Using a Temp Agency

By Eric Hammer

If you can't find a job right now or you simply don't want to take on a full time job, it may be time to consider working with a temp agency. While temps and the agencies they work with often have a bad name, the reality is that being a temp can often lead to full time employment and or more interesting work options.

Basically, when you sign up with a temp agency, you'll be asked to take tests to show off the skills you already have. You may also be allowed to take some training courses to get you up to speed on additional skills, such as using Microsoft Office or other basic tasks.

Then, when a job comes in, the temp agency will call you to ask if you are available. If you are, you get sent to the job for a specified period of time. It may be as little as a single day of work or it may be as much as several months of work, depending on why the temp agency has been brought in by the new employer.

Your job description will often vary widely from one day to the next. You may be working on filing paper work one day while the next day, you could be out helping a surveyor to take measurements of land. There are also options to work with a temp agency that offers specialized skills, such as engineers and even lawyers, though most still work with more basic jobs such as secretarial and reception skills.

How Much Can You Make?

Work at a temp agency is never particularly well paid. However, expect to be earning at least a little above minimum wage and possibly significantly more depending on your particular skills. It's really impossible to quantify beyond that because temp jobs tend to vary so widely.

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Always be prepared to work hard and be ready for new experiences. Working with a temp agency means either owning a car or being very familiar with public transportation since you'll often need to find your way to an office that you've never been to and you must be on time (the gravest sin a temp can make is being late since often, you are expected mostly to be a warm body to fill in while the regular person is out sick or on vacation or leave).

Expect to be called on to perform a wide variety of tasks, from arranging to book airline tickets to data entry to filing. If you want to maximize your hours, be sure to mention that you are willing to take on jobs that are "non standard," such as the aforementioned surveyor's assistant.

Qualifications / Requirements

While theoretically the only requirement for getting hired by a temp agency is that you are still breathing, in reality most temp agencies also look for a clean employment record (if you were fired for cause at one job, it may not be so bad, however being fired from multiple jobs could make a temp agency hesitant to work with you). You'll also do better at a temp agency if you have some useful skills, such as typing and knowledge of office programs, including Microsoft Office (you will be tested on your skills, so simply claiming you know Microsoft Word because you know how to start it up and start typing won't necessarily fly here).

First Steps

Start by looking in the yellow pages for temp agencies in your area. Call all of them and arrange for an interview. Make sure to dress professionally and to bring a copy of your resume. Be prepared to spend a few hours at the temp agency for testing purposes as well.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about working with temp agencies:

Manpower - One of the largest temp agencies in the United States, Manpower has offices all over the country and is always hiring.

Kelly Temps - Another well known temp agency, they also have offices in almost every city in the country. Temp Jobs - A good examination of what temp jobs entail and what it might be like to work with a temp agency.

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