Guide for Using a Temp Agency to Find Work

Temporary office worker
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Temporary jobs can be a great way to gain experience, try out a new career to see if you enjoy it, find work in a new city, get your foot in the door for a permanent position, or gain flexibility for family or other commitments.

You can find a temp job in almost any industry. By using the right agency, you can find a job that fits your interests and abilities.

What Is a Temp Worker?

Temporary workers (often referred to as temps) are part-time or contingent workers who are hired on a short-term basis.

Temps lack long-term employment contracts, but they often have contracts for limited periods of time to complete specific assignments.

While there are many benefits to being a temp, there’s one huge drawback: temp workers are often the first employees to be laid off during periods of economic downturn.

What Is a Temp Agency?

A temporary staffing firm, also known as a temp agency or staffing agency, finds and retains workers to send out on short- or long-term assignments. Temp agencies usually deal with particular professions or businesses, such as healthcare, information technology, accounting, office administration, or industrial labor.

Companies in need of short- or long-term temporary workers enter into contracts with temp agencies to fill jobs with appropriately skilled workers. Companies pay temp agencies, and agencies pay the temporary workers.

What Kinds of Jobs Are Available at Temp Agencies?

Temp jobs range from entry-level work to professional roles. You can find temp jobs in almost any industry, but they are particularly common in administrative work, industrial work, professional-managerial jobs, healthcare, and IT.

The most common jobs that temp agencies fill include:

Accountants and auditors handle financial transactions for companies and/or businesses. Employers might hire a temp accountant or auditor for a particularly busy time of year, such as tax season. They earn median pay of $33.89 per hour as of 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Computer systems analysts, sometimes called systems architects, help make a company’s computer systems operate more efficiently. Temporary systems architects might work on a short-term project for a company. They earn median pay of $42.66 per hour.

Computer user support specialists help companies or individual computer users maintain computer networks by troubleshooting issues. Their median pay comes in at $24.14 per hour.

Customer service representatives interact with customers and clients on the phone, online, or in person. They help solve customer issues, answer questions, and process orders. Median pay is $16.23 per hour.

Data entry workers are employable in almost any industry. They might input, verify, or update data for a company, typically using data software to enter and maintain this information. Their median pay is $15.47 per hour.

Maintenance and repair workers fix and maintain equipment, machines, and buildings. A temporary maintenance worker might be hired to help complete a specific project. Their median pay is $18.42 per hour.

Management consultants, also called management analysts, work with organizations to improve efficiency. They might be hired temporarily to deal with a specific issue a company is facing. Their median pay is $40.20 per hour.

Nurses and nursing aides provide patient care. They may work in clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, or nursing homes. Nurses earn a median wage of $34.48 per hour, while nursing aides, who assist the nursing staff, make median pay of $13.72 per hour.

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform administrative tasks for offices in nearly all professions. They might answer phones, schedule appointments, organize files and data, and more. Temporary workers might be hired during a busy time of year or to temporarily replace a full-time employee. They earn median pay of $18.69 per hour.

Truck and delivery drivers pick up and drop off packages and shipments to businesses and households. Their median pay is $14.66 per hour.

Other common temp jobs include electricians, human resources specialists, packaging workers, medical secretaries, and software developers. Again, these are just some of the many jobs you can get through a temp agency.

The Benefits of Working as a Temp

There are many reasons why working for a temp agency might be beneficial. These are some of the benefits that make it worth considering:

Flexible schedules: Temporary employment provides you the chance to work when and where you want to work. Work only during school hours, take the summers off, or take a break to do something else with your life. Either way, if you are a temp, it's your choice when and where you work.

You can get a job quickly through a temp agency. Temp agencies constantly are working with organizations searching for job candidates. By working with a temp agency, you likely will be able to find a temporary job more quickly than if you searched on your own.

You can earn money quickly. Temping can be a way to make ends meet or give you a little extra income when you need it or have the time. According to the American Staffing Association, the average hourly wage for temp workers is more than $17 per hour, and some workers make more than $100 per hour in specialized fields.

You can receive benefits. In addition to a paycheck, many temp agencies provide benefits to their workers. Manpower, for example, offers a full benefits package, including holidays, medical and dental coverage, life insurance, and a 401k plan. Be sure to inquire into what benefits are offered when you apply or when you interview with a staffing agency.

You can test out a company. If you are interested in a company for full-time employment but want to learn more about it before taking a permanent job, a temp position is a great way to learn more about the culture.

You can try out a new career. Temporary jobs can be a great way to gain experience in a new field. Temp jobs can give you experience in industries and careers you otherwise might not have thought of trying—without a long-term commitment. If you are not thrilled with the assignment or the employer, you can move on to your next position and start anew.

You can gain new skills. If your resume needs a boost, a temporary job is an ideal way to add skills and experience. According to the American Staffing Association, more than 90% of staffing companies provide training to their temporary workers, and 70% of temps say that they gained new skills during their assignments.

It can lead to a permanent job. A temporary job also can become a permanent position. According to Manpower, 40% of their temp workers find permanent employment through temporary placements each year. Temping can be a step through the door of a company you are interested in working for and a way to get hired permanently.

How to Find the Right Agency

There are a number of temp agencies, so it can feel overwhelming when you try to find the right one for you. First, talk to people you know who have used a temp agency. Ask them which ones they used and their experiences at each. Second, if you know any employers or hiring managers, ask them what temp agencies they have used. Third, test out a couple agencies before selecting one to work with. Look at their websites, and pay the agencies a visit. Get a sense of the kinds of industries they specialize in.

Find out whether or not they offer benefits to their temp workers. You also might find out if they tend to specialize in temp-to-hire jobs, if that is something you are interested in.

You also might want to think about whether you want to work with a general temp agency or an industry-specific one. Examples of general agencies include Adecco, Kelly Services, Manpower, Randstad, and Robert Half International.

There also are staffing agencies that focus on particular industries. Some healthcare staffing agencies, for example, include AMN Healthcare, Avant Healthcare Professionals, Interim Healthcare, Medical Solutions, and MedPro Staffing. IT staffing agencies include Modis, TEKsystems, NetTemps, and WunderLand. Some of these specialize in temporary jobs, while others staff both temp and full-time jobs.

There also are a number of regional staffing agencies, so check your local area for agencies specific to your town, state, or region.

Landing a Temp Job

The process of using a temp agency is relatively simple for workers. It's just like applying for a job. You submit a resume (possibly online, depending on the agency), fill out an application, and have an interview.

For entry-level positions, this interview can be very brief; for higher-paying jobs, it can be more like a full job interview. There often is a screening phase during which the agency may conduct a background check or require a drug test.

Once you've been accepted into the agency's workforce, you'll be offered one or more jobs that fit your skills if there are any immediately available. There may be a delay of several days or weeks until something opens up.

The more general your skills or the positions you're willing to work, the easier it will be for the agency to find something for you that fits.

Interview Tips for Temp Jobs

The more successful your interview, the more likely you will be to get a position that is a good fit for you. Consider some this advice for acing your interview:

Treat it like an interview for a full-time, permanent position. The temp agency is the company you will be representing when you go to your temp job. Dress appropriately, and show up on time. Listen attentively and use positive body language to convey your attention and interest. Introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Bring your resume, and be ready to answer common interview questions for temp positions.

Do your research. Read up on the company and its goals, and learn about the types of temps typically hired by the organization. If you’re interested in temp-to-perm positions, find out whether that’s a common arrangement at this agency.

Know your availability. Are you only available to work during your winter break from college? Available 9 to 5, except on Fridays? Be honest about when you can work, and when you are unavailable.

Be honest. Be honest about your goals, whether it’s to land a permanent position (eventually), maintain flexibility, or to develop some skills that will make you an attractive candidate for your next full-time job.

Have a few questions of your own. There’s only so much you can find out about a company ahead of time. Use the interview to learn more about the agency, including the kinds of companies they work with, the benefits offered (if any), and more.

Send a thank-you note. Send an emailed or handwritten note to thank the interviewers for their time and to reinforce your interest in finding a position.

Be persistent and patient. Sometimes a staffing firm will have an assignment waiting for someone like you. Sometimes it takes a while to find a client that needs your skills, or it takes the client a while to respond. Check in with any staffing firm you’ve contacted at least once a week to remind them of your interest and demonstrate your eagerness.

When you get a job, prepare. When you receive an assignment as a temp, the agency will provide you with information about where to report, dress code, hours, wages, and a description of the duties and duration of the job. You also might need to do a second interview with the company. If you don’t receive all of this information, ask the temp agency.

Other Ways to Find a Temp Job

If you decide you don’t want to use a temp agency to find a temp job, there are some other options. Most job search sites allow you to search for temporary jobs. Most have an “advanced search” button that allows you to narrow down your search by categories such as location, industry, and type of job. If there is a “temporary jobs” button, click on it. If not, use “temporary job” as a keyword in your search.

You also might consider participating in the growing gig economy. A gig economy is an environment in which people generally work as freelancers, completing short- or long-term projects for various organizations. Most of these jobs allow you to work as an independent contractor, meaning you can pick up whatever jobs you want.

You can find gig jobs without using a temp agency. Some industries have more freelance, part-time, and temporary work than others. If you’re in tech, administrative support, translation, accounting, and sales, you may have an easier time finding gigs than workers in other fields. To find your next gig, take a look at one of the many job sites geared toward temporary workers.

The Bottom Line

A Temporary Staffing Firm Finds Workers for Assignments: These jobs can be short- or long-term. Some temp jobs may even become permanent.

Temp Jobs Include Everything From Entry-Level Work to Professional Roles: You’re most likely to find temp jobs in administrative jobs, industrial work, professional-managerial jobs, healthcare, and tech.

Benefits of Being a Temp – and A Few Drawbacks: Temp jobs offer flexibility, a short on-ramp to employment, a chance to build new skills, and potential for a permanent job. However, temps are often the first to be laid off during a downturn.

How to Find a Temp Job: Sign up with a temp agency in your field or use one of the many job sites geared toward temporary workers.