How Do Temp Agencies Work?

Skill testing is required for temporary workers.
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If you need flexibility and still must earn an income while job hunting, or if you're new to the job market, a temp agency provides a way to keep your interviewing and office skills sharp. Temp agencies match companies with job seekers who then work for a limited time. The agencies do all the screening, initial interviewing, and skill testing for the company. Occasionally, you may find yourself with an unexpected job offer if the employer likes you and you like the company.

The Temp Agency

    Selecting the right temp agency for your skill set is often trial and error. Register with more than one to get calls for placement more frequently. There are also agencies that cater to specific skills, such as executives, marketing, or creative job seekers. When looking for temporary employment through an agency, ask up-front when you call if it does long or short-term placements and how often people get hired from their temporary positions. Your initial meeting with the agency will take a few hours. Once it finds a client that's a good match, you'll get a phone call to go for an interview.

Skill Testing

    Be prepared to stay for at least an hour or two, minimum, on your first meeting with a temp agency. The agency tests you on all the computer skills listed on your resume. Often, there is a room with a computer that has tests for a multitude of computer applications. These may be anything from computer tests for administrative applications, to more difficult challenges, such as advanced user programs or programming tests. A typing test is standard for all office positions.


    Dress to impress, even for the agency meeting, and bring a resume. The placement agent wants to know she can trust you to dress professionally on the work site. Dress as though you are interviewing for the job at the client company. This means a standard skirt or slacks with a dress shirt, or a suit, usually in navy, black, or grey. The temp agency needs to know that if it sends you out on an interview, or to a job site directly, that you will dress appropriately. You are a direct reflection of the agency.


    A temporary agency negotiates a wage with the client company that includes the agency's fee. You get paid a portion of the negotiated wage via the agency as your income. If you're hired on permanently, the temp agency often gets a percentage of your negotiated salary -- paid by the company to the agency. An agency may pay weekly, every two weeks, or twice a month. During your meeting with the agency, ask about pay and be honest about what wage you're willing to work for so you don't waste your time with jobs you won't take.

The Job Sites

    A client company may want to interview you before bringing you in to work. This could be a long-term temp position or a job with special training. You may also get a call from the temp agency to go to work that same day. If someone at the company has gotten sick unexpectedly and will be out for a week or more, your job as a temp is to fill in until she comes back. Getting a wakeup call to make money is never a bad way to start the day.

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