Job Seeker Tips

By Norma Bauer, Employment Specialist, Tuesday Night Job Club Facilitator, and WCGL Board Member

Consider Temporary Assignments

While many job seekers hesitate to register with temporary agencies, there are many advantages:

  • Positions are available with all kinds of employers, in all kinds of organizations, that are seeking skills that range from entry level to professional.
  • It allows you to upgrade your skills if you’ve been out of the job market for a while.
  • It allows you to show some current experience on your resume.
  • It’s easier to get a better job once you’re employed than to get a job when you’ve been unemployed for a while.
  • It’s a source of ready cash.
  • Working at different places doing a variety of jobs makes you mentally alert, flexible, adaptable, and forces you to learn new ways of doing things as well as getting along with lots of different people. All of this will help you adjust to a new job faster when you do get an offer for permanent employment.
  • You meet a lot of people doing temporary work, and any of them can join your network of people who hear about job openings and can give you a call when they hear of one that could be right for you.
  • Any of the placements you get might decide to hire you. You can also specify that you are only interested in temp to hire positions. A women’s center client who did this was hired at the end of her temp assignment and is now making over $14 an hour with full benefits.
  • Even though you’re not paid for time off, you are free to reject offers and take off when you need to. Temp agencies may hesitate to place you if you do this too much, but when the day comes that you need or want time off for any reason, you are far more free to take it without negative consequences than if you were in the first 90 days of a permanent job, with no accrued leave.
  • At least one local agency offers extensive, high-quality on-line training free to its bank of office workers so you can upgrade your skills.
  • Part-time temporary jobs are available if you have some college and that’s what you want. Given the time investment, paperwork and risks of hiring directly, an increasing number of employers hire exclusively through temporary agencies. It’s their chance to try-out an employee and screen out unskilled workers or those that aren’t a good fit for the organization. If an employer terminated a direct-hire employee without sufficient documentation, they could be faced with a lengthy or cumbersome termination process or even a lawsuit. If an employer is not satisfied with an employee they have through a temp agency, all they have to say is “Don’t send Joan back,” and it’s perfectly legal.

Increasingly, employers are willing to pay a premium for the services that temporary agencies offer, so don’t apply to temp agencies that charge a fee to job seekers.

When you register with a temporary help agency, get very well acquainted with the kinds of placements they specialize in. If it’s mainly factory jobs, give them a resume that shows you know how to lift weights or drive a forklift or pick orders or do quality inspecting. If it’s mainly office jobs, give them a resume that shows what you know about MicroSoft Office Suite, faxes, copiers, and ten-key adding machines . Let them know the kinds of placements you prefer, and the kinds that you’ll accept. You can be honest with them. They want to place you because they make money every time they do.

If you have a criminal history, ask if they place ex-offenders before filling out any forms. No sense in wasting their time or yours if their corporate policy requires them to screen you out before they even know what you have to offer.

Expect a mini-interview and perhaps some job skill testing so they know if you’ll be a good fit when an employer specifies basic, intermediate, or advanced skills.

Once registered with a temp agency, call them every week to keep your application current.

Working for a temporary agency is different from working for other employers. It’s okay to apply at several, and to call every one of them every week to keep your application current. One recent job seeker registered with nine agencies and got a “temp to perm” assignment in two weeks! After 90 days and the results of a physical came in, the company offered a direct hire position, with a raise and full benefits.

Don’t let feelings of loyalty spoil your chances for a good placement. What if you get offers from two agencies in the same week? If the hours don’t mesh, pick the one that looks best (more pay or more hours or more prestige and contacts or more of the work you like to do). When you call the other one with regret that you can’t accept their assignment, be sure to mention that it’s because you got a better offer, so they know that other employers want what you have to offer. Next time, maybe they’ll offer you better pay or more hours. Yes, you can negotiate for pay even with temp agencies. What do you have to lose?