How do Temp Agencies Work? 9 Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss

As you respond to job postings, job ads, and check out job boards, you may have thought about applying for a job with a temp agency, but not knowing how they work has stopped you from following through. Well fear no more! This article is a comprehensive guide to temp and staffing agencies so you can go into it with confidence.

A temp agency is a good place to start

A temp agency is a good place to start

1. What is the benefit of a temp agency?

Temp agencies (also called temporary agencies or staffing agencies) provide a service that is beneficial for both employers and employees.

Employees can go to a temp agency and generally find a job within a short period of time. It is also a possible way of getting a foot in the door for a full-time position.

Employers can get a position filled temporarily so the work is getting done while they search for a permanent employee.

Woohooo! Everyone benefits. But there is much more to it, and we have to go into more detail to answer the question, “How do temp agencies work?”

2. What should I expect when applying to a temp agency?

A temporary agency screens and interviews so many people so they can match them with jobs. The agency can place you in jobs with many different companies that the temp agency has contracts with. The contract describes what type of work they need done, what the prospective employee’s duties will be, and how much they will be paid.

Each temp agency has their own guidelines and different contracts with companies; therefore, the following information could vary from one to another.

3. What should I expect in my interview or visit?

When you walk into a temp agency, a staffing specialist will greet you and have you fill out an application/information sheet that helps to highlight your strengths. You should bring your resume if you have one. If you do not, some agencies will help you to create one. References for the type of work you are seeking and a background check are also generally required by the agency.


Get ready for the interview! Many are done over Skype as well.

Other than that, your interview at the temp agency is similar to an interview you would have when you apply directly to a company looking for a new employee. The staff member will ask you questions about your employment history, strengths and about circumstances under which you left previous jobs. Just be honest and have answers prepared for the potential questions.

Don’t stress over the interviews here. It is much easier to do well in these than regular interviews because most staffing companies always want to increase their pool of employees to choose from and want to help you improve your chances of getting a job through them. Plus, it is less commitment and is less expensive for them to hire and let go of you than it is for a regular company.

Additionally, you may be asked to take tests to assess your skill level for the type of work you perform. For example, if one of your skills is typing, you will be given an exam to see how many words per minute you type as well as the accuracy. Another example that is very common is a Microsoft Office skills test, such as Word or Excel. Other tests may be required based on your specialty or industry. The temp agency uses the results of your tests to match you with jobs they have from different companies.

4. What will my schedule be like?

When you work for a temporary agency, they will usually call you when something in your area of expertise is needed. Alternatively, some temp agencies advise you to call them on a regular basis to check for available jobs.

Be prepared to answer these common questions about what kind of schedule you would like:

  • Are you available on weekends?
  • Do you want to work strictly days, nights or are you available anytime?
  • Is there a particular geographical area where you would prefer to work?


What will my schedule be like?

Temp schedules are unpredictable until you are on a project or job with a company. They may call you at any moment and on short notice to go for an interview at one of the companies they work with.

5. Do I have to sign a contract?

When you decide to work or a temp agency, you will almost always be asked to sign a contract. This contract basically states that you are affiliated with the temp agency and have certain restrictions with the companies that they introduce you to.

When they send you on a job, you cannot accept any other temporary or permanent position with the company without going through the temp agency. Should the company want to hire you permanently, they will pay the temp agency a certain amount to release you from your contract. This amount depends on the temporary agency and I will explain it later. (Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice)

Once you have finished this process and signed the contract, crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s, you now are able to be called for to work for a client of the temp agency.

6. How does the pay work?

The temp agency is responsible for paying the workers they send to a company. They charge the company a set amount per hour from which they take a percentage. The temp agency is also responsible for collecting taxes from the temporary worker’s pay. All of this is specified in the contract that the company has with the temp agency.

For example, if a temp worker is paid $15 per hour, the company for which they are working may actually be paying $25 per hour for their services. The temp agency keeps the extra $10 per hour of the pay. The markup is typically 50% to 100%, and is 66% in this example.


Money, money, money, money … MONEY!!!

7. Is it better for the company to hire workers from a temp agency or independent contractors?

Companies get certain advantages from using temp employees through agencies, the burden of figuring and withholding employment taxes is taken away from them. In addition, they don’t have to worry about paying benefits, such as health insurance, unemployment, or vacation.

If a company hires an independent contractor, they pay them a certain amount for their services. An independent contractor typically works their own hours and days, does not use the employer’s equipment and is not trained nor told how to work by the person hiring them.

The company does not have to pay any payroll taxes for temporary workers. They enter into a contract with the temp agency. This contract states that the agency pays the employee. It also states that the temporary agency is responsible for payroll taxes for the temp.


In effect, the temp agency is the employer of the temporary worker and as such, this releases the company that hires temps from paying any benefits, and places this burden on the temp agency. This is a huge benefit for employers and makes up for the higher cost of staff brought on from employment agencies.

In addition to the payroll taxes they collect from their pay, they may also offer health insurance. If so, this would be deducted as well. This will vary from one temp agency to another. Employees who work on ‘long term temporary positions’ may even be offered 401Ks and be provided with paid vacation time and holidays.

8. What if the company I temp with wants to hire me full-time?

If your skills are matched well enough to the company where you are working as a temporary employee, you may be fortunate enough to be offered permanent employment with that company. The company’s human resources officer will contact the temp agency where you’re employed and inform it that they want to hire you.

Should this happen, if you want to know how temp agencies work in the background; the company will typically pay a fee to hire you, typically 25% of your yearly salary. This can be a substantial sum, so even if you become crucial to the organization, don’t feel bad if they do not hire you full time.

Some temp agency clients may actually use the agency to test a worker before deciding whether to hire them or not. When they decide they want to do so, the temp agency releases you from its employment, freeing you to work for your new employer.

9. Use all temporary jobs to expand your network

Now that you know how a temp agency works, you should feel more confident about updating your resume, putting on a professional outfit and visiting several temp agencies in your community. Don’t forget, while working jobs through a temp agency, expand your network and meet as many people as you can in your industry.

Temp Agencies

21 thoughts on “How do Temp Agencies Work? 9 Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss

  1. Karen on Reply

    Hi. This information is helpful, but for many temp agency jobs, the applicant has to interview at the company. I do administrative work and have not been sent on an assignment. The company screens and interviews the agency candidates before you are offered the position. It would be helpful if you would update your advice to include information on how to work with a temp agency to get those interviews. Thanks.

  2. ashley on Reply

    what if you don’t have much experience? I have only worked in daycare and would like to do something clerical. would it be difficult finding a job in that area?

  3. TK on Reply

    My question is a bit odd…I applied to a temp agency because a friend of mine got a really good job from them. However, the place he’s working with is also hiring outside of the temp agency. I have applied to work with the temp agency as well and they haven’t received notice that the company is hiring any more even though the website says it is. Can I apply to the company directly without getting someone in trouble since I haven’t been sent to the temp agency and they don’t even know that the company is hiring again yet (according to my recruiter)

  4. shannon on Reply

    So if u have signed a contract with the temp agency for so many months…and are released early….is any one person responsible to pay you lost wages from that contract that you signed?

  5. Terra on Reply

    Thank you for the information. It’s just as I thought. My fiancee works for a staffing agency that hired him to work for AT&T, they had him sign for 1 year then after it ended they had him sign a 2 year contract with AT&T. He have no benefits what so ever. He ask AT&T about hiring him permanently, but they keep telling him to be patient and they will as soon as a position becomes available. I know they are just pulling his leg to keep his hope’s up. 3 years without any benefits, he need dental work done and a medical check up about some concerns that’s going on with his body, after all he’s 53 years of age and he needs to have a colon and prostate check, not to mention a vision check. Mentally it bothers him that his colleagues are making a lot more money than he is and they get paid holidays and he’s doing the same job and doing more than some of them and he’s barely making it off of what they are paying him and he don’t even have a permanent address, he’s living from pillar to post as the old saying goes.

  6. rod bernard on Reply

    I’m currently on assignment at my job but they are only and still offering me part time hours but they currently have a post going on for a full time call center position is there anyway I could speak to my temp agency and ask about being considered for the full time callcenter jobs without fear of them firing or letting me go.

  7. Kylie on Reply

    Do you have set hours once you’re hired for a certain position or can you call in on a day and see if something is available for that day?

  8. Renato on Reply

    Hi, I’ve been working for this company for two years. It’s a very good company, but they are not hiring me yet. During this time this company started working with a new agency that pays more their temps than my agency. My question is: How do I move from one agency to the other without getting in trouble with the first one? What should I tel them?

  9. Gail on Reply

    I’ve registered with numerous agencies. They all willing take me on and even sought me out to register (test & submit resume) with them. To date, despite applying to postings they have placed online not one has placed me, or for the most part, have even considered me for an interview with their client. I’ve been repeatedly told by many that my skills are good, even impressive but their actions don’t match. Either everyone is lying to me or I’ve become a victim of too many years experience (ageism). It is commonly known that people over the age of about 45 are lucky to have or get a job. I can’t take experience away without lying. If I lie on a resume (or even ATS) that could be even more devastating.

  10. Karen on Reply

    I seem to be having similar troubles as previously posted by Gail. I have applied, tested and signed contracts with several staffing agencies and, to no avail. I have not received one call for placement, not even a secondary interview with a hiring company. I get favorable feedback when I meet with these agencies, they like my wide range of experience – now, I am 46 yrs old, with years of experience in a myriad of different types of companies so, I am very adaptable and should not be closed off to any ONE type of company; and I am sure these staffing agencies hold contracts with different types of companies. Is there a “Catch 22” due to my age and varied experience? Or, isn’t that just one of the good reasons people choose to go through these agencies? I am at a loss; and, quite frankly, hurt by the lack of response I receive once I have completed the interview with an agency.

  11. Cynthia Dillard on Reply

    I am registered with a lot of different Temp Agencies and Staffing Agencies, and when see a position or assignment I send my resumes and to my avail I have not received a response yet.

  12. Mary S. on Reply

    I have read all these comments and know exactly what everyone is going thru. I have been unemployed now for 17 months, I have been thru the “ringer” with over 15 employment agencies in Denver, Austin, Waco, Lincoln and Omaha. I have passed their tests, their interviews…and have not been offered one job. For six months strong now I have been looking at web sites, applying for positions on line and feel there is no one out there looking out for all of us ‘over 40’ employees with 15+ years experience. I live in a small town and have ‘used’ up all the ‘office’ jobs there are to be had. I fear I am in for more months of no income and the savings are dwindling quickly. Nine years is a long time to wait for S.S., if it’s there in 9 years! I am very willing to relocate and leave my husband behind to find work, he’s retired military and will just have to live alone for a while if I get hired out of state.

    1. Elle on Reply

      Mary, I just want to say that I’ve had a very similar experience. I’m well over 40 with 15+ yrs experience (and advanced degree) and have been out of work for over 2 years. The country may be up in arms about gender bias, but age bias is the biggest, most egregious discriminatory employment practice today. No one will talk about it. In fact, employers are happy to be raked over the coals about their failures in gender and racial diversity, as long as no one pushes them on the age issue. I hope you’ve found something decent since you posted your comment in December. Best wishes.

  13. sandra on Reply

    My question is I work a temp agency been at assisgnment for 4 months . In Feb. my last day is oct. 20, 2015. Since we get paid the week before . Will I still get a check for the week of the Feb. 20th that I worked for the next friday’s payday Feb. 27th

  14. Davey Hiltzs on Reply

    Thank you for the insight. We’ve been considering going through a temp agency to get some workers for our new warehouse, but we weren’t sure if it would be a good idea. We’re still debating the possible price fof it, and so far the numbers are pretty good. Still, we have to get approval from the board of directors to go ahead and get to work. We work in quite a tightly-run company.

  15. Sarah on Reply

    I have been asked to sign a contract which has Indemnification. Is that normal? Especially in my contract it states such employee defend the agency from any and all issues, losses, liabilities, improper conduct etc. which the agency may suffer in connection with any acts by employee — so meaning the employee is responsible for any law suits. But I thought it should be the other way, the agency will take the responsibility on behalf of the employee.

    Any suggestions – is this normal?

  16. Sarah on Reply

    This is Sarah again, I posted a comment earlier regarding Indemnification. My job is in the Information Technology field as a computer programmer. So the agency hires IT employees for companies for contracts – mine is a 6 month contract.

  17. lee on Reply

    Same age issue for well over a year. I just got a call for a 6 mo temp but afraid of being used up & spit out again. Also, have a friend that has “temped” for over 3 yrs, travels even on the weekend with no pay??!! Is this legal? And when she does do OT at workplace, she only receives straight time. Sounds like a violation of Fair Labor Standards Act. What’s the deal? Are there special circumstances/exceptions? BTW temp co is Yoh hasn’t helped her with full-time employment at all.

  18. Geri Cundiff on Reply

    I have been lucky and had better results than those posted. I went to Office Team last week, submitted resume & signed documents. I was sent on interview this week for an 8 week administrative assistant assignment. I got the job & start Monday of next week. I am female & 58 years old. This is my first temp job and I am looking forward to working only temp jobs in the future so I have time to travel in-between assignments. My advice is to be positive, confident, professional & friendly!

  19. Kyle Ross on Reply

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that a temp agency can help you get work quickly. I’m about to move to college, but I want to find a temporary job for the summer. This sounds like it could be a great option for me, so I’ll definitely look into using a temp agency to find work. Thanks for the great post!

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