How to Use a Temp Agency to Find a Job

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 allow you flexibility for family or other commitments. You can find a temp job in almost any industry. By using the right temp agency, you can find a job that fits your interests and abilities.

What is a Temp Worker?

A temporary worker (also known as a contingent worker or a temp) is a part-time or contingent worker who is hired on a short-term basis.

A temporary worker lacks a long-term employment contract. He or she often has a contract for a certain period of time or for a particular assignment; 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 a particular profession or business, such as healthcare, information technology, accounting, office administration, or industrial labor.

Companies in need of short or long-term temporary workers will enter into a contract with the temp agency to fill jobs with appropriately skilled workers. The company pays the temp agency, and the temp agency pays the temporary worker.

What Kind of Jobs Are Available at a Temp Agency?

Some people think that temp agencies are only for entry-level jobs.

That is not the case. These days, temp jobs range from entry-level work to professional roles. You can find a temp job in almost any industry. However, temp jobs are particularly common in administrative work, industrial work, professional-managerial jobs, health care, and IT.

The most common jobs that temp agencies fill include:

  • Accountants and auditors 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 a median hourly pay of $32.76, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.
  • Computer systems analysts – Sometimes called systems architects, computer systems analysts 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 a median pay of $41.93 per hour.
  • Computer user support specialists – Computer user support specialists help companies and/or individual computer users maintain their computer networks. They troubleshoot any issues with the networks. Computer support specialists earn an average of $25.08 per hour.
  • Customer service representatives Customer service reps interact with customers and clients on the phone, online, and/or in person. They help solve customer issues, answer questions, and process orders. A rep earns an average of $15.53 per hour.
  • Data entry workers – Data entry workers can work in almost any industry. They might input, verify, and/or update data for a company. They typically use data software to enter and maintain this information. Data entry workers earn an average of $15.21 per hour.
  • Maintenance and repair workers – General maintenance workers fix and maintain equipment, machines, and buildings. A temporary maintenance worker might be hired to help complete a particular project. They earn an average of $17.76 per hour.
  • Management consultants – Also called management analysts, management consultants work with organizations to improve their efficiency. They might be hired temporarily to deal with a particular issue a company is facing. They can earn an average of $39.10 per hour.
  • Nurses and nursing aides Nurses provide patient care, and nursing aides provide basic care for patients. They may work in clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, or nursing homes. Nurses earn an average of $32.91 per hour, while nursing aides earn an average of $12.78 per hour.
  • Secretaries and administrative assistants Secretaries and administrative assistants perform administrative tasks for an office. 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 an average of $17.90 per hour.
  • Truck and delivery drivers Delivery truck drivers pick up and drop off packages and shipments to businesses and households. They earn an average of $13.65 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

Temp jobs offer 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 are constantly working with organizations that are searching for job candidates. By working with a temp agency, you will likely 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.

You can receive benefits. In addition to a paycheck, many temp agencies provide benefits to their workers. The staffing agency Manpower, for example, offers a full benefits package including holidays, medical and dental coverage, life insurance, and a 401k plan. Be sure to inquire 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, but want to learn more about them before taking a permanent job, a temp position is a great way to learn more about the company 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 might not have otherwise 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 to your resume. According to the American Staffing Association, more than 90 percent of staffing companies provide training to their temporary workers and 70 percent of temps say that they gained new skills during their assignment.

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

How to Find the Right Temp Agency for You

There are a number of temp agencies, so it can feel overwhelming when you try to find the right agency 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 might also 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 are also 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, TopTechJobs, and WunderLand. Some of these specialize in temporary jobs, while others staff both temp and full-time jobs.

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

Tips for 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 is often 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 to find you something that fits.

Tips for Interviewing for a Temporary Position

Below are some tips for having a successful interview with a temp agency. The more successful your interview, the more likely you will get a position that is a good fit for you.,

Treat it like a real interview. Treat the interview exactly as you would an interview with a company, because the temp agency is the company you will be representing when you go to your temp job. Dress appropriately, and show up on time – early, if possible. 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, be aware of whether that’s a common arrangement the agency’s clients can offer.

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.

Emphasize your flexibility. Emphasize your flexibility and comfort working in new environments.

Demonstrate your dedication. Make sure to stress your dedication and commitment – the agency will want to know that you care about doing a job well, even in a temporary role. 

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 as to whom to report, dress code, hours, wages, and a description of the duties and duration of the job. You might also 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 might also 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. Check out some examples of gig jobs, and read these tips on how to enter the gig economy.