What’s it Like Working for a Temp Agency? (Expert Tips)

by Belinda Elliott

Updated

Many employees find working for a temp agency to be a good way to add skills to their resume, pick up seasonal work for extra pay, fill the gap between full-time jobs or test out a company they would really like to join. 

Should you work for a temp agency? It depends on your career goals.

What are temp agencies?

Temp agencies are companies that employers use to fill short-term positions. The positions may feature part-time or full-time hours, but they are for a set period of time, often a few months. 

For instance, call centers that sell products often hire temp workers during their busy holiday season because their call volume increases. 

Companies also use temp workers to fill in for employees on an extended sick leave, during a maternity leave, or to fill needs for short-term projects. 

According to the American Staffing Association (ASA), approximately three million temporary and contract employees work for temp agencies during an average week. 

Positions are available in a variety of fields including industrial settings, administrative jobs, professional services, engineering, information technology, healthcare and more. 

This means there are jobs for MBA graduates without experience or gigs for retired teachers, for example.

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If I work for a temp agency, who is my employer?

Companies hire temp agencies to handle the screening and hiring process for them, along with taking care of any paperwork as well as your pay. 

This means that the temp agency would be who you would negotiate your salary with.

They also handle your benefits, if there are any. These services are free to job seekers. 

When you apply with a temp agency, you will be interviewed by them, and they will match you up with an employer that needs to fill a position. 

Though you will spend your time at the client company’s work site, or maybe multiple work sites, the temp agency is your actual employer. This differs from working for a staffing agency. 

Though staffing agencies are very similar–and they also find employees to fill positions at companies–many staffing agencies serve more as recruiters for employers looking to fill long-term roles. 

The staffing agency will pass along several candidates to the employer, and the employer will hire the one they choose. In that case, the employee then works for the company, not the staffing agency. 

Is working for a temp agency a good idea?

Many people find that temp work is a good fit for their lifestyle and career goals. If you are looking to get hired quickly, or try out a new career field, working for a temp agency may be a good fit for you. 

Temp positions are ideal for people who thrive on change and variety, enjoy learning new things and can do so quickly, are flexible and adapt to new environments well, and who are not as concerned with benefits or other perks that go along with permanent positions. 

Some of the most common reasons that people choose to work for a temp agency include:

  • Increased Flexibility – With part-time hours and varying shifts, these jobs can offer a more flexible schedule than traditional, full-time positions.
  • Fill a Gap Between Jobs – Job seekers finding it difficult to land a job have someone to help match them to an employer.
  • Added Income – Working a few extra shifts, or perhaps a seasonal night-job, can help you earn extra cash.
  • Gain Skills – Students and new grads can gain valuable work experience to add to their résumé. This works for career changers also who would like to try a new industry.
  • Obtain a Permanent Position – A temp role offers a foot in the door, and many employers go on to fill permanent positions with people who have already worked for them.

Trend on the Rise

In an employee survey, 49% of temp workers said working for a temp agency was a way to get a permanent job. If you impress the employer, you could be top of mind when a permanent position becomes available. It’s also a way to “try on” a role or see if you like the company, without making a long-term commitment.

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How To Get Started with a Temp Agency

Working with a temp agency is a very similar process to applying for a job with an individual company. 

Most temp agencies have websites or job apps so job seekers can apply online. Many also list jobs that are available. 

You simply follow their online application process, which could involve submitting an online application and providing them with your résumé. 

Following this, you will be interviewed. For some positions, like entry-level jobs, this may be a simple screening type of interview. 

For higher level positions, this may include a full job interview. 

Tactic for Success

Do your research before choosing a temp agency. Some agencies focus on specific industries while others are more general. Some serve only local companies; others can refer you to opportunities nationwide. Visit the agency’s website. Read online reviews, ask thorough questions and try to speak with others who have worked with the agency to learn about their experience.

Regardless of the type of job you are seeking, you should be prepared to discuss your skills and experience. You want to present a professional, polished image of yourself to the interviewer.

Some temp agencies will also require a background check and drug screening before matching you to employers. 

Once these are completed, and you are accepted by the agency, they will let you know which companies have positions that are a good fit, and they will place you in a job assignment. 

Do staffing agencies take a percentage of your check?

Both staffing agencies and temp agencies are paid by the companies that hire them. Their services are free to job seekers. 

In fact, if they require a payment or a “placement fee,” you should look elsewhere. Some temp agencies may even provide services like résumé review or interview preparation for free, though not all do.

Before signing with a temp agency, be sure you clearly understand their process. 

Some agencies require that you work exclusively with them, meaning you could not search for jobs through more than one temp agency at once. 

How to Excel in A Temporary Position

Once you are placed into a position, approach the role as you would any new job. Take notes on the company’s policies and procedures, follow their dress code, and try to get to know coworkers quickly. 

Though you may be in the role for only a short time, you want to become an integral part of the team for the time you are there. 

This is especially true if you hope to work for the company beyond your short-term assignment.

Tactic for Success

Keep future career goals in mind as you make the most of your temporary assignment. Track any positive feedback or performance reviews you receive. You can highlight these on a résumé, your LinkedIn profile, or in a future job interview. Ask direct supervisors to serve as a reference for you, write a letter of recommendation or recommend you on LinkedIn.

If you are hoping to turn your temp job into a permanent position, work hard to leave the employer with a good impression. 

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A few ways to do this include:

  • Treat the Role as a Permanent Position – This means being reliable and being willing to “go the extra mile” when needed. You want the employer to know you are dedicated to the mission.
  • Let Managers Know Your Career Goals – Let the employer know that you would like to work for the company permanently should an appropriate position open up.
  • Make Yourself Invaluable – Whether this means working early or late, jumping in to help wherever needed, or bringing new ideas to the role, show the employer how much value you contribute.
  • Immerse Yourself in the Culture – Being part of an organization is more than just showing up to do your job. Do everything you can to learn the culture and adapt to it.
  • Get to Know the Team – This is an exceptional networking opportunity, so build relationships within all levels of the organization. These employees are the ones who may know of upcoming openings and can recommend you.

Even if the company is not able to hire you immediately for a permanent position, you’ll leave knowing the organization was impressed with your work. 

Building a history of these positive work experiences, and enlarging your professional network, is vital in landing future jobs.

Wrapping Up

Working with a temp agency is a great way to build skills, gain experience and meet new people. 

If you are unsure which temp agencies serve your area, the American Staffing Association is a good place to begin your search.

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About the Author

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Belinda has been a professional writer for more than 20 years and serves as a career coach in her community helping job seekers with all aspects of their job search. Her educational credentials include a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a master’s in journalism.