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Working For a Temp Agency - What to Expect

Updated on August 29, 2011

Employers these days are relying more heavily upon temporary and other third-party employment service agencies to fill their staffing needs. This is especially valuable if the employer is in a high-turnover business (such as almost anything in the service industry or in a business that is very physically demanding).

Staffing agencies, more commonly called “temp agencies”, fill an extremely large hole in the staffing niche in America. Many employers have migrated to what is called “temp-to-hire”, meaning that all of its entry-level employees must be hired through an outside agency and work at the employer’s facility for a certain probationary period (usually 60-90 days). The employee during this time is paid an agreed-upon contract rate (usually hourly) by the temporary service and not by the actual employer for whom he is working. This allows the potential employer to “try you out” for a time before committing to hiring you on their own payroll ("mishires", i.e., hiring a person who does not work out after a short time and must be terminated, costs the average company the equivalent of about $21,000 in screening, training, lost work time, poor performance, and other stressors on the company).

Because so many companies have migrated to this “temp-to-hire” practice it pays to do your homework before considering where you would like to work (for example, Amazon.com only hires under these conditions). Secondly, you must expect to take a drug test. The temp agency might require you, at their expense, to go to a lab in your town and submit a urine or blood sample. Or, there are quick, instant methods available for drug testing that the agency’s staff can administer themselves. This can be a cheek swab drug test (uses saliva collected on a swab) or an “instant” urine test (uses a chemically treated strip inserted into a sample of urine. Almost all temp agencies use drug screening these days, so consider it a given you will take one, and live your life accordingly.

A temp agency can be a great first way to get your proverbial "foot in the door", but it is important to understand the expectations and qualifications in order to make sure you are putting that foot forward as well as you can.

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