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Tips for Working with a Contract Staffing Firm

There are many misconceptions about how the relationship between recruiters and candidates works. Not understanding the intricacies can lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and in some cases hurt feelings. Here are some tips for working well with a contract staffing firm and making the most of your job search.

1. Who’s your employer?

When you take a contract or temp position through a staffing firm, the agency is technically your employer. Although you will report to a manager at the company, your paycheck, W-9 and benefits will come from the staffing firm. This can be confusing to many first-time contractors.

Many companies actually work with a contract staffing firm for this very reason; the recruitment firm is able to handle the complicated pay and benefit structure of contract workers. But don’t be concerned about this arrangement being a hurdle in turning your temporary role permanent. Transferring payroll and benefits information is easy and won’t act as a barrier.

2. Who does your recruiter work for?

Staffing agencies are hired and paid by companies looking for employees; their primary purpose is to find the right talent for their clients. This is a subtle difference from finding jobs for their candidates. Understanding the recruiter’s perspective and how they are compensated may save some hurt feelings and keep the relationship strong.

And, while the client pays the agency, recruiters can’t do their jobs without the right candidates – all job seekers should be treated by their recruiter with honesty and respect.

3. Understand the firm’s expectations.

A skilled recruiter will set expectations around communication, feedback and the process for distributing your resume and setting up interviews. You should know the answers to questions like these at the beginning of your relationship:

  • What can you expect from working with this recruiter?
  • How often will they be in touch?
  • How long could it take before you get a contract role?
  • Will they share feedback about your resume and interviews?

4. Insist on open communication.

Your recruiter should be open and honest with you. This includes providing feedback that will help you emphasize your strengths to potential employers, being truthful when a job just isn’t the right fit and keeping you informed throughout the interview and hiring process.

And you need to reciprocate! Recruiters can only do their jobs well when candidates are honest with them. Don’t accept a temp job knowing you have two interviews for permanent roles the next week, or wait to tell the recruiter you have a two-week vacation planned just when the job starts. You may be hesitant to share this information for fear that it will impact your consideration for a position, but if your recruiter knows ahead of time, they can work with it. If they don’t, and have to tell employers after the fact, it can damage your reputation – and theirs. Tell them the whole story from the beginning so they can best manage that information and assist you in finding the right position.

5. Negotiate early.

The best (and really only) time to negotiate your pay for a contract role is during the initial stages of the interview process. At the onset, your recruiter will present you with a position and the rate. If you’re unhappy with the fee structure, speak up! Once you have accepted the offer, it’s too late.

6. Take charge of your search.

You’re the boss of your job search. This means knowing where your resume is going. If employers are getting your resume from multiple recruiters and directly from you, it makes you look disorganized and sloppy – not traits you want to highlight in a job search. Always keep an organized list of where you resume is submitted.

Experienced recruiters will check with you prior to submitting your resume to make sure the position is a good fit. If your staffing firm doesn’t have that policy, insist on it or move on to a different agency.

7. Get the right fit.

There are many staffing firms and recruiters who want to work with you. Find a recruiter who specializes in your functional area or industry and someone to whom you feel comfortable telling your whole story. If you can’t be honest with your recruiter, you may need to find someone who is a better fit.

Following these tips will help you work well with a staffing firm so you can make the most of your search and find a contract role that will help further your career.

This content originated on and has been shared with permission.

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