Choosing a staffing agency can be a daunting task especially when most people find themselves asking, “How do I know if they're a good agency?” Picking the right partner can help your career take off, or it can have the opposite effect.

These 4 questions can help you determine if you're working with the right agency or if you need to move on.

Julian Pena-500px-portrait.jpgWhen I first started as a green professional in the contracting world, an awesome recruiter scooped me up and helped place me at a great job at Microsoft. I really enjoyed working with my recruiter; he was responsive during the onboarding process and at the beginning of my assignment.

Then when I got towards the end of my contract, I inquired about next steps and got no response back. I waited a few business days and reached out again. I got a response that my recruiter was no longer with the company and that Tom Thumb was going to be my new point of contact. So, I emailed Tom directly. Didn’t hear anything back for a few business days. Sent another email just in case he missed it. Still didn’t hear back so I decided to leave him a voicemail letting him know who I was and what I was looking for. My question was simple: can you help me find another job or should I start on my own search? Another few business days passed with no response. Boy was I peeved. The least he could do, I thought, was return my email or voicemail. 

I was talking to a co-worker about the lack of a response from my agency, and he suggested that I reach out to the agency he was working with, Populus Group. They were responsive and helped support him throughout his contract. So I did, and almost five years later I'm working on the other side of the fence supporting contract employees at Microsoft for Populus Group. Through my experience as a contractor, and now on the agency side supporting our Client Services team, I've learned there are a few really consistent things that make working with an agency a positive experience.

So here are the top 4 questions you can ask yourself when selecting an agency, or determining if you should find a better partner.

1. Are they responsive?

When you reach out to your representative do you hear back from them?

Something that struck me about Populus Group was that they got back to me. Right away in fact! Better yet they helped me find a job and you know what? The first thing I learned when I stared working with Populus Group was that they have a very unique communication commitment. It’s a commitment to:

  • Respond to every email and every phone call within 1 hour
  • Present a resolution within 24 hours if a solution could not be presented right away.
Wow, now that’s a pretty impressive commitment. In today’s world, with email notifications pinging every 5 minutes and office phones ringing off the hook, that can be a very hard commitment to hit with perfection but I can tell you, PG does everything we can to keep that promise because we know how important it is just to hear back from your employer.

2. Are they transparent?

After observing a company’s response times you have to ask yourself, are they honest and transparent?

Do you feel like you can ask them the difficult questions about what benefits they offer and why the pay is the offered rate? You certainly don’t want to work with an agency that withholds information from you or tries to “convince” you that the pay and benefits are the way they are just because. They should be able to give you the “why” behind the information they are sharing with you. By asking why you’ll be able to get a pretty good sense if they have your best interest in mind or not.

3. Are they knowledgeable about payroll and employment law?

This one’s a no-brainer. If you ask your agency about a law that you’re familiar with or how they are approaching pending legislation they should be able to give you a good response. If they don’t know then you can bet that they may be missing important laws like Sick Leave pay, which you may be entitled to based on the city and state you are working in, or even Overtime pay since Overtime rules can be state specific. Asking these questions to find out if your employer is knowledgeable just helps make sure that you’re going to take the most money home at the end of each year.

4. Can they help you get another job?

Last but not least, you want an agency that can help you find a job. If they can’t help you find a follow up contract after your first assignment ends, then I defer back to the transparency section. They should be honest with you about what positions and clients they are working with and if they can’t find the perfect position for you they can help point you in the right direction of finding your dream job.

Choosing the Right Partner Can Make All the Difference

If you find yourself questioning if you're getting the most out of your contract roles, or if you're missing opportunities, it's a good time to pause and evaluate your current agency. Working with the right agency is so important. Not only do they help you through the life of your contract, but they can help identify opportunities for your next role, and help you successfully secure them too. To do that, they need to be agile, responsive and focused on you and your goals. Ultimately working with a good agency is like working with a good consultant; they don't just address your current needs, they also think about your future. Speaking from my own experience, picking the right agency didn't just change my job, it helped transform my career.

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