or anywhere else for that matter. The jobs that you’ll find online are only a small percentage of vacancies out there.
Jobs that employers don’t advertise are often referred to as the “hidden job market”. While networking is a great way to tap into this market, staffing agencies are another valuable tool. Many employers, rather than publishing adverts online, will contact their agency to find a candidate through them.
Agencies often post jobs online, to advertise them if they haven’t got enough suitable candidates in their pool. However, for many jobs, they simply contact the people in their database to place them directly. This means that by getting your name into an agency database, you’re privy to hundreds or thousands of potential jobs that you wouldn’t have otherwise found.
4) Feedback and Advice
As we’ve mentioned, it’s in the best interests of the agency to get you hired as soon as possible. The more employees they place, and the sooner they do it, the more they get paid. For this reason, agencies routinely offer invaluable advice on every aspect of the job search.
A staffing agent may:
- Help you with your résumé and cover letter, advising you on wording, layout and all such matters
- Help you prepare for interviews, giving you advice on dress, conduct, interview questions and more
- Provide feedback after every interview, so you know what you need to work on next time.
- Negotiate your salary with your potential new employer. After all, the more you’re worth, the more they’ll earn themselves.
It’s sometimes worth getting in touch with a staffing agency purely for the help they can offer. Even if you don’t end up getting a job through them, you should always appreciate the advice.
5) So Much Choice
The employment agency industry is growing and growing. There aren’t just a handful of agencies to choose from – there are hundreds, if not thousands. Almost every job industry in the world has staffing and recruitment agencies, specializing in that particular area. So, no matter what your area of expertise is, there’s an agency waiting to find a job for you. This is particularly useful if you’re
There are also many different types of agencies. If you’re looking to be placed in a position quickly, try a temp agency. If you’re looking to find a lifelong career position, go for a recruitment company specializing in permanent roles. If you’re open to anything, there are general staffing agencies offering a variety of roles.
Why Staffing Agencies are a Bad Idea
We’d be lying if we claimed that getting a job through a staffing agency was all sunshine and roses. Like most things in life, there are some downsides, too.
Here are the disadvantages to using a staffing agency to help find you a job:
1) Fewer Employee Benefits
Usually, when you join a company as a permanent employee, your employer will offer you certain benefits. Depending on your job and your employer, these may vary.
However, they may include:
- Paid time off (PTO) for vacations and sick days
- Medical, vision and dental plans
- Insurance plans
- Retirement plans
- Child care benefits
- Transportation benefits
- Legal assistance plans
However, when you’re hired through an agency, you usually aren’t entitled to many of the benefits that a non-agency employee would have. This is because you’re not considered an employee of the company, but an employee of the agency.
The only thing that you’re entitled to under federal law is unpaid time off, as long as you have a valid excuse. For paid time off and other benefits, you’ll have to consult your local and state laws. In some states, for example, temporary workers can accrue PTO after working a certain number of hours.
The good thing is that many staffing agencies offer certain employee benefits, in lieu of the company. You’ll have to contact the agency itself to find out exactly what they offer.
2) Lower Job Satisfaction
A study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that agency workers experience significantly lower job satisfaction than permanent employees. This may be due to the feeling of being separated from, or different to, the permanent employees. You may feel a level of disconnectedness due to being an employee of an agency, and not receiving the benefits that permanent employees have. As most positions acquired through agencies are temporary, you may also feel as though it isn’t worth getting to know people, as you’ll be moving on soon enough.
Another study in Employee Relations found that agency workers in longer-term assignments integrate further into the workplace environment than short-term workers. This results in improved relationships with permanent staff, and commitment to the employer. So, for your best chance at job satisfaction, you should opt for a long-term or temporary-to-hire position.
3) Agencies Work for Companies, Not You
Recruiters and temp agency staff often have to meet certain quotas in terms of matching candidates to positions. For this reason, they may not always have your best interests at heart. If an agency needs to fill a position fast, they may try to talk you into taking a job that wouldn’t suit you.
Not only that, but if there are problems with a company – such as a hostile workplace environment, unsafe working conditions, or a tyrannical supervisor – the agency may not reveal this to you. After all, the company is paying them to fill vacant positions. They have no reason to reveal any information that may put you off taking the job.
Fortunately, not every recruitment agency is like this. If you ever feel pressured into taking a job that you feel would be unsuitable, simply go elsewhere.
How Much do Temp Agencies Make Off Their Employees?
Now that you understand how staffing agencies work, you may be wondering: how much do agencies make for each employee that they recruit? And where exactly do they get their money from? Do temp agencies take a cut of your pay?
Different agencies may make money in various ways. Usually, staffing agencies make money by one of the following:
- For temporary positions: charging the company for each hour that you work. As an example, the company may pay the staffing agency $15 per hour for you. You may receive $10 per hour, while the agency keeps the remaining $5.
- For temp-to-perm positions: charging for each hour of your work until the company hires you. Then, charging the company a “transfer fee” or “finding fee” when you move to permanent employment.
- For permanent positions: charging the company a one-time fee which is based on a percentage of the employee’s salary.
Contrary to popular thought, staffing agencies don’t take money directly out of your pay. The company and agency agree on your wage, and the agency then charges a markup on top. This markup could range anywhere from 25% to 100%. It pays for things like taxes, insurance, office costs, and the recruiters’ salaries. If the company wasn’t paying an agency, they wouldn’t give the extra money to you; they’d spend it on paying taxes and insurance themselves.
This means that you should earn around the same amount as a permanent employee would. To be sure, talk to the agency before signing up, and share your concerns. If you suspect they may dock your pay, move on to a different agency. Remember that you’re entitled to US minimum wage no matter what.
How to Get a Job Using a Staffing Agency
By now, you should have a good idea of whether you want to give it a go through a staffing agency. You’re familiar with how these agencies work, the types of work that you could get, and all the pros and cons. For many people, staffing agencies are a great way to find work quickly and without all the hassle of job-hunting.
To finish off, we’ll leave you with some final tips on how to get a job using a staffing agency. Follow these steps and you’re sure to be in employment before long.
1) Contact as Many Agencies as Possible
If you’re wondering “how long does it take to get a job through a temp agency”, the key is exposure. There’s no limit to how many staffing agencies you can sign up for. The more agencies that have your details, the faster you’ll be chosen for a job. Instead of contacting only one, contact as many relevant agencies as you can find. You can use the American Staffing Association’s website to find suitable agencies.
2) Treat Interviews Seriously
After contacting the agency, the next step will usually be an interview. This is not an interview for any particular job. Rather, it’s so that the agency can get a better idea of who you are and what jobs you’d be suited to. It’s important to treat this interview as though it were a “real” one, as it can hugely influence which kinds of jobs your agent will apply you for.
Bring your résumé, an example cover letter, and dress smartly. It’s a good idea to bring a notepad and pen so that you can jot down any hints and tips they give you. By treating the interview seriously, the agency will be able to comment on and critique your interview technique. This will give you a better chance of landing a job.
3) Be Honest, Yet Flexible
Be honest with the staffing agency about your skills, experience, and abilities. Lying or embellishing yourself in any way will only serve to your disadvantage. The agency may place you in a job which isn’t a good fit, and you’ll end up back in square one.
Be honest with yourself. If you truly don’t want a certain kind of job, don’t be a yes-man and accept anything going. You may end up making yourself miserable. However, at the same time, try to remain flexible and open-minded. Being too narrow with your availability and preferences will make it harder for agencies to find you something.
4) Be Persistent
Finally, like so many things in life, persistence is the key to success. You shouldn’t expect to find a job straight away. More likely, it’ll take several weeks for the agency to match you with a suitable position.
In the meantime, stay motivated. Contact the agency at least weekly to ask how they’re doing. It’ll make them realize that you’re serious about wanting work, and may even put you at the top of their list. And remember that you can also apply for jobs independently while using an agency. Just make sure to let them know so that you don’t accidentally apply twice.