I have often wondered why many people have different expectations when interviewing with staffing firms than they would with about any other hiring organization.  Perhaps it is because most people don’t really understand what a recruiter does.  Ever heard someone complain about a recruiter “not finding them a job?”

Yes, times have changed.  Twenty or thirty years ago, people would go to a staffing firm and everyone was hired – from the highly skilled to the unskilled.  The exact skill mattered little as most organizations were broader in their organizational structure and had the time and manpower to teach and train anybody to their specific business needs.  The staffing recruiter would literally call and find you a job.

Through the years and many economic downturns, those organizational structures have been whittled away.  Today, the lean and mean organization has little time to train and even less time to wait until someone unskilled is trained enough to be productive.  They expect the new employee to be productive just about from the start.  Today, recruiters don’t go out and find jobs, recruiters find candidates. They match candidates with open positions given to them by their client companies often looking for very specific types of candidates. So, don’t get offended if you don’t match.

So who do they hire?  Remember: Staffing firms are hiring for other hiring organizations so the traits don’t differ much. Registering with a staffing firm today should be another piece of your job search, job networking strategy and not an end all solution.  Staffing services can open many doors for you especially at companies where hiring through a staffing firm is the one way to secure some positions.

As more and more companies get leaner, they have less time for hiring.  While that seems rather strange, since people are the most important resource for any company, it is just a matter of time and the amount of duties a hiring manager has to accomplish in a day.  So, they turn to a staffing service and outsource this function while the hiring manager focuses on their daily core job duties.

Like any other hiring organization, Staffing firms hire candidates that have the following characteristics:

  • They show up on time.  Don’t be late for your appointment with a service.  A staffing firm begins evaluating you from the moment you call to inquire about a job right up until the moment they offer you a position.  When you are late without calling, it tells the service that you might not be a responsible person; unable to get to work on time.
  • Bring a résumé free of misspelled words and errors.  Doesn’t matter whether you previously sent a copy of the résumé originally, you should always be prepared with a fresh copy for the interviewer in case they do not have a clean copy to review your skills.  You should have a résumé that is tailored to the job you are applying for; otherwise it might tell them you are lazy and the wrong person for the job.
  • Don’t apply for jobs you are not qualified. If you still do, don’t be upset when you don’t get a call.  The recruiter just doesn’t have time to respond to everyone and will concentrate their recruiting time on those résumés that more closely match the expectations of their clients.  If you get an unsolicited call over the phone, there is a reason they are calling; take it as a compliment and have a productive and professional conversation.  You never know where a call might or might not lead.
  • Don’t lie on your résumé or about your work history.  Vagueness doesn’t help either.  Not personalizing your cover letter usually guarantees it will get passed over.  Just a single uncertainty in your résumé can result in your rejection.
  • Keep your recruiter updated.  Most people fail to tell their recruiter when things change with their job search, compensation or even their job preference.  They also fail to talk about personal commitments that might interfere with their job search.  Last minute changes can make you look untrustworthy or complicated and can wreak the whole deal.  The recruiter will just move on to the next candidate who doesn’t do those things.
  • Don’t bring your kids.  It is unprofessional to other job candidates and they are disruptive to the application process.  This will tell the interviewer how prepared you are to interview as well as how professional your actions are towards them as a potential employer.  Most services feel that what you do in their interview, you will do in the interview with their client and if it viewed as unprofessional, you probably won’t get a call back.
  • Dress for the job.  Don’t arrive in flip flops, curlers in your hair, jogging suit or other such unprofessional attire.  It is an immediate turn-off and suggests you don’t take work seriously and certainly you don’t take them seriously.  If in doubt about what to wear, ask at the time you are scheduling the appointment.  Some jobs just don’t require a tie and suit, but do require professionalism.
  • Prepare for your staffing interview as you would for any other interview.  Remember, they are looking for a quality employee that will represent their service well.  Give detailed answers, offer specific examples of your successes, ask good questions that will show your interest, etc.  You are competing with other job candidates not only for a specific job, but other jobs that might be more suitable or future jobs, so sell yourself.  It is not their job to tell you what you are good at.  One of the great things about a staffing firm is that if you don’t get this job, there are potentially other jobs that will match your skills, but you don’t have to interview each and every time.
  • Be flexible when you can.  Depending on your reason for working with a staffing service, the more flexible you are the more you are likely to work and keep working.  Sometimes, the service may start you out on short-term assignments to see how you do, which can open the door to long-term assignments, projects or temp-to-hire opportunities.  Just don’t tell them something you will do, if you can’t or won’t.  Once they suspect they can’t trust you, it is all over.  Honesty and communication always win the day.
  • Keep in touch with your recruiter, but understand they may have a lot of other employees and prospective candidates for other positions wanting to connect with your recruiter and there is only so much time in the day.  Understanding and respecting their time in a professional manner will go a long way in helping to secure new job opportunities.  Send a note or e-mail thanking them for their time; remind them of your skills.  They are not ignoring you.  Generally, they are working on other pressing items with clients that you are not interested in or qualified.  If you are the best candidate, rest assured they will call you.  Staffing services make money by putting you to work; period.  They get no extra compensation for interviewing of “filling” their database with candidates.  That is a waste of their time. To get the most from your recruiter find out what is the best way to keep in touch with them.  The more they hear from you, the more you will stand-out from the crowd of other names they see on a daily basis.  Don’t assume or take anything for granted.
  • Communication is the key.  Things happen and we don’t always have control over them.  As your employer, the staffing firm needs to know what is happening with you.  Again, if they feel they cannot trust you to keep them informed, you might find the jobs with that service begin to dry up or stop altogether.  The client is expecting the service to keep them informed so their business work flow is not disrupted.  They have a customer they are providing service to and will need to make the necessary arrangement due to your absence, but be truthful.  Don’t tell your recruiter you got a call last night at 7pm and need to go to court today.  Please…  Certain things just don’t happen that way.  And if they can’t trust you…  All things can be worked out with communication.  The recruiter wants things to work out.  It is in their best interest for things to work out, but you play the key role if that is to happen.
  • Follow-up.  Even if you are no longer available for work when a recruiter calls, call them back or e-mail them of your progress.  Don’t just disappear and then expect to call in the future and be treated as the long lost prodigal son or daughter.  Give the treatment to the recruiter that you expect to receive from them.

It is all about team work.  If you are honest, open about your compensation, understand that sometimes temp work is just that, not your life’s work but a way to earn extra cash while your search continues, then the staffing recruiter will get the interviews going.  All too often job seekers expect royal treatment. Candidates sometimes don’t understand the fact that recruiters don’t work for them, but with them. A staffing recruiter will always have your best interests in mind (and they want you to get hired), but they can’t make individually-tailored jobs appear out of thin air.

Working with a staffing recruiter really isn’t that complicated.  It should be viewed as one of many valuable resources in your networking toolkit.  You need to pursue every avenue available to you and when done in the proper manner, a staffing firm can not only be productive, but a pleasurable experience.

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