Working with Creative Staffing Agencies
April 14, 2016 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I have an interview with a creative staffing agency based in Los Angeles next week and want to be as cagey as possible while talking with them so I don't end up getting myself into something I can't back out of. If you've worked with temp-to-hire/contract-to-hire agencies like this before, what do you wish you'd known in hindsight?

Said agency seems to be much better than some of the other agencies I've encountered, two of which are now blacklisted by a lot of the companies I'd like to work for. But I'm not sure what red flags to look for, and I don't know how to back out gracefully if I don't like what I hear.

special snowflake details: I'm a designer/teacher, I have been unemployed for 6 months (despite all my efforts not to be), and in 4 weeks I will no longer have any income at all so getting a job asap is v. important.
posted by Hermione Granger to Work & Money (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've done a few contract to hire gigs hindsight tells me:
-be leary if they want to know your rate right off the bat. Preface it with the fact that you need to understand more about the role, commute, etc. Also if they accept your rate without comment then you're probably at the low end of what they want to pay
-ask if they offer benefits (time off, 401k, medical insurance) and increase your hourly rate for each of those that aren't what you had before. You'll have to pay yourself for needing time off at some point (or even just not getting holidays paid off)
-check if their role is a fixed duration or to hire. Ask about their experience placing people with the client (if there's a specific one), especially about the time you can expect to wait to covert to FTE.
-see if they help transition contractors to another gig right away, ask for specific experiences of their previous placements.

Generally these recruiters are pushy for commitment and cagey about details and specific examples. If you haven't yet, check them out on Indeed and Glassdoor. Trust the average of what people say. Know that some staffing firms pressure new hires to review them after signing their employment contract (so ignore any 5 star reviews with few comments). Almost all staffing firms are very hands on and helpful through onboarding but disappear after the placement. This is great unless you need something.
posted by toomanycurls at 7:00 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a freelancer who used creative staffing agencies when I was starting out. Overall, I've had a fairly positive experience – you trade a higher pay rate for the convenience of a representative and job search agent. This is especially useful when you have a smaller network or less experience.

A few things I've realized: it's okay not to call them back if they contact you about a job that you don't want. They don't hold it against you, and they'll call again. In fact, if they submit you for a gig and the employer says no to an interview, they probably won't call to tell you about it.

Be firm about what you want with regards to rate and job type. For a while I claimed to be "open to whatever," and I kept getting calls for temp-to-perm positions when I really just wanted shorter term contracts. I've also had agents try to push for a lower rate. It's okay to push back.

Some recruiters are like sleazy salespeople, and some are genuinely wonderful people. I have a friend who recruited for one of those creative staffing agencies for a few years, and she's a lovely human who developed lasting friendships with some of her clients. Be on the lookout for the good ones, because they really do want to help you.
posted by MsMartian at 12:04 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for your advice. I had never considered looking the agency up to see what sort of reviews it has from both clients and employees, and that helped me a lot during the interview.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:40 AM on April 18, 2016

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