Taste Testing the Job Market

The age old paradox of employment goes a little like this: employers want to hire people with experience, yet how does a person with no experience actually gain some so they can get a job? Answer: Use a temporary staffing company as a way into the job market. In fact, this week is National Staffing Employee week, and it is a good time to highlight the this subsection of the employment industry.

According to the American Staffing Association, three million people per day are employed by staffing companies all over the country and the vast majority of them are working forty hours per week or more (79%, to be exact). Even though most people hired through a staffing company are looking to land a fulltime position at some point in the future, they are not the only subgroup of people looking for temp jobs. Those with a certain wanderlust or a favorite hobby are frequently employed by these companies with the understanding that they are looking only for short term work—just enough to stash away a nest egg to draw from while they travel around the world or work on their backswing.

Sharon Turner, District President of the international staffing company Robert Half, says there is another emerging group of people who use staffing companies. “We have people who are not actively unhappy in their current job but they see five years down the line and realize they don’t have the promotional opportunities that they are looking for. While they are not looking to switch jobs right now they want to see what’s available.” They use a staffing company as a way to stay in the database and be kept up to date on openings in their field.

At present the Bay Area has a great economic picture and an unemployment rate hovering right under 4%. This means there are plenty of companies making profits and, consequently, plenty of companies that need employees. Robert Heller, Business Manager of the temporary staffing company Andiamo Group, describes the employment opportunities for temporary work in terms of acronyms. On the one hand you have FIRE—finance, insurance, real estate—which makes up the majority of requests for temporary employees. Then, at the opposite of the acronymic spectrum is ICE—Information, Communication, and Entertainment. This is directly related to all the technology companies that survived the dotcom bust and includes everything from graphic design to technical support.

Temp agencies are paid by the companies when they place applicants in open job positions. That means they should never charge job seekers for any of their services. Be very wary of the hiring agency that charges consultation or application fees. Also the better agencies out there will meet with you at the beginning of the process to get a first-hand sense of your skills and career goals. At Robert Half they also evaluate applicants’ skills through a round of testing related to their career preferences.

This is where a staffing company sets itself apart from all the online job search engines. By meeting each person a recruiter can give potential employers a well-rounded picture of the applicants interested in their company. Unlike a résumé that lands in a generic human resources inbox and looks just like the dozens of other résumés that arrived that same day, the recruiter can actively talk up the candidate. This provides the hiring company with a fully dimensional background. This gives applicants an incredible advantage over anyone who doesn’t have a personal connection with a company.

Temp agencies will always ask for job references and they will almost always check them. This can turn people away from wanting to use a temp agency since the, for many, the reason they are looking for a new job in the first place is because of problems at their previous place of employment. Turner recommends applicants be very up front about any issues that occurred with a previous employer. She reassures applicants that everyone, both the staffing agencies and their clients, understands there can be a personality misfit between two parties that are otherwise perfectly capable.

Candidates should also ask if the hiring agency provides any benefits. Larger agencies, such as Robert Half, provide holiday pay and access to group health insurance. Additionally, applicants should take advantage of any workshops that a staffing agency offers since it may provide helpful information and, more importantly, will indicate that an applicant is serious about pursuing employment.

Despite all the technological advances with online applications, networking is still the most frequent way for job seekers to find a match with an employer. Internal employee referral programs are increasingly common, but they are no help for those without connections. A staffing company provides another good option as a way into the work world, or a way to fund that golf addiction.

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