A temporary bridge to a lasting position

By Scott Sargis
Published In The Chicago Tribune
August 5, 2001

The last several months have been brutal for employment opportunities. Companies ranging from Motorola to Sapient have been constantly laying people off. Do any employment avenues still exist?

The answer is “yes,” if you are willing to investigate an alternative job market-a temporary or “temp” job. Traditionally, many temp jobs have been converted into full-time positions. Although the rate of conversions has slowed dramatically with recent economic hardships, they are still occurring.

Often job seekers investigate only full-time jobs through the regular channels: ads in newspapers, trade journals and on the Internet, and through permanent placement recruiters. This strategy misses hidden opportunities in the temporary job market. Temp jobs provide a bridge until that special job you want comes along, or they may be leveraged into a good full-time one.

Increasingly, employers want to “try out talent” before hiring because of heightened workplace litigation and economic uncertainty.

To fully explore the temp market, you need to list with one or more temp agencies. But how to select the right agency for you?

Find firms that specialize in your field. Navigate the American Staffing Association’s Web site for firm specialties and locations.

Compile a list of questions to ask each consultant: How long have you been in this field? What percentage of your placements in the last six months has been in my area of specialty? Who are some of your biggest clients?

Ask the firm for names of satisfied customers. Contact them to find out how well they have been treated. Remember that recruiting is a relationship business and you have to feel comfortable with the people you work with.

Since each firm has its own universe of clients, choose three or four that you feel most comfortable with. Now for the interview. The temp interview process differs from that of hiring for permanent employment because each process has a completely different purpose.

The interview for a full-time job is often long and drawn out. The employer is looking at the long term. Are you someone he can promote further down the line? The temp interview is generally for a specific short-term project and you can be hired on the spot. If it doesn’t work out the employer can fire you just as fast without worrying about litigation.

To prepare for this interview:

  • Do your homework on the employer.
  • Compile a list of questions: How long will this temp assignment last? Is there a possibility that it can turn into a full-time job? What will be expected of me in the first 30 days? How much time will be allowed to interview for a full-time job? How much notice is required if I find a full-time job?
  • Be upfront with the temporary employer-if he is not going to be cooperative it’s better to find out now.

Remember that with the tough employment picture over the last eight months, the temporary market still remains a viable option. With a little preparation, it can be your bridge into the job you really want.