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There's nothing more stressful than job-hunting. Most of us need steady paychecks to pay our bills, and we panic when we don't know how to make ends meet. But landing a job isn't an easy feat with a high population, qualified work force, and applicant tracking systems. Worse yet, it's usually about who you know that gets you the job, and that means a job search can stretch into a few lean months or years.
Enter staffing agencies, often the jobseeker's last resource. The staffing industry is big business, raking in $122 billion in 2015 with 35,000 offices nationwide, according to the American Staffing Association.
But how do staffing agencies work?
Companies wanting to skip the dirty work of sifting through applicants hire employment agencies to do it for them. Usually the agencies run the background checks, screen applications, hold preliminary interviews, and administer testing. Since job agencies receive payment from successful placements, they try to place the best employees for those positions.
While ads for specific jobs can be posted on Craigslist or job posting sites and direct jobseekers to the staffing agencies, most jobseekers appeal to employment agencies to help find them any job. After you fill out a general application with your job history, references, and availability (usually online), a representative usually contacts you and lets you know if your skills and availability match any current openings. Some smaller agencies conduct an interview right away to screen applicants and make notes in your file, and some will have you complete certain testing if you're skilled in a certain area, like clerical work.
The premise is a good one: Since finding a job is often about who you know, staffing agents serve as representatives who can vouch for you. According to the American Staffing Association, staffing firms placed 11 million employees in 2015, which means they must be doing something right.
An equally great benefit of staffing agencies is 90 percent of companies provide free training. 51 percent of human resource managers said they couldn't find qualified candidates for open positions in 2015, so free job training is a valuable service.
What are the cons?
Some staffing agencies can be big, and you can get lost as a number. And trust me: Even a staffing agency can neglect to call you back. Choose smaller agencies, which are better at meeting with you in person and taking an interest in your skill set.
The biggest con, however, is some agencies take a chunk of your paycheck. How? Usually companies pay the agency and the agency handles payroll. To pay the agency for its services, the company pays a percentage on top of your salary to the agency. However, if the agency keeps the employee wage a secret or if it gets the employee to agree to a lower wage, it keeps the difference. Make sure you understand the agency's pay system, and try to work with a firm that doesn't toy with the poor man's dollar.