How Job Seekers Know a Staffing Agency Is the Right Fit

By: Heather Moyer on May 24th, 2023

Whether you’re looking for a new employer or looking to go from full-time to more flexible work, a staffing agency can help you find the right fit. And if you’re looking to make the shift to contract work, you’re in good company.

“Economists, human resource experts, and global workforce managers dub 2023 the year of contingent staffing.” Contingent workers, sometimes called “gig workers,” include contractors, freelancers, consultants, advisors, temporary employees, and more. And in 2023, the pool of this type of worker “is projected to grow by 53 percent worldwide.”

Shrinking workforces and reevaluating how to fill open roles comes after ongoing macroeconomic pressures and challenges in retaining employees. In fact, “[r]esearch reveals that 67% of organizations expect to institute hiring freezes in 2023. And 83% are considering or already have reduced their overall headcount.”

Staffing agencies have been around since the 1940s, but these recent shifts have propelled their growth. “Staffing is a $174B industry – and one of the fastest-growing industries in B2B services.”

Why Companies Use Staffing Agencies

In human resources (HR), digital transformation and the shift to hybrid workforces have brought pressures to optimize costs, to facilitate change management, and for airtight compliance. With the opportunities to access data insights and tools that streamline, the skills required of and demands on HR have exponentially expanded which resources remain unchanged or even diminish. “Even in the areas of HR traditionally imbued with meaning and cultural significance—recruitment, and learning and development—the emphasis has been on productivity and how to measure it.”

As a result, many HR teams are shifting their focuses to their people and partnering with specialists for certain functions like recruiting and compliance. “The vast majority of CHROs said they were eager to shift to a model we have come to call ‘back to human.’”

By working with staffing agencies, companies and their often-lean HR teams can focus on more employee-centric initiatives and driving engagement while partnering with firms to cut costs, maximize internal resources, and quickly staff their open roles, especially if they’re temporary, with highly qualified candidates.

Partner With the Right Agency

Much like how it’s critical to find the right role and company for you, it’s also important to work with an agency that’s a good fit. Staffing companies will often specialize in industries, and for highly technical positions, a firm that has a long history in your focus industry will know what constitutes a “good fit” between companies and candidates.

According to the American Staffing Association, 40% of staffing employees work in higher-skilled occupations, and 11% of staffing agencies serve the engineering, IT, and scientific industry. This means, you should be asking specific questions related to your field and desired type of work in addition to standard questions about their success and experience.

Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • What are some positions that they’ve staffed that are relevant to your experiences and interests?
  • What is their fill rate or placement success rate?
  • On average, how quickly do they fill a position?
  • How long is their average placement fill process?
  • How long have they worked in the industry?
  • What is their process for placement?
  • Would current and past employees recommend the agency?

Though you may not be working for the staffing agency directly, their reputation as an employer and with previous candidates can tell you a lot. Ask about their mission and vision. Learn what their diversity, equity, and inclusion policies are. Investigate what current and past employees have to say about the agency, from their culture to benefits, even employer net promoter scores (eNPS). Review sites like Glassdoor offer first-hand experiences and perspectives from people who have worked on the types of projects and with the teams that interest you.

You want to work with an agency that prioritizes placing you in a role that works for you in addition to meeting its clients’ needs. Make sure you understand clearly any fees you’ll be responsible for, how you will get paid, what benefits are offered, how you will be onboarded, and what development or training opportunities they can offer.

And do your research. Explore the agency’s reputation on review sites and even on social media, like LinkedIn. Where there is smoke (red flags), there is likely fire (a bad fit). 

Land the Job

Even before a specific role has been identified, know what it is you’re looking for so that the agency you select will know how to provide you (and any potential employer) with the right match. 

Be honest and clear during the interview process with the staffing agency about the type of role you’re looking for, including the type of projects you’d like to work on. Make sure you understand clearly the type of employment you’re open to, whether it’s contract, contract-to-hire, or direct hire. If you have a type of company, product, or service you envision your next position to be in, share that, too. Prepare just as you would for if you were interviewing directly with a company by getting to know the agency ahead of time and coming with questions and details of past work.

As you get closer to a specific placement, it’ll be especially important you understand the specifics of your contract, including length of time the contract cover, the requirements of and skills required to succeed in the role, and frequency and rate of pay. 

Interviewing via a staffing agency gives you a distinct advantage in that the recruiter may have previous experience with the company and even the hiring manager, and they also should have more detail around what gaps the company is looking to fill. You can arm yourself with the right anecdotes and questions to stand out.

Think Beyond One Job

An exceptional staffing agency is one that has more to offer than a single job placement. Learn about how the firm maintains relationships with their candidates, including health benefits and development. An estimated one-half of staffing agencies offer medical benefits, and 79% even offer unpaid leave (just 8% offer paid leave). 

By building a long-term relationship with the staffing agency, you can stay connected to a network of potential roles and companies that interest and suit you. Stay in touch with your point of contact, even throughout the duration of your placement, to keep an ongoing line of communication open for feedback (in both directions), and keep them aware of your availability and goals once placements end.

When a Staffing Agency Is More

Learning about the mission and vision that drive a staffing agency can give you insight into the type of future you can have with that company. As with any company, find out what kind of impact they want to make on the industry and the world around them. Learn how you can find more than a job by working with them, how you might be able to reach your professional and personal goals with them as a partner.

“Though it’s a job, we’re doing life with these people,” says Heather Moyer, President/CEO and founder of HNM Systems. “We ensure our people are well taken care of. We are the advocate of our people, we take that responsibility seriously.”

When a staffing agency is about more than filling their clients’ requests, job seekers can find more than a job.