Looking for work can be a full-time job, from networking and researching job postings to writing resumes and cover letters to interviewing and following up with hiring managers. But, what is a staffing agency, and exactly what does one do for job seekers?
A staffing agency — also known as a search, recruiting or staffing firm or service — is an organization that matches companies and job candidates. By registering with a staffing agency, you have the potential to make connections with multiple hiring managers looking to find the right people for their job openings. You can save time and find opportunities you may not be able to find on your own.
So how do staffing agencies work, and how can they help you achieve your employment goals? Here are eight tips for job seekers on what you need to do, what you can expect and how you can get the most out of a relationship with a staffing agency.
1. Choose the right specialized staffing agency
Not every staffing agency is the same. Before investing in the relationship, spend some time learning about them. Make sure it’s equipped to help someone with your career profile and professional goals. Also find out if it is a general staffing firm or one that targets specific industries. At Robert Half, the world’s largest specialized staffing firm, we offer you many opportunities in several fields.
Will you have fees to pay if you get placed in a position? That depends on the staffing agency. Robert Half, for instance, never charges fees to represent you as a job candidate.
2. Get registered with the agency
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 an interview with one of their recruitment experts so they can learn more about you. Then they can help you improve your resume, prep you for interviews and share local hiring trends.
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3. 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 get a good sense of the opportunities that best suit you.
Even if you're connecting remotely, make sure you’re well-dressed, well-groomed and well-prepared. You should be ready to talk about your employment experience, work habits, career objectives and workplace culture preferences. If the staffing agency is considering you for a position at a specific company, do some research on the business so you can ask relevant questions.
4. 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 recruiter and the hiring company.
5. Let the job search begin
After your interview, the recruiters will be equipped to represent you with more than your resume. They’ll 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 once the agency has determined you're a viable candidate for placement, it will leverage its contacts at companies in your industry and search for open positions that correspond with your qualifications and preferences. Well-connected recruiters often have deep industry contacts and knowledge of unadvertised job openings.
6. Keep making yourself marketable
The best staffing firms offer a plethora of professional development and training opportunities, so take advantage of them while you're waiting to hear back. It's a great way to improve your employment prospects and distinguish yourself to potential employers. Robert Half, for example, has more than 8,000 courses and online reference materials, as well as access to free continuing professional education and program credits.
7. Respond as quickly as possible
If your agency contacts you about an open position, don’t wait to reply. Many jobs need to be staffed ASAP, and you don’t want to miss out on a good opportunity. Once your recruiter finds a potential match, they will typically arrange an interview for you with their client to determine whether it's a good fit.
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.
8. Stay engaged with your recruiter
If you aren't getting any interviews, ask your agency representative what you can do to improve your chances. On the other hand, if you’ve been successful in garnering interviews on your own, keep your recruiter informed. The staffing agency may have contacts at the company who could help you land the role.
It’s important for you to stay on top of the job search process and keep in regular contact with your recruiters. While the agency will notify you when a potential job becomes available, it's acceptable to check in with your recruiter once every week or two.
So, again, what is a staffing agency?
That’s a question you’ll be able to answer in your own terms after you have experience with one. Understanding how staffing agencies work helps you in your job search, and the right agency can work wonders.