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What to Expect When You Sign Up with a Temp Agency

What to Expect When You Sign Up with a Temp Agency

Job hunters often feel they must embellish their skills to land a job, but when you sign up to work with a temp agency, exaggerating your skills may work against you. You could end up in the wrong position. So during your first meeting at a temp agency, be honest, suggests Steve Armstrong, vice president and Detroit regional manger for Kelly Services, a staffing agency based in Troy, Michigan.

At the initial interview with a temp agency, you will be asked such questions as:

  • Have you worked in an environment that involves professional executives?
  • Have you worked in an environment that requires you to support many people versus just one executive?
  • Are you more comfortable in a laid-back office that only requires casual dress, or do you prefer to wear a suit every day?

Your answers to these types of questions will let the agency know about your soft skills. Since these are not already covered on your resume, your honesty here is essential to where the agency will place you. Hard skills, such as experience with software and typing, are easy to test and help you get your foot in the door. Soft skills, the people skills and experience you've gained in different offices, may indicate whether or not you'll last on a certain assignment.

"A resume's biggest shortcoming is its focus on hard skills," says Armstrong. "So much of what makes you successful on an assignment is a combination of hard and soft skills."

The agency will also try to gauge your soft skills through your references. "Often we hear that a person doesn't fit into the work environment, but the employers are referring to the soft skills, not the hard skills," says Armstrong.

By being dishonest with your agency, you are preventing them from giving you a good placement. And a bad placement doesn't do anyone any favors.

Room for Error

What if you feel you've been honest with your temp agency representative, but the assignment you're sent on still isn't a good fit? The agency should take you off the job but not leave you hanging. "You may have terrific skills but just not fit in well with the environment," says Armstrong. "We'll give you feedback." For example, the company may have been too fast-paced for you. "We get that information out of the customer and feed it back to you," he explains.

It's important to step back and accept such a critique of your work habits, especially after a job does not work out. View it as free advice that you can use to make yourself a better full-time employee down the road. Being armed with such information helps prep you not only for your next assignment but also for your overall career goals.

At the Agency

You've made an appointment with a temp agency, and in addition to being honest, it helps to be prepared. Here are a few hints as to what you should do and expect.  

  • If you can, arrive with a resume. But don't fret if you don't have one. The agency will help you formulate one.
  • Plan to spend several hours there. It takes time for the agency to interview, test and work with you.
  • Dress as if you were going to the office. Temp agency representatives will be able to determine immediately whether you need advice on dressing for success.
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