Preparing and empowering the "Over 40" worker for career opportunities in the new economy.



Using Staffing Firms to Further Your Job Search


Ron Visconti, MA

Ron Visconti, MA

In a good economy or bad economy, staffing firms are here to stay and are an integral part of our workforce.  Staffing firms represent a wide range of all industries in both the private and public sectors and account for over 2 million people being employed (American Staffing Association).  About 8.6 million temporary and contract employees are hired annually by U.S. staffing firms, and 79% of these employees work full time, just like the rest of the work force.

Previously, people would think of temporary workers as front desk workers or warehouse people who would assist a company in short supply need.  Today, there is a temporary worker for every imaginable skill set such as: marketing, human resources, accounting, and office support.  Larger employers often maintain onsite temporary services as an adjunct to their human resources department, and some even use multiple staffing providers to fill their Human Resources needs.


Staffing companies place candidates in three distinctive ways:

  1. Temporary or contract work, where the job seeker works for the staffing firm's client on a temporary or interim basis.
  2. Temp-to-perm, where the candidate works on a trial basis for the firm’s client and may become an employee of the client after being deemed a positive fit.
  3. Direct hire, the staffing firm recruits the candidate and is hired by its client.


Why work temporary? Applicants work temporary work for a variety of reasons.

  1. Working as a temporary can be a necessity, a smart job search strategy, or a planned life style choice.
  2. A career changer or re-entry worker can use temporary work to sample an industry or to get exposure to a company for which they wish to work.
  3. Some candidates do "portfolio work" and therefore, working temporary is a great way to supplement their income.


What purpose does the temporary worker serve for the company?

  1. In today's economy, there is reluctance to hire employees outright. Businesses are cautious and are project-driven (looking to fill a given need at a given time).
  2. Some businesses have peak times of operation from hiring (i.e. summertime or the holidays) or have a special task that needs to be completed during a certain period of time such as taxes or shipment of products for the holidays.
  3. Many large companies maintain an onsite agency with a physical presence on their premises to recruit and fill their recruitment.


Additionally, temporary workers:

  1. Serve as replacements for workers who are on vacation, medical disability, or maternity leave
  2. Complement to a busy human resources department
  3. Provide a steady supply of developing future employees
  4. Offer a possible way to recruit large numbers of workers


How do you maximize working with temporary agencies?

  1. Find out how they operate. Who are their customers? Who do they primarily serve?
  2. What skill levels do they serve? Do they specialize in a certain sector of the job market?
  3. Remember: using temporary work or staffing services is one of many tools you should use in your job search.  However, it should not be the only tool.

Mary Ann McLinden of AppleOne, mentions that sometimes applicants forget that the interview with a staffing firm is a formal process and that the staffing firm is the actual employer, not just the screener.

Irene Altany of Ajilon suggests that before you consider staffing firms, know what industries you want to work for and have a job objective or job title. Mary Ann reiterates this point: successful candidates know what they want.


How do your prepare for the staffing firms:

  1. Do your homework. Ask yourself, "Does the staffing firm adequately represent my industry and my needs?"
  2. Examine your attitude.  Take your first meeting with a staffing firm as a real interview.  After all, first impressions are important.
  3. Dressing professionally "conveys energy and purpose" according to Irene Altany of Ajilon.


How to work well with agencies:

  1. A good agency will look for a good fit -- for both the employer and the applicant.
  2. Do you have the right skill set? Will you fit with the other workers? An agency looking to place you quickly without knowing more about you probably is not the best fit.
  3. Ask yourself how you were treated? Did they take time to get to know you?
  4. Was the office professional in their customer service?
  5. Your intuition is important. How well you were treated is very important to the overall success of the experience.


What should you ask the agency:

  1. Who are their key clients and what industries do they serve?
  2. Do they cater primarily to temporary work?
  3. What is their rate of temp conversion into permanent placements?
  4. Can you be considered for both temp, as well as permanent assignments? How long will this assignment last?
  5. Can you be exposed to a particular industry, such as biotech or high tech? In short, how they can help you?
  6. What company representative will be assigned to you and your point of contact?


Keeping in touch.  Look at staffing firms as your partner.

  1. Ongoing communication is key.  Irene Altany recommends that you make a weekly connection.  Alternate between phone calls and emails.
  2. Communication! Communication, communication, communication!  It is important for both parties to keep the dialogue going.
  3. Ask your company representative, how often should you be in touch?  Once a week?  Every two weeks?

Communication at all levels is important from getting insights into the company to receiving feedback about your resume and interviewing style.


Also, if you are in the job search process with a company, the interviewer or placement specialist needs to discuss the following with you:

  1. Have you been offered a job?
  2. If so, is it in line with your career goals?


Other questions to consider, related to the staffing service:

  1. Do they call you on a regular basis for assignments?
  2. Have you not been called at all? If that is the case, you need to know why.


Staffing firms should be one of just many job search resource tools that you use when job-seeking. Making contact with staffing services is an important part of your overall marketing strategy.



Ron Visconti is the Executive Director of Phase2Careers.  He has over 25 years of working with public and privates agencies in regard to recruitment, career development, and transition projects.


Copyrighted by Ron Visconti, 2011

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