Staffing agencies, often known as employment agencies or staffing firms, hire everyone from entry-level employees to CEOs. Staffing firms can help job searchers locate a wide range of jobs, including permanent and remote positions, in a variety of industries.
Many job-seekers go down the route of searching for a job on their own, and few know how to tap on the expertise and network of headhunting agencies to find their next job. The role of a headhunting agency essentially revolves around working with employers and job seekers to facilitate a successful job match. In short, headhunting agencies (also known as professional recruitment firms) can be the key to unlocking great job opportunities.
Some job searchers are afraid to work with a staffing agency because they believe these organizations only give entry-level, temporary positions. Others believe that agencies never provide benefits to employees or that you must pay to get hired. That, however, is not the case. A staffing agency can help you obtain a part-time job, a temporary position, or full-time employment, and the fees are usually covered by the company.
In a nutshell, companies pay staffing agencies to find employees. From the company’s perspective, this can be very advantageous for several reasons. First off: Finding good employees can be a challenging and time-consuming task.
Plus, staffing agencies can make it easy for companies to add staff during busy seasons with temp employees. They can also be a way for companies to outsource the paperwork and financial business of employing someone, from recruitment to taxes.
Here’s how it works if you’re a job seeker. You can apply for a specific job through the staffing agency. Or, you can contact the staffing agency to look for a job. Once you apply, the agency will interview you. Then, if you’re a good fit for a role, the agency will place you in it.
If you’re placed in a job through a staffing agency, they’ll typically pay you—not the company where you’re filling the role. But, if you’re hired on permanently by a company, then you’ll be paid by the company, not the staffing agency.
Many staffing agencies hire people for short-term, temporary roles. Think of an accounting firm, which might need tax professionals during tax season. Or retail stores, which staff up for the holiday season. But staffing agencies also fill temp-to-perm roles. And, sometimes staffing agencies recruit and place candidates for full-time roles.
Some people think staffing agencies only fill temporary secretarial and administrative jobs, but this is not the case. You can find a job in almost every industry through a staffing agency.
Some staffing agencies (including Kelly Services and Adecco) work with all kinds of companies, while others specialize in particular industries. Medical Solutions, for example, focuses on healthcare jobs. TEKsystems staffs companies with IT hires.
Agencies also offer jobs that last for varying lengths of time. These include:
Temporary Jobs: Companies often look for temporary hires to help during an employee’s absence or period of leave, or during a busy work period. Sometimes they hire temporary workers to complete a particular project. These temporary jobs range in length from a couple of weeks to many months.
Temp-to-Hire Jobs: Also known as temp-to-perm jobs, these positions begin as temporary jobs so that the company can get to know the employee on a trial basis. Then, if the company is happy with the employee’s work, they will likely hire him or her directly. While the staffing agency will typically pay for the worker during the temporary phase, the company will then take over paying the employee when he or she becomes a full-time hire.
Permanent Jobs: Some staffing agencies hire candidates for permanent positions at companies. In these situations, the agency works more like a traditional recruiter, finding, interviewing, and selecting candidates for the company. In this case, the company pays the agency a fee. If the company hires an employee, they pay for the employee.
Remote Roles: Staffing agencies can also connect you with remote opportunities—these may be temp, temp-to-perm, or full-time. Robert Half, for instance, notes that the agency has placed people in a variety of remote roles, including accounts payable, graphic design, and attorney. Similarly, when you browse the job board at Adecco, you can choose to look at only remote roles.
When you are looking for a staffing agency to work with, make sure you know the kinds of industries the agency deals with, and whether they offer temporary, temp-to-hire, or permanent jobs—or all three.
Check out the American Staffing Association’s online directory to find reputable staffing firms. You can search for firms in your area. You can also search by employment options (temporary, long-term, etc.) and industry.
When you interview with a staffing agency, feel free to ask questions. Ask about what benefits (if any) they offer, what kinds of jobs they typically fill, the industries they work with, and the average time it takes for a job seeker to land a job. The recruiter you work with is there to help you, so don’t be afraid to gather all the information you need.
Check into whether or not the agency has any services, such as workshops to help you develop skills or counselors who will help you with your resume and cover letter. If these are available, take advantage of them.
Tips for Working with a Staffing Agency
- Treat It Like a Real Interview
The staffing agency will likely set up an interview with you to get a better sense of your skills and experience. Dress appropriately and show up on time—early, if possible. Listen attentively and use positive body language to convey your attention and interest. Introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Bring your resume and be ready to answer common interview questions. You might also be asked to complete a skills assessment to test your hard skills, so be prepared for this as well.
- Be Honest
Be honest about your goals, whether it’s to land a permanent position, maintain flexibility, or to develop some skills that will make you an attractive candidate for your next full-time job. Also, be honest about your availability. If you are only available on weekdays, for example, tell this to the recruiter at the staffing agency.
Finally, be candid about your employment history. If you have an employment gap, for example, tell the recruiter. They can help you figure out how to explain this to an employer.
Keep an Open Mind
Even if you want a full-time position, consider being open to temporary jobs or contract work. These can help you develop skills that might be useful when you apply for your next full-time job. If you impress an employer, he or she might try to find you a full-time position at the company.
Send an emailed or handwritten note to thank the interviewers at the staffing agency for their time and to reinforce your interest in finding a position.
Be Persistent and Patient
If you applied for a job through a staffing agency and haven’t heard back, follow up within a week. Perhaps you were not right for that specific job, but a recruiter might be able to find something else that fits your skill set. Check-in with any staffing firm you’ve contacted once a week to remind them of your interest and demonstrate your eagerness.
Use Other Resources
You do not have to put all your eggs in one basket. While you wait to hear back from the agency, continue to job search on your own.
Check out job boards and job search engines and network with people in your industry. However, be open with your recruiter—tell them if you apply to any jobs on your own and if you are working with a second staffing agency. This way, your recruiter will not submit you for a job that you already applied for (in some cases, an employer will remove your application if he or she sees it twice).
When You Get a Job, Prepare
When you receive an assignment, the agency will provide you with information as to whom to report, dress code, hours, wages, and a description of the duties and duration of the job. You might also need to do a second interview with the company. If you don’t receive all of this information, ask the agency for all of this information.
You Can Say No
If you truly feel a position is not a good fit—perhaps the hours do not work for you, or the pay is well below what you need—be honest with the recruiter. Explain why you don’t want the position. It will help the recruiter find you a job that is a better fit in the future.
How Headhunting Agencies Work
To be successful in your job search, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how headhunting agencies work. Think of a headhunting agency as a partner in your job search. They can not only connect you with prospective employers but act as a guide, helping you to refine your resume, market you to employers and give you advice on your career path.
After submitting your CV or applying to jobs on their website, a headhunter or recruiter will contact you if there is a suitable match or potential job opportunity.
Also, recruiters may reach out to arrange a preliminary interview to find out what your career aspirations and motivations are, and where you fit into an organization for your current role. Once a successful job match has been found, and you have an interview session scheduled with your prospective employer, recruiters may provide interview coaching and help you negotiate a compensation package with your prospective employer. When working with a headhunting agency, you know that someone is following up on your application.
You may also wish to choose a recruiter with whom you can build a rapport. Spend some time connecting with a few recruiters and interviewing them: for example, find out how long they have been with the company and how they usually market your resume and present it to potential employers. Network with colleagues and acquaintances to get recommendations and have them refer you to a recruiter.
There is no harm in connecting with more than one recruiter. Still, it is important to take note that getting double-submitted by multiple recruiters, i.e. having two different recruiters submit you for the same job, may damage the recruiter’s and your reputation as it makes you look like you’re trying to game the system and up your odds at an interview. At the end of the day, the question to ask is if you really need more than one recruiter, assuming that you do your due diligence to find a recruiter who is experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable.
Remember that working with a recruiter is a two-way street. You’ll need to build a good professional relationship with your recruiter. And you can help recruiters help you by making yourself employable – this means completing basic tasks such as updating your CV or cleaning up your LinkedIn profile. You should also need to be flexible by broadening your criteria for the new job and by being willing to compromise on interview timings.
There are many reasons why those searching for jobs apply through a headhunting agency, but the main reason is that they can tap on the wealth of information and experience headhunting agencies have from working with companies across different industries and sectors. As companies outsource hiring to headhunting agencies, they not only do the job hunting for you but have access to job vacancies that may not be advertised elsewhere. The best part is, headhunting agencies are free to use by job-seekers.
Besides obtaining invaluable information about the job market and possible career pathways that may not be obvious to other job seekers, you can also get insight into hiring requirements that are not listed nor obvious in job advertisements, preparing you for your interview with a prospective employer and increasing your chance of getting hired.
Finally, be honest with the recruiter and utilize their expertise. Try and identify what it is you’re looking for in a job and ask lots of questions. The more honest you are, the better they understand you and are able to help you find the best match.