TELL US America: What Do You Think About Temporary Staffing Agencies?


By CAREEREALISM Founder, J.T. O’Donnell

I often get asked by job seekers who are looking for full-time employment if they should even bother to register with a staffing agency, a.k.a. a temporary help company.

Having ‘temped’ once many years ago, as well as having worked for a staffing firm, I’m actually a fan of them. But, I know lots of other job seekers who don’t feel the same way. A common complaint is agency recruiters never bother to call folks back, even when they feel they are a perfect match for an assignment the company has posted.

I think part of the problem is recruiters are being bombarded with applicants due to the recession and just can’t follow up with every applicant. But, I also think a lot of job seekers don’t put forth the right effort or image when they approach a staffing company – resulting in a bad first impression and their application going promptly in the ‘no’ pile.

So, I’m asking all of you to give me a status update on the state of temporary help agencies. Please share your thoughts in the comments below if you can answer one or more of the following questions:

  • Have you had a good and/or bad experience with a staffing company lately? What happened?
  • What tips can you give readers who want to register at a staffing company? (ie. Should you register at multiple agencies or be exclusive with just one?)
  • How can a job seeker make a good impression on a recruiter in order to be put at the top of the call list for open jobs?
  • Which staffing companies are the doing the best/most for job seekers right now and why?
  • Has taking a temp job helped your career or hurt it? If so, how?

I look forward to your responses. Let’s help fellow readers learn more about the INs and OUTs of applying to be a temp.


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  1. Temp agencies are the worst u get screwed outta any benefits the u.s. postal service is the worst, the union employees treat you like the plague. other temps you gotta turn your time sheets in and wait for an hour for them to cut you a check, demeaning. Each day you do not know if your going to work the next day. Companies do this to screw you outta unemployment and legal and tax liabilities just like independent contractors posing a company.

  2. The solution to this staffing agency situation doesn’t lye in the employee who needs work to feed their family. You need to ask the corporation’s and company’s of the United States of America to stop contracting through these agencies to cut costs and legal risk.

    I am just a United Marine Corps infantry veteran working for peanuts trying to feed a wife and kid (as a temp). Must be my fault for supporting staffing solutions.

  3. DON’T USE THEM. I sincerely believe American workers are basically shooting themselves in the foot to use most temp agencies out there. I’m just going to copy/paste my recent experience below from a letter I wrote NELP and an employment law attorney. After making a good bit of money off of me sporadically over eight years, “FS” agency is REALLY doing a number on me and I stand to lose my home. You are one of three parties – two of them are only concerned with themselves – you are last in line – but they want you to give up your job search, your money concerns, your health concerns, ANY OF YOUR CONCERNS – for THEM – AND THEY ARE UNWILLING TO EVEN WORK WITH YOU WHEN IT COMES TO WHAT CONCERNS YOU. Unless you are a kid looking for your first job – don’t use them. See below.

    My situation involves “FS” (let’s call them) employment agency. FS has placed me intermittently over an eight year period: twice into permanent positions for which I have great letters of recommendation. (Both companies eventually moved a great distance and I was unwilling to relocate). Before the situation with this last employer (“”Motorcycles), I had worked for over two years (permanent from a FStaff placememnt) for $17.00 an hour at local employer, Yokogawa. Regarding this issue with Triumph, this was a job that I told FS I was very wary of taking – would choose not to (plus, their initial offer was $12.00 NO commitment to permanent hire date and final offer $14.00 and NO commitment). My concerns were that I was a poor fit for my would-be boss and co-worker and most of the staff there were “temp to hire” placements that had been there over 10 months with their requests for status on going permanent going COMPLETELY IGNORED. FS warned me that if I did NOT take the position, my unemployment benefits would be terminated with their contact to DOL, so, being my sole support, I told them I would take the position, give it my best because I certainly can’t operate with NO funds. I DID NOT fit in there and it was painfully obvious. I was VERY uncomfortable to say the least, but did work hard. They were willing to offer vacation (unpaid) which I explained I would not be able to do. The only time I would be taking would be – possibly an emergency dental day as I had broken a tooth back in September that was giving me fits. I needed $1200.00 up front to have it crowned and I was hoping to do that before it turned into a $2500 root canal. I explained, other than that time off, I would not be taking “vacation” days – maybe early a.m. interviews or late p.m. interviews only – and the dentist. On 5/25 (start date was 4/10) I completed (but for a few Canadian contracts awaiting input from counsel) the contract audit project I was working on. That weekend, at the Memorial Day celebration, I made a connection with a former employer who was stuck with a deadline and no staff for support. He guessed it might be a full day work, but I knew that was likely an overestimation. I would make what I would take home in pay for a week from the “” Motorcycle temp position. I emailed FS, the HR Manager at “” Motorcycle, my temp job boss and my co-worker that I had this opportunity that was supposedly a day, but I was sure was much less and I could come into “” Motorcycle afterwards. I went to this job at 7:30 – knowing it would take at MOST 5 hours. I could get to “” Motorcycle by about 1:00 which would be only three hours of missed time since they started as late as 9:00 a.m. By 11:00 a.m., I got an email from FS to turn over my password as “” Motorcycle had terminated me for an unexcused absence. Now, FS is asking for a second appeals hearing after their initial appeal of my benefits was denied. I had a strong interview this past Monday for a job and am volunteering at City of Newnan Business Development – so I feel positive that something will break soon. However, if I have no benefits, I will lose everything I’ve worked for – home, and worse – my little human society of three abandoned dogs and cats. Just a side note to show how ridiculous this is – both my “” Motorcycle boss and co-worker were “home made explosive” enthusiasts. I don’t want to sound like they were a danger to society, but this is just a part of why I felt so uncomfortable and out of place there. I’ve worked for conservative lawyers all my life. And this was NO paralegal LET ALONE LEGAL position – it was at best a small contract audit that would then be 100% sales/marketing – something I did not ask to work in and something I had NO experience in. Can I get some help addressing this issue? It seems unethical to me. 1) FS stating they would have my DOL benefits cut should I not take the position and 2) being terminated by a company a) who will not commit to hiring you permanent AT ANY POINT IN THE FUTURE b) who offers no benefits c) who requires you to remove the “temp” from your signature line title BUT RESTRICTS YOU FROM ACCEPTING OTHER EMPLOYMENT THAT PAYS MORE OR OTHER EMPLOYMENT WHERE A PERMANENT HIRE DATE IS GUARANTEED SHOULD YOU WORK OUT. BASICALLY, YOU ARE TIED TO THEM AS LONG AS THEY LIKE YOU THERE. IF YOU LEAVE BEFORE YOU ARE DISMISSED – YOU HAVE BROKEN A RULE/REGULATION.

  4. I wrote on my resume, “Temporary and staffing agencies do not reply.” If more people would do this maybe they will get the hint they are not wanted.

    • I just posted by experience with “FS” that may end in my losing everything. I believe I will add what you wrote on your resume to my own. Good idea. I have had it.

  5. I decided to use a temp agency. I have a college degree they placed me with a storage company. I was supposed to be trained by the front office employee. Instead of explaining the system for taking payments, she measured how many inches from the top of the paper my paper clips were placed–she measure it with a ruler. I was hired for desktop publishing, and taking payments. On the third day she called in sick, I had no idea how to close the prevuious days transactions… three days later she called out again. My training was a joke, I received a training manual but when I would follow it she would reply we dont do that anymore. My final day there there were pages missing out of my binder! Clearly the woman did not want the employer to hire ahenyone else. I got a call from the temp agency on a Sunday night at 10:00 PM telling me I was not a good fit. She wanted to know what I DID WRONG told me she would mark me availble, Aside from the insane soap opera at work, I found the temp agency handling of the matter rather cowardly… they knew Friday I was being replaced yet waited until Sunday night to inform me. In retrospect I should have walked out on the third day when they threw me to the wolves.

  6. America, look at it this way. As long as we use this service to land a job. We will never get hire direct by employers. We all know these Temp agency are not on our side. They work for the employer and their wallet. We do the actual work and gets paid $10 p/hr while they sit on their a– and take the difference. $6 an hour is a huge different(doing nothing).

    So stop using their service. Apply direct with the employer.

  7. DON’T USE TEMP AGENCIES. This is not the future of American. They used recycle tactic so you as a temp will never be hire as a regular employee and will never get benefits. SAY NO TO TEMP AGENCIES.

  8. This is my observations from what a Temp. Agency has provided for my wife when her original employer decided to downsize and shed full time workers. She is now working for one half the wages, and no fringe benefits. Her workday consists of four 10 hour days, with most weekends available for an additional 5 hours per day. She often works holiday hours while the full time workers get paid for it and enjoy the time off. This is the negative side of it. On the upside, the temp agency provided employment by opening a door to a major employer. Both the temp. agency, and the employer win in this situation, and treat her with respect and dignity in regards to her work experience and abilities. I belong to a dying breed of U.S. labor in reference to having a decent job with benefits. Nevertheless, I can remember when temp. agencies rarely existed, and Americans could pick and choose from companies which offered good full time employment. I will never understand the concept of one worker doing the exact same job as another for half the wages. It is perhaps one of the most unequalized systems in the United States currently being utilized. I have an owner of a temp. agency who lives directly down the road from me. He just built a 8000 square foot mansion on a piece of property with lake frontage. It appears that wealth can be built by owning a temp. agency. The Japanese paved the way for the temporary worker highway when they opened shop in America. When I talk to men who have worked through temp. agencies sponsored by Japanese owned employers, I am told of being put on hold for full time work and benefits for over a year. They performed better then the full time worker, and still was put aside to wait their chance in life when the day might appear when they could become full time. I believe all people are equal. This system is probably a good example of just the opposite.

  9. I feel like I’ve backed myself into a corner as far as temping is concerned. I haven’t had a permanent job since June 2007. However, what choice do I have if temporary work is all I can get? I know it’s the economy, my appearance (I’m obese), maybe my age (40+) as well but I’m also frustrated because I took the first temp job after I left my last permanent employer – obviously a big mistake in retrospect – BECAUSE I wanted to show the world I wanted to work. Which led to another temp job which I took because I wanted to work and so on and so forth until it became one big temp job snowball. I just wonder if anybody else has backed themselves into a similar corner…FRUSTRATED BEYOND BELIEF WITH MYSELF AND THE WORKING WORLD

  10. It’s not the temp agencies it’s Corporate America. They want to get the best bang for their buck! Screw them and their empty promises!! Absolutely sickening how they toy with peoples lives!

  11. hello iv Ben working as a temp for the last 3 years now because im just unable to get a full time job year around through a staffing agencies what so ever ,it seams like these companies are keeping hard working people out of full time jobs, there promise of full time work after 90 days is about as much b,s as an verge person can take! i have come to learn how these company’s work! they start out by luring the the prospective can-date in with the promise of a longterm potion with a company that cares deeply for itz employees and there success (really meaning there own profit margins) then u are sent to the company thinking what u Ben told from your recruiter, is what your going to be doing, this couldn’t be anymore of a flat out lie then u no! u are promised a job from there h r goons that greet u at the door ,then send u on your way to a job that u did not apply for in the first place, and then when u question your status with there company after hours of back breaking work & false promises of being hired on, u get that famous call after your shift saying well u did a great job but the employer just docent need u any more with out stating any reason for dismissal what so ever! it almost feels like u Ben just tossed out like a peace of garbage with no more use, i no this because iv Ben walked on by so many staffing services!! it makes me sick!! to make a long story short the staffing services could care less about your success( witch they promise there all bout in your sit down interviews with them(?? more BS )( my thoughts to this are ) there just about there profits, they pay u 10.00 bucks an hour wile the employer pays them 14-20 an hour for your blood sweat & tears u tell me ? i say staffing services need to be shut down! they doing more harm than good!! start making employers accountable again to there hard working employees , and yes bring union heiring back!

  12. When all is said and done, agencies work for their clients, not their employees, they don't care about you. When you call an agency, most (not all) don't call you back, and I think a lot of them do discriminate based on age and/or race. Also if you leave a position or an assignment doesn't work out, they never will place you again. Agencies expect you to give them notice, but they rarely ever give you give you notice of when an assignment is going to end leaving you essentially unemployed with no work prospects for at least a week or more.

    Someone said they think Temp Agencies should be outlawed, I think what should be illegal is Corporate America contracting people to do work that is not seasonal or short-term and never making them perm. If a company contracts a temporary employee for a position which is not a honest to God short-term or seasonal position, the person should be made permanent if they are doing a satisfactory job.

    While I'm venting, I also think customer service reps for US customers should be US citizens who live and work in the US. I'm sick and tired of talking (or rather trying to talk to) to people in India, the Philippines, etc. I'd like to see those companies not be able to write the cost of their pay or benefits off on their taxes.

    • I totally agree with you… they placed me in a small company with a prima dona employee who did not want the employer to hire anyone else, I kept my mouth shut went in did my job, and with out any feed back from the employer I go home for the weekend then get called by the agency on a SUNDAY NIGHT at 10:00 PM telling me I am not a good fit. This will be my first and last expirence with a temp agency.

  13. First, don't type in all caps, its offensive. Second, learn how to spell, it might help you to find a job. Third, don't do drugs!

    • I’m interested. I notice most people handwrite notes to others in all caps – particularly male writers. Do you find that offensive?

  14. Temps are treated like Crapola by “real” employees….I have been harassed beyond belief to the point I wanted police protection leaving last Friday….It was refused by the company I worked for. I am out of a job as my “temp” agency has not granted my request to be sent elsewhere do to Racial harrassment–I am white by the way. If I was black, everyone would be all over this, but I am out of a job, have no money for rent next week and have no help. My temp agency is loyal to its paycheck and we are dirt to them.

  15. I was placed once, was told by boss that I was doing a good job, but the company decided not to hire me. That company has run over 500 people like me through there (I was told by manager) never hiring any of them. Temp agency told me I was in good standing, but its been 6 months and have never been placed again. I asked weekly to be considered for 2-6 positions. Employment agencies like Manpower lie. They wont place you again, even if the reason the first company did not hire you was not your fault. THEN they tell other staffing companies that you are not a good candidate. Of course, I was not told directly, I had to hire a background and employment check–to find out what was being said. Still, it shocked and disappointed me, as I have always had good references from any job I held.



    • First, don't type in all caps, its offensive. Second, learn how to spell, it might help you to find a job. Third, don't do drugs!

  17. I had very positive experience with a contract company in landing a contract role last August. They were consultative, provided good follow-up, and put me in a position that was a good fit. The hiring company then went through a re-org and I found myself (still under contract), but in a role that (I felt) was far below my experience level. Very long story-short, I found a new full-time role and resigned from the employ of the contractor firm. I was disappointed with how poorly they took the news. This was the only downside to an otherwise, overall very positive experience.

  18. Have you had a good and/or bad experience with a staffing company lately? What happened?

    Nothing has happened. I have approximately seven temp/permanent placement agencies, supposedly working with/for me, and I have had no opportunities sent my way (laid-off since Oct. 2009). I have been informed that what companies are doing now in this economy is that they are laying-off staff, only to rehire them on a temp basis at a severly reduced salary and with no benefits.

    What tips can you give readers who want to register at a staffing company? (ie. Should you register at multiple agencies or be exclusive with just one?)

    Do not waste your time. Networking is the only reliable forum for finding a job within this economy.

    How can a job seeker make a good impression on a recruiter in order to be put at the top of the call list for open jobs?

    Leave an impression, or wear something that makes you stand out. It could be as simple as a piece of jewelry, or tie. This is because when you call in, you can refresh their memory as to who you are and what you were wearing or comment you made, that was unique to you.

    Which staffing companies are the doing the best/most for job seekers right now and why?


    Has taking a temp job helped your career or hurt it? If so, how?

    Right now, I am facing having my Unemployment benefits stopped because I left a temp assignment that was not a good match. I was harassed by the H.R. Administrator when trying to receive a call from my placement agency (my ringer was off), as my original completion date was about to end with that project and I wanted to make sure that I did not miss her call, because if an agent does not get to you initially, they will go on to the next person on the list. I tried to explain that to the Administrator. I am not an abuser of the cell phone within a company nor personally, so I took offense to her punitive actions. She reprimanded me for text messaging (again, I am not an abuser of this communicational forum) my son who resides in Florida and I needed to remind him about a phone call he needed to make tied to his paramedics exam. The following day, I enformed her that I would be persuing other employment opportunities. I did so because I felt that there was a bigger issue to her conduct and I felt that I would be best served to leave that environment. I am now being told by the Unemployment agency that this company (Administrator) is appealing my benefits because I was not laid-off? I cannot believe this…

  19. Here is a harsh reality of staffing/temporary agencies: they exist to fill the orders of their clients. That being said, the great byproduct of this service IS that recruiters can help those looking for jobs. So, to fill the jobs they need good people. Here are a few suggestions from a staffing agency:

    1. Read the job description. If you do not meet all the qualifications, do not apply. We have a statement that due to the number of resumes we receive, we can only respond to those that meet the requirements.
    2. If you have transferrable skills that make up for job experience, make sure that is on your resume. Otherwise, it looks like you do not qualify for the job.
    3. Follow directions. If a job posting says no phone calls, do not call. Email is much more convenient and allows recruiters to respond when they can, and they are usually doing 10 things at once.
    4. The idea that temporary/assignment employees are undervalued is a baloney, just like all carbs are bad for you. So many of our temporaries have been hired by the company where they temped. And those companies continue to call on us – because they like the people and the people like the company/job. If they thought temps were of no value, they would get their own people. Besides, regular/permanent employees can also be treated horribly.
    5. A temporary job is equivalent to a permanent job in terms of what defines a job. If you don't put any effort into being productive, chances are the recruiter will not put any effort into finding you other work. A temporary job is a real job and it can open many doors.
    6. Getting in good with a recruiter is incredibly valuable but is not your only option. If you need in depth career development or job searching services, it would be best to find a job search agent or a local career office.
    7. Realize that businesses have needs that will not always be a need of the business: special projects, for instance, which is a valid need. Trust me, businesses do not spend the amount of money they do for a temporary employee if they just wanted a punching bag or someone just to take up space.

    Good luck, everybody.

  20. I worked with Manpower, Kelly Temp Services, and Snelling while I was a first and second year in college and again about seven years ago when my husband fell ill while I was home caring for our new baby. They were all wonderful.

    As a young inexperienced high school graduate, they helped me avoid the fast food pit that many of my peers resigned too. Certainly nothing is wrong with that, but in a way, I found that I could avoid being typecasted by taking a chance on temp work–and them taking a chance on me. Just with my high school diploma alone (and a cushy coop with NASA), I had computer skills and written and verbal communication skills. I knew how to file and answer phones. I was polite and a sponge for learning new things. So just with that, my docket was always full of assignments. I did sing up with more than one agency at a time that way I could pick and choose the jobs I wanted. I enjoyed the diversity of work experience. I mainly did clerical types of things.

    It really prepared me for the corporate career path I knew I would want upon graduating from college. I learned how to behave in a corporate setting, how to comminucate with executives, and how to dress. Because there was an evaluation every time I completed an assignment, I was quickly informed of areas that I needed to improve on and I was able to correct them right away. I wasn't left guessing about how I was doing on a job.

    Because I wanted to always have an assignment, I made myself visible to the company by getting advice from my college's career services office on how to improve my resume. I also maintained both telephone and in-person communication with the staffing agents. I followed the rules of each staffing firm I worked with. I think that gave them a sense of trust in me, knowing that I would give their company a good name when I went out into the workplace. Whenever a company had a need arise in the field that I worked, they called the staffing agency and requested to have me return. That was a confidence booster.

    I can't answer for how staffing agency are doing now with all the workers who need placement. It has been about seven years since I last worked with one. I can say that if I were in a place of needing work again, I would start with the temp agencies in a heartbeat. Working with a temp agency has absolutely benefitted my career for all the reasons I stated above.

  21. I worked with Volt, both in Portland and Seattle. They were horrible! Seemed like it was staffed by mostly 20-somethings. From the person who answered the phone, to the recruiter(s), and up to accounting, it was incompetence at every level. No one seemed to know what was going on and they weren't good at returning phone calls or emails. I even asked for someone in their Seattle office, was given a phone number, only to be told that person is no longer with the company. Never again.

    • I have worked with many different temp agencies in the Portland area mostly from the side of hiring temps to do work for a time or for a temp to hire position, all of my experiences match What Barry said. In-spite of the “every job is temporary” tag line I have never worked for a temporary agency and hope I never do, my present company is trying to go temporary with my position, fortunately the customer is way too big and way too powerful and won't allow it (for now at least) it has the feel of everyone is just a number, has no value, and can be replaced by anyone. The reality especially in field service (skilled labor) is that is not true. With bean counters running the companies they don't care about people any more, I think there is a rude awaking coming if things do go more and more temporary.

  22. I think you will find that there are both positive and negative experiences out there. I personally temped with my company before I was hired on perm. A few things to keep in mind if you decide to register with a staffing agency.

    An agency doesn't always have all the same contacts as another firm – so it is wise to network with several companies so that you can expand your potential success.
    As stated above, these recruiters are very busy and bombarded with so many resumes at any one point in time. Don't think that they are responsible for getting you a job – you are responsible for that. You must continue to pursue the relationship and network with lots of recruiters and/or companies.
    Last but not least, while staffing firms do have a say in pay rates for temporary workers, it is often determined by those corporations. And that corporation may have a very unrealistic expectations of true market value for a specific skill set.

  23. I am commenting as an experienced Temp worker. I have worked close to 10 years in hopes of obtaining a permanent position. Nevertheless, the Pharmaceutical industry has had many organizational changes (i.e., takeovers, downsizings) that made that goal difficult to obtain. I have experienced outright sabotage as well as discrimination, which I withstood in order to maintain a positive evaluation. Even worse is the fact that agencies have lowered the pay of experienced Sr. Administrative Assistant positions by as much as 25%. The relationship of corporation and temp agency needs to be terminated for the most part. It has become a very unfair situation for the worker. In addition, the only way the US will resolve the current recession is for corporations to open headcount for these long-term positions, hire permanent employees, and pay the appropriate benefits.

    • Thanks for sharing Donna.

      Your situation is one that everyone reading this post should consider. Especially, since an article in BusinessWeek recently suggested that corporations are actually headed in the OPPOSITE direction of what you suggest.

      Read 'The Disposable Worker' –

      We are become a nation of temporary workers and can actually expect the number of people becoming long-term temps like yourself to increase. The challenge for businesses to hire permanent workers is that it hurts their ability to switch gears quickly to adapt to changes in the market. They can't keep people who don't serve a vital purpose to their business on a daily basis – and scarily, the value of an employee can plummet almost overnight. Your example of Sr. Admin Assistant pay dropping 25% is a key example. This skill set is being replaced by technology, making more junior people a better buy for companies.

      I think an honest dialog has to be opened up here with respect to the impact a nation of temps will have. I think it is inevitable. Hence, the tagline 'Because EVERY Job is Temporary' for our blog. And yet, I do worry about American workers ability to adapt to the reality that we are all now businesses-of-one. How do we teach a nation to prepare themselves for this kind of challenge? How can someone like you find professional satisfaction and success on your own terms if the only thing available is temporary positions?

      These are the questions I'm hoping we can all dissect in this post. Thoughts?

  24. My company actually only hires people through a staffing agency for the department in which I work. So, I started at the company five years ago as a “temp.” Thankfully, after a year, I was converted to a full-time employee of the company, but contract employees today are not so lucky. I think it's a good way to get your foot in the door, but then you need to work hard to become permanent (if that's your goal). Temp agencies can also be a great way to try out some different things if they are truly temporary stints. Unfortunately, I'm not versed in getting your foot into the agency door since I had a high recommendation from a friend who worked for the company and I interviewed with the company directly, not the agency.

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