AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger

Temporary workers, often referred to as temps, work part-time or on a contingent basis, as they're hired for short-term periods based on the needs of their employers. While temp workers are often among the first to be cut during layoffs, and they don't have the same benefits as full-time employees, there are tons of benefits to being a temp worker and working a temporary job.

Temporary jobs can be ideal for those looking to gain experience, explore a new industry before making any serious career switches, get their foot in the door for a job that's more permanent, or even just have more flexibility for other commitments that are not related to work.

So how do you become a temporary worker? One way is to go through a temp agency. Here's what a temp agency is, how a temp agency works and some example temp agencies you can visit to find temporary work for yourself.

What Is a Temp Agency?

Temp agencies, also referred to as temp agencies or temporary staffing firms, are essentially intermediaries similar to other recruitment agencies that find positions for candidates looking for specifically temporary work by pairing them with companies looking to fill vacancies on a temporary basis.

For example, candidates might use temping agencies to find work for a finite period of time for a multitude of reasons, such as wanting to gain experience or explore a new industry. And companies might seek temporary staff workers to hire on a project-by-project basis or during exceptionally busy periods.

Temp agencies usually deal with specific professions, such as within the healthcare, accounting, industrial labor, information technology and administration fields. They may also deal with particular businesses that need short- or long-term temporary workers and, therefore, enter into contracts with temp agencies. Companies then pay temp agencies, and the agencies pay the temp workers.

"For the better part of the past hundred years, temp agencies have provided both temporary workers and companies of all sizes an option to deviate from traditional, in-house hiring and employment practices," according to Wonolo. "Though these agencies have evolved and scaled over time to better fit the growing demands of the business world, their prevailing philosophy has stayed relatively consistent — to offer a full range of businesses an army of quality laborers who are available to work on a temporary, seasonal or temp-to-hire basis. In the age of the gig economy, the traditional temp agency concept may seem familiar, yet foreign at the same time."

In other words, as ever more people become interested in the gig economy thanks to the flexibility these jobs offer, the more temp agencies become useful. And statistics consistently suggest that more and more people want to work flexible jobs. 

"The main objective of temp agencies is to match qualified candidates with clients looking to fill temporary, non-employee positions," according to Wonolo. "Traditionally speaking, these specialized job agencies were formed in order to provide large businesses with a large volume of talent, but many have evolved to include temp-to-hire and, in some cases, full-time position placements. In those situations, the temp agency acts as a de facto, contracted human resources department, managing the hiring of the client’s short-term and long-term workers."

How Do Temp Agencies Work?

Temp agencies work in a very simple way. To put it shortly, a temp agency hires a temporary worker to fill a temporary vacancy. On top of placing workers with companies, temp agencies also conduct background checks and perform drug tests on candidates, handle reference screening and offer skills training to candidates working with temp agencies. In fact, almost all (about 90 percent) or temp agencies will offer training to their job seekers.

How Do You Get Paid from a Temp Agency?

Temp agencies pay temporary workers, not companies. And temp jobs can often pay well.

Generally speaking, job seekers will contact the temp agency first, though temp agencies might seek out some highly skilled workers. Job seekers never pay agencies any fees or percentages up front. Rather, all temp agencies that are legitimate will offer cost-free job placement for candidates.

If hired, a temp agency charges its client and then pays its temp. The agency does the legwork when it comes to finding the work and negotiating the pay, which is ideal for many job seekers, but they might not get the temp worker a salary they deserve. 

When Should You Use a Temp Agency?

You might want to use a temp agency when you're looking for a temporary job. Perhaps you're looking for temporary work for one of the following reasons:

  • You want a more flexible schedule. Perhaps you're in school, are starting a family, have to care for elders or have another reason that you need more flexibility.
  • You want to test out a company before committing to it. While not all temp work leads to permanent work, it can help you get your foot in the door with a company or, at least, industry.
  • You want to explore a new industry. Temp work can help you hone in one new skills that you'll need if you're eventually planning to make a move to a new industry.
  • You want to gain new skills. Perhaps your resume needs a boost and you're looking to take on a temporary job to be able to add those skills and that experience to your resume. Most staffing agencies provide training for temporary workers, and 70 percent of temps say they gain new skills during their assignments, according to the American Staffing Association.

How Can You Find Temp Agencies?

You might be wondering, what are some of the best temp agencies out there?

You can always check out a few temp agencies while you're out there looking for one that works for you; after all, they shouldn't cost you a thing. That said, here are a few legitimate temp agencies to get you started.

General Temp Agencies

  1. Adecco
  2. Kelly Services
  3. Manpower
  4. Ranstad
  5. Robert Half International
  6. Career Group Inc.
  7. All Aces Promotional Staffing
  8. Taylor Hodson

Temp Agencies for Specific Industries

  1. MedPro Staffing
  2. TopTechJobs
  3. AMN Healthcare
  4. Modis
  5. Avant Healthcare Professionals
  6. Medical Solutions
  7. TEKsystems
  8. Interim Healthcare
  9. WunderLand
  10. Artisan Talent
  11. Atrium Staff
  12. Nonprofit Staffing

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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