Looking for work can be a full-time job. So why not work with a staffing agency and let them do some of the heavy lifting?
All kinds of employers rely on staffing agencies (or recruiters, search firms or staffing firms — they're called by various names) to help them find the right people for the job. That's good news for job seekers. By registering with a single staffing agency, you have the potential to make connections with multiple employers.
So what’s it like working with a staffing agency, and how can they help you achieve your employment goals? Here's a brief primer on what to expect — plus some tips on how you can get the most out of the relationship.
Choose the right agency
Not every staffing agency is the same. Before investing in the relationship, spend some time learning about the agency. Make sure they're specifically equipped to help someone with your career profile and professional goals.
At most staffing agencies, you'll begin by submitting your resume and a cover letter. Once the agency reviews and accepts these documents, you may be asked to take part in skills testing and/or an interview, so recruitment experts can learn more about you.
Treat the interview seriously
Approach the interview with a staffing manager just as you would any job interview with an employer. The goal of the staffing agency is not to grill you, but to give them a good sense of the opportunities that best suit you.
Even if you're connecting remotely, make sure you are well-dressed, well-groomed and well-prepared. You should also be ready to talk about your employment experience, work habits, professional preferences and career objectives. And if the staffing agency is considering you for a position at a specific company, do some research on the business so you can demonstrate your enthusiasm and ask relevant questions.
Decide if you want temporary or full-time work
Employers often turn to staffing agencies to find candidates for temporary or project-based work. Others are looking to hire full-time employees. In addition, there is a growing trend toward temporary-to-full-time positions. For many people, this can be the best of both worlds, giving both the employer and candidate a chance to get to know each other before making a longer-term commitment.
Clarify whether you want short-term, long-term, or temporary-to-permanent employment. This will help all parties — you, the staffing recruiter and the hiring company — make the best match.
Let the search begin
After your interview, the agency recruiters are armed with much more than your resume. They have a full picture of your hard skills, soft skills (especially communication skills), short-term employment objectives and long-term career goals.
So far, the process sounds a lot like applying for a job — and it is. But, as noted earlier, instead of a single position, one interview with a staffing agency can lead to multiple potential job matches. Once the agency has determined you're a viable candidate for placement, they leverage their contacts at companies in your industry and search for open positions that match your qualifications and preferences.
While you're waiting to hear back, take advantage of the professional development and training opportunities the best staffing firms offer. It's a great way to make yourself more marketable to potential employers.
Robert Half, for example, offers more than 8,000 courses and online reference materials, as well as access to free continuing professional education and professional education program credits.
Make your match
Once your recruiter finds a potential match, they will typically arrange an interview for you with the client to determine whether it's a good fit for the employer.
If both you and the employer think the fit is right, some staffing agencies will help negotiate pay and other terms of the engagement on your behalf. They may even take care of all the associated paperwork for you, so all you have to do is show up at your new gig.
Tip: If your agency contacts you about an open position, respond as quickly as possible. Many jobs need to be staffed ASAP, and you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity.
If you aren't getting any interviews, ask your agency representative what you can do to improve your chances.
If you’ve been successful in garnering interviews, keep your recruiter informed. They may have contacts at the company who could help you land the role.
The right agency can work wonders. But you have to stay on top of the search process too — including regular contact with your recruiters. While the staffing agency will notify you when a potential job becomes available, it's acceptable to check in with your contact once every week or two.