Temp agencies have been good to me over the years. They have offered a sense of stability during transition periods and lessened the feeling of desperation that can accompany a job search while unemployed. Over time, I learned a few tricks to make sure I would get hired for temp assignments, which can be just as competitive as regular jobs. Here are a few tips about how to best work with temp agencies to make sure they call you during those in-between periods.
1. Do treat a temp agency with as much respect as an employer. You will be representing their company to their clients, so it’s important to make a strong first impression with a temp agency. This means wearing business attire to your agency interview and following up with a thank you email. This will help you beat out other candidates who may not understand this principle. I remember showing up once in business casual and later regretting it when my new contact told me to be in business attire for an interview for a higher-level temp assignment. I hadn’t taken the initial meeting as seriously as I should have, and I learned my lesson.
2. Do understand the clients for a particular agency. Some agencies focus on fashion or creative work, while others focus on nonprofit, accounting, finance, or all three. It’s helpful to look around on agency websites and ask friends who have been successfully placed. I learned through contacts which agency has a major university in NYC as their client.
3. Don’t rely exclusively on email to follow up. What is true for your regular job search is also true for temp agencies: your follow-up should not be exclusively electronic. You should call to make sure your resume was received and mention your enthusiasm for working with the agency. If it’s a smaller placement service, there may be only one person responsible for the temporary division. You can inquire about the name and email address of that person.
4. Do use referrals when possible. Temp agencies are sifting through hundreds of resumes just like regular recruiters. You can make their job easier by mentioning you were referred by a friend or contact. By all means, if your friend gives you a contact name and permission to mention them as the referral, use it. Don’t hope someone will magically respond to your resume in their database.
5. Do actively pursue three to five agencies at a time. When looking for immediate temporary assignments, it’s impossible to know which agency will have work for you when. You’re better off having several that you’ve met with who now have you on their call list.
6. Don’t get discouraged. When I was looking for temp work several years ago, there was one agency whose client roster matched my background yet would not, in my mind, give me the time of day. Months later, I finally heard from them with a great high-paying opportunity that I went on to accept. In the meantime, I had used another agency for more immediate work.
7. Do keep in touch. It’s important to keep in touch with your temp agency contact on a weekly basis while you’re waiting for work to come through. Remind them you exist and that you’re serious about employment. I just spoke to one of my favorite temp agency recruiters, not because I’m in need of a job, but because her company was taken over and I didn’t want to lose touch. We worked well together and I might be able to send good people her way. Plus, who knows, maybe I will use her services in the future. If you make a strong enough connection, you can add a recruiter on LinkedIn and stay in touch that way. Many move around from agency to agency, and this way you can learn where they are if you need their help again.
8. Do register with temp agencies two to four weeks before you actually need work. It’s extremely unlikely an agency will have work for you the day you meet with them. And it can take a week or two to get that required appointment (complete with the almost inevitable typing and software tests) scheduled. Plan ahead by building temp agency relationships in advance of when your unemployment runs out or when you’re on your last dollar.
9. Do express gratitude. I once sent one of my favorite agencies a holiday card to thank them because they helped me earlier in the year. These are powerful people with the ability to put you to work for their clients. Expressing gratitude will go a long way toward securing work down the line and is a solid practice overall that extends goodwill and positive career karma.
Temp work can be a humbling yet solid safety net for when you find yourself in need of financial stability in the short-term. For more on temping and being “in-between,” see an earlier Huffington Post piece I wrote on this topic called, “Just a Temp?”
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