Getting the Most Out of a Staffing Agency

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You’ve updated your cover letter and resume. Your LinkedIn page has been crafted to impress anyone who clicks on it. You attend networking events and make sure you keep in touch with everyone you meet. But have you considered signing up at a staffing agency as part of your job search?

Working with a staffing company can be an excellent way to earn money while you’re in the midst of your job search, enhance the skills that will help you land a full-time position, and get your foot in the door at companies you’re interested in.

“It’s very important to include staffing agencies as part of a larger strategy,” said Randy Hain, author of LANDED: Proven Job Search Strategies for Today’s Professional. “You want to have as many boots on the ground as possible out there trying to help you connect to the job you’re looking for — and staffing agencies can play a part in that.”

How to work with staffing agencies

Just like any other job search strategy, dealing with staffing agencies is only as effective as the effort you put into it. The following dos and don’ts can help you get the most out of the experience.

Do put your best foot forward. Although a staffing agency may offer temporary or part-time job opportunities, that doesn’t mean that should only put in a part-time effort when applying for these positions, says Dana Manciagli, author of Cut the Crap, Get a Job.

“A lot of people are mistaken that they can just give a resume to a staffing agency, and they expect the agency to sell them. But the agency just passes along your information, so they’re only as good as what you give them,” she said. “Another mistake job seekers make is to dismiss a job just because the agency’s ad doesn’t state what the end company is. You should go for that job just as hard as any other because you have to get through a staffing company to get to their client.”

Don’t pay a staffing agency. “If any firm asks for a fee to help you find a job, run away screaming,” Hain said. “That is a scam. Don’t ever pay a fee to have an agency try to get you a job. Between Internet postings and your own ingenuity, you can do a much better job than they can.”

Do make sure you’re clear about what you want. If you’re looking to work in a specific industry, or if you’re only able to work a certain number of hours per week, be sure to communicate this clearly to the staffing agency. This will avoid any confusion when it comes time for the recruiter to place you in a company. Also, when you do get an assignment, make sure it aligns with the parameters you set before you accept it, just in case a recruiter didn’t keep them in mind when placing you.

Don’t apply for every job you find. “Be sure you’re only applying to those jobs that are relevant to you. You don’t want to spam staffing agencies and just spray your resume across all kinds of jobs,” said Manciagli. “All they will think is (a) you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up and (b) you’re wasting their time.”

Do put temp work on your resume. Highlighting the temp work you’ve done is a good way to showcase the skills that you gained, as well as the initiative you took during your job search. When you mention your temp assignments on your resume or in your cover letter, you can list the companies the staffing agency placed you in, but make it clear that you were a temp in these organizations. If you don’t, hiring managers may see that as a misrepresentation of your work history.

Don’t make staffing agencies the focal point of your job search. Working with staffing companies can be a waiting game, so if you’re relying on them to find you a job, you’re most likely going to be disappointed. Although it’s possible to get a full-time position from a staffing company, or for a part-time or temporary placement to become full time, it’s best to make this strategy only one tool in your job search arsenal.

Do your homework. Before working with a staffing agency, be sure to do your research and know what you’re getting into. You can get a wealth of information from staffing company Web sites, including what kinds of jobs they’re recruiting for and who their clients are. In addition, going to sites like glassdoor.com can give you some insight on what it’s like to work with specific staffing agencies.

Don’t forget to look for opportunities to work with multiple recruiters. Not only should you register with multiple staffing companies, you should also look for opportunities to work with multiple recruiters at the same organization. There can be several recruiters working at the same agency, so when you’re already engaging one, be sure to ask how to get noticed by others, which will maximize your chances of getting a placement.

Do understand the nature of staffing agencies. “One thing that can be a little shocking is just recognizing that you’re really working for the staffing firm, not the end company. The staffing company issues your paycheck and your benefits,” said Hain. “Also, for someone who is really looking for a full-time job, it can be a little disconcerting to jump from assignment to assignment. If you’re used to putting down roots, it can be very difficult to adjust to these kinds of roles.”

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California. She writes about education and related topics for several websites, including Schools.com

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