How Do Staffing Agencies Work?

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 24, 2020

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There’s a lot of talk floating around about staffing agencies. Some people swear by them, and others are a bit more skeptical. The main problem is the amount of misinformation out there. Staffing agencies can be great resources for finding a job if you’re willing to put in a little work and establish a fruitful relationship.

Many of the misconceptions about employment agencies come from not understanding what they do. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about hiring agencies, including how they work and picking the right one for you.

What Do Staffing Agencies Do?

Staffing agencies work as a middle man between companies looking to fill positions and potential employees. They make the job search, employee search, and hiring process easier for both groups since they manage large databases of job searchers and positions.

Think of employment agencies as real estate agents. They work between companies and job seekers, just like real estate agents work between landlords and renters. While real estate agents aren’t necessary, their guidance and expertise can help you find your dream apartment since they know the lay of the land better. Similarly, staffing agencies can use their connections and expertise to get you placed in a job that’s the right fit for you.

Hiring agencies typically specialize in an industry or field, so they’re experts in matching job seekers and employers with specific needs. Going through a staffing agency is a good way to get placed in an industry that you’re already working in, or you can use them and their connections to target a new industry and find a new job.

They also typically provide extra benefits that you can’t get just by searching on your own. Sometimes staffing agencies can give you feedback on your resume, interview style, or other job search-related skills. This extra help can be valuable when it comes to finding a job. These agencies can also provide benefits like health insurance or a retirement plan for employees, which might be a dealbreaker for some job hunters.

Staffing agencies are also great resources for people who are looking for temporary or contract work. Many people refer to hiring agencies as temp agencies since they make it easier to find entry-level temporary work.

Typically, staffing agencies follow a process for matching job seekers and employers. They usually receive notices of open positions and write job descriptions for companies. Then, they wait for applicants to find the job postings, or they browse their database of resumes to find a good match for the job.

Once the agency has a few candidates and double-checks to make sure they match the company’s needs, they will go ahead and interview the candidate. So, if you do a job search through a hiring agency, expect to do most of the preliminary applying and interviewing with them. It might take a while before you talk to someone at the company you’re applying to. The agency will then pass on any interviews and necessary evaluations for the company to make the hiring decision.

If you’re hired through a staffing agency, you will most likely continue to be an employee of theirs instead of an employee of the company you work for. This means that the staffing agency will make your life easier and handle any contracts and paperwork upfront and make sure you have everything you need.

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Sometimes companies will offer full-time or permanent jobs to people who start working part-time or temporary roles from staffing agencies. In this case, you could expect to become an employee of the company instead of the agency.

Do Staffing Agencies Charge Fees?

The good news for job seekers is that most staffing agencies are free to use if you’re applying for jobs. There are exceptions to this, so make sure to do your research before signing up with one, but most hiring agencies don’t charge fees for job seekers.

Since these agencies treat the companies looking to fill positions as their clients, the companies pay agencies for their services. Companies will pay agencies for their work in finding potential employees as well as the salaries for any employees hired through them.

This means that, for the most part, staffing agencies are free to use for job seekers. Sometimes there will be small fees if you’re placed in a job, which can be deducted from your paycheck, but you should be warned about them ahead of time. You shouldn’t have to pay an agency upfront to join their database or access their job postings. That could be a sign of a scam instead of a legitimate hiring agency.

For employers, on the other hand, agencies will charge a few fees. They can be anything from a one-time fee for finding an employee for them or a regular cut of the employee’s hourly rate. While these expenses can add up, they can still total less than it would cost a company to hire a recruiter in-house.

Deciding to Work With a Staffing Agency

There are a lot of factors that come into deciding whether to work with an employment agency or not. We’ve pulled together a few tips and things to look out for when you’re thinking about using a staffing agency. If you’ve already decided to work with a hiring agency, we also have a few tips for getting the most out of your agency connection.

  • Do your research. The most important thing to do when looking to work with a staffing agency is to know what jobs they have available. Ask yourself a few questions about the agency before committing to working with them. Do they specialize in an industry? Do they offer temporary or long-term positions? What benefits do they have?

  • Check their reputation. Staffing agencies can get a bad reputation since they can be (very infrequently) scams. Check and make sure you’re looking at reputable agencies with good reviews and certifications if possible. The American Staffing Association has lists of top job placement agencies, which could be a good starting point in your search.

  • Find benefits. If possible, figure out what benefits staffing agencies offer before you get into talks with them. This can help you get access to extra resources, like coaching or lessons that certain agencies offer. It’s also a good step for finding an agency that offers competitive pay or health insurance benefits.

  • Know your needs. It’s a good idea to have a clear understanding of your needs and what kind of work you’re looking for before starting with a hiring agency. Having clarity can help you in both the agency search and the job search.

  • Communicate your needs. Once you talk to someone at a staffing agency, don’t be afraid to speak up and tell them your needs. They’re there to help you find a job, and the more information you can give them about your skills, what you want to do, and any requirements (like needing a temp job) will help them get you good interviews.

  • Be flexible. When working with an agency, it’s a good idea to stay flexible and open to positions you haven’t thought about before. Sometimes your skills will work well in jobs you hadn’t even considered before, so don’t be afraid to keep an open mind.

  • Be professional. Anyone you come into contact with at a hiring agency could have a hand in getting you hired, so you always want to be professional and courteous. Treat people who work in staffing agencies like you would recruiters at companies and always keep a friendly tone and professional presentation.

  • Take interviews seriously. Though staffing agency interviews can seem more relaxed than a traditional interview, you need to treat interviews with agency staff just as you would a regular interview. They still have the power to decide whether or not you pass to the next round, so dress professionally, show up early, and treat it like you would any other interview.

  • Follow professional etiquette. After an interview or any contact with someone from an agency, don’t be afraid to send a follow-up email to thank them for their time or get some extra information. Just make sure that you’re always following professional etiquette.

  • Keep searching. You shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket and just rely on an agency to find you a job. Even if you’re working with a staffing agency, you should continue to search and apply for jobs on job boards or networking sites.

  • Ask questions. If you’re unsure about a job description or anything relating to your job search, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Employment agencies are there to help you, so speak up when you don’t understand part of the process. This also goes for asking about extra benefits or courses that agencies offer.

  • Know your options. If you do land an interview and get a job offer through an agency, you don’t have to accept it. You can always say no to a job if it’s not the right fit. Just make sure you do it in a professional way.

Take the hassle out of your job search & get an offer faster
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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