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Should I keep calling my temp agency about potential assignments?


temp-stickerAarti at Sam Houston State University asked:

I recently registered with an employment/staffing agency. They told me that when they find a job opportunity (an assignment) that matches my qualifications, they will contact me, and i will be able to work as a temporary employee for approximately 4 weeks to 6 months. I have called my staffing manager at the agency, but she hasn’t returned my calls regarding updates on possible assignments. Should I keep calling?

Hi Arti

Employment agencies and temporary staffing firms play an important role in our economy.  They give employers the ability to fill seasonal, short-term and other challenging-to-fill positions, And, they help people seeking employment gain experience, get their foot in to door, and earn a living.  Some companies use staffing agencies (also known as third-party recruiters) as their primary means for hiring entry-level employees, others use them to address short-term staffing shortages (e.g., during vacations, family medical leaves and maternity leaves), and some use them as “head hunters” to find candidates for hard-to-fill positions.

Staffing agencies do not all do the same things, but the do all share two qualities of which you should be aware:

Staffing Agencies work for Employers, not for Job Seekers

This is a very important distinction.  Staffing agencies are paid by employers to find and source candidates for temporary, temp-to-permanent, and permanent positions.  As a candidate, you are valuable to a staffing agency when the qualifications you offer match up with the needs of that agency’s client employers. When you have the skills their client employers need, your staffing manager will call you (and take your calls), when your skills do not align with their clients’ needs, your staffing manager has no incentive to call you or return your calls.

Understand this distinction, and you will understand how – as a job seeker – you can use staffing agencies to your advantage.

Staffing Agencies Specialize

Some staffing agencies specialize in providing employers with office/clerical candidates.  Others specialize, for example, in customer service, legal/para-legal, industrial, clean industrial, technical, creative, marketing &  sales or accounting.  Some firms focus on providing temporary and seasonal staffing; other focus on providing candidates for regular (often referred to as permanent) positions. Some focus on entry-level staffing; others focus on providing experienced candidates. Executive Search Firms (often called head hunters) focus on finding senior level professionals, often with specialized skills.  Most staffing firms offer a blend of these services and specialties.

As a job seeker, you must assess which agencies (and their specialties) align best with your skills and the type of employment you are seeking.

How can you use staffing agencies to your advantage?

Register with Multiple Staffing Agencies

Your relationship with a staffing agency is not exclusive.  You can, and should, register with more than one firm. If you are looking for work in accounting and there are three staffing agencies in your area that focus on accounting – register with all three.  Remember, staffing agencies do not work for you.  You do not pay their bills, employers do.

Check in with your Staffing Managers regularly

Keep your staffing manager aware of your availability.  Call at least once a week to let them know your status.  If you have accepted a 6-week assignment through one agency, call the staffing managers at your other agencies to let them know you are “off the market” for the next six weeks.  Keeping your staffing managers aware of your availability helps them help you.

Respond promptly when your Staffing Manager calls about an assignment

Staffing managers at employment agencies are almost always working under tight deadlines.  When they call you about an assignment, it is usually fairly urgent, and they will need your answer quickly.  You are probably not the only person they are calling about the position.  Their priority is filling the job with a qualified candidate, not making sure you get that job.  When your staffing manager calls, answer your phone!  Ask whatever questions you need to assess the assignment and then accept or decline it.  If your staffing manager leaves a voice mail, return it promptly.  Again, your quick response helps them help you.

Do a good job when on assignment

Show up early.  At the very least, be on time.  Dress the part.  Act the part. Be reliable. Just do a good job.

When you are on assignment, you are representing both yourself and the agency that sent you. When you do a good job, that is a reflection of your capabilities and those of the staffing agency that sent you.  If you have any problems on an assignment, bring them to the attention of your staffing manager as soon as possible.  Treat your work like a professional.  You are, after all, getting paid!  Do a good job, earn your wage, and you will very likely get called for more assignments.  Staffing managers love employees they can trust on assignment.  Be that employee!

So, yes – Aarti, keep calling!

And, good luck,



1 Comment

  1. Aarti Sharma says:

    Thank you Mr. Berndt! I appreciate you educating about staffing agencies.

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