It's hard out here for a temp.
January 23, 2008 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I’ve been at my current job – as a temp – for over a year. I want and need a more permanent job, but I’m concerned that my temp status might look bad to prospective employers.

It was supposed to be temp-to-perm, and after ninety days they would hire me. It’s been more like four hundred days. Since then, I’ve had a decent (though not stellar) annual review and several promises of “oh, we are definitely planning on hiring you, but it’ll be another month or two/we’re having a hiring freeze/we’re talking to so-and-so and we’ll let you know.” Nothing concrete. It doesn’t help that nearly half my department started here after I did, and nearly all are permanent employees (some started as temps from the same agency, in positions identical to mine). So I strongly suspect that they’re not really planning on bringing me on permanently. I’ve been periodically asking my supervisors for updates on hiring, but I’m worried that if I badger them too much they’ll let me go entirely.

Ideally I would like to stay at my current job and be a full-time employee, but I’m growing less and less confident that this is a possibility. So I’m thinking it’s time for me to search elsewhere. It shouldn’t be too hard for me to find a similar position with full benefits at another company, provided I invest a good amount of energy in my job hunt, but I’m worried that “I’m a temp” will give hiring managers pause. It came up during an interview I had last summer, and I didn’t handle it well. I know it will come up again.

Is it necessary to reveal temp status up front? Is it as much of a red flag as I fear it is? How can I talk about it during interviews and still make myself look good?

(And am I right in thinking that permanent employment at my current company is pretty much a lost cause?)
posted by Metroid Baby to Work & Money (20 answers total)
Temps have successfully sued over this sort of thing. It's not technically legal, what your company is doing. Be confident and assertive, you've done nothing wrong here and have nothing to be ashamed of! You haven't really been a temp, you've been an employee screwed out of benefits.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 11:25 AM on January 23, 2008

I'm kinda in the same boat. I've been temping for four months, but a few weeks ago it changed from "if we need you, we'll hire you" to "we won't need you in a few months, so we won't be hiring you". I've started applying for other jobs, and the fact that I'm a temp isn't even in my resume. I've only had a few interviews and I have mentioned it there, but it isn't a big deal at all. Especially since you've been a temp at one place for such a long time, I don't think it'll make a difference. Good luck!
posted by hopeless romantique at 11:28 AM on January 23, 2008

what industry are you in?

I wouldn't worry about prospective employers caring about your temp status. If anything, it lets you off the hook on the question "Why are you looking for a job when you have one already?" Answer: I am a temp, duh.

You worked there a little over a year as a temp. Many companies have perma-temps, so prospective employers probably wouldnt really even take notice.

I would say perm. employment at your current company is a lost cause, not so much that you can't get it, but why would you want it after so many months of run-around. from what you described it sounds like they are giving you lame excuses so why bother, for whatever reason they don't dig you, find somewhere else that does.
posted by ian1977 at 11:28 AM on January 23, 2008

Oh, and I don't think you should put up with any more bullshit from your current company.
posted by hopeless romantique at 11:29 AM on January 23, 2008

Can you ask the temp agency if they can get a more concrete response on whether the employer plans to hire you? They have an incentive to make sure it works out (if you get hired, they get a big commission -- if you leave they stop getting their share of your pay) and may get more info and/or have more influence.

(And am I right in thinking that permanent employment at my current company is pretty much a lost cause?)

At the very least, if you do what you have been doing, you will continue to get the results that you have been getting.
posted by winston at 11:29 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some companies have a reputation for doing exactly what you're describing. Ask around. It may be that future employers just nod their head and say "oh, yeah - them" when the topic comes up.

Then again, why should the topic of you're being a temp come up? That falls in the "don't mention it unless asked" category for me. You work there. You get reviews, and you have the same requirements as other employees (although not the same benefits). I've certainly never been asked "what was your status" in a job interview.
posted by anastasiav at 11:31 AM on January 23, 2008

Best answer: What you have working in your favor is that you've been employed at one place for the past year, though it stinks that you've been screwed out of benefits. I think the perfect thing to tell potential employers is what you've told us: you like where you are now and would like to stay on full-time, but they're stalling, and you need something more stable/permanent.
posted by smich at 11:32 AM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

You could definitely tell them that you are going to have to move on if they are not going to hire you. If they depend on you, they should know that you can leave at any time. Why? Because your a temp. The same way you could tell them tomorrow that you are not coming in.
posted by sully75 at 11:32 AM on January 23, 2008

Absolutely spin it to your advantage. You're a temp and your current company is unwilling to create a FT position for you, despite your desire to commit to them that way- that's all you need to say.

And am I right in thinking that permanent employment at my current company is pretty much a lost cause?

posted by mkultra at 11:36 AM on January 23, 2008

What is your relationship with your boss like? If it's good, how about this?

"With all due respect, it's clear that you are not going to hire me. But I've been filling ______ position for over a year, and I feel I've earned the right to put that on my resume when it's time for me to go. I feel that the least you can do is back me up on that if called for a reference."
posted by hermitosis at 11:43 AM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Such is the way of temping. You're a freakin' genius and invaluable until the day that you needn't show up for work.

I agree that you should see if the temp company will advocate for you. They should be doing that anyway.

But yeah, it's probably a lost cause.

Some people do look askance at temp work on a resume. This is not generally something for which an HR person would circular-file a resume, it's a bias that you'll run into when you're interviewed. Luckily, it shouldn't harm your chances of scoring that interview, at which you will be prepared to spin your temp job in the most positive light as a training experience.

/former temp
posted by desuetude at 12:03 PM on January 23, 2008

Best answer: Unfortunately, when they call to verify your employment they'll likely talk to HR, who will direct them to the temp agency.

But make sure to secure a personal reference from your current supervisor. Discreetly coach them on what you're looking for them to say when you ask. "Since you can attest to my commitment (even without a formal agreement!) and attention to detail, would you be willing to be contacted as a personal reference?"
posted by desuetude at 12:08 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Technically, the temp agency is your employer, so you should be listing THEM on your resume, not the company you're temping at. So, I'm not sure how anyone you're interviewing with would NOT know that you're a temp (unless they're utterly stupid and don't know what OfficeTeam or whatever is).

I don't think temping will blacklist you. Lots of people temp while they're looking for employment and jobs are hard to come by and companies are less willing to pay benefits so just hire temps. It's pretty common. Don't sweat it.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:26 PM on January 23, 2008

Also, agreed with desuetude's second comment about getting a personal reference. My experience is that this is almost as common as temping.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:27 PM on January 23, 2008

I did once get a permanent position at a company after a long time waiting and being put off. Didn't take a year, though.

And I did a lot of temping, and jumping from temp to perm and back again, and I never got the sense that the temp thing was a red flag for anyone.

However, this was back in the late nineties, when tech companies were hiring anyone who knew what a one and a zero was, so I can't speak to the current environment.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 1:08 PM on January 23, 2008

Usually, technically you are employed by the temp agency. On my resume I say that I worked as a contract employee for $CompanyName. I have never had much trouble, except that it's hard to get permanent positions anyway, without that 90-day waiver.
posted by herbaliser at 1:52 PM on January 23, 2008

I have a stint on my resume when I was a temp - over a year in fact before I fell into my current position. When I interviewed I tell employers it was a contracted position - I say I took it for the learning experience and because I wanted to work in this difficult economy - not permanent. Never had issue with it.
posted by eatdonuts at 1:56 PM on January 23, 2008

Best answer: Heh, I worked as a contractor at my current job for 4 years before they finally hired me on, and even I wouldn't counsel you to stay around.

If you have to sell it in an interview, I agree that you should sell it as a learning or other reasonable short-term opportunity. Do not go in with a chip on your shoulder and be all like "well, I don't want to leave but they won't HIRE ME!" not even subconsciously. I interviewed someone who didn't say that but did project an air of negativity about her experience, and it seemed like she felt she was owed something and was looking for someone to give her what she was due. That doesn't make me want to hire someone.
posted by cabingirl at 2:44 PM on January 23, 2008

There are all kinds of ways to spin temp work into a positive thing in a job interview. It demonstrates flexibility, adaptability and quickness to learn, an interest in learning and taking on new responsibilities, an ease with working with new people, managers, teams... *plus* any new skills you learned at your place of employment. I've been a temp (and plan to be again) and have never hired people, but it should be fairly easy to show a prospective employer all the good things about your temp experience.

All you need to say in an interview is that your job is a long-term but temporary position and you're looking for something with more security. Anyone can understand that. No need to bring in that they've balked at hiring you permanently -- that's not pertinent in a job interview.
posted by loiseau at 2:44 PM on January 23, 2008

'I've been working for the past year as a contractor for Foo Company. I've enjoyed the experience and learned a lot, but I don't foresee many opportunities for further growth as long as I remain in that position.'
posted by happyturtle at 1:02 AM on January 24, 2008

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