By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun
Whether you've got years of experience behind you or want to launch your career, finding a job can be a job in itself. You spend countless hours scanning the want ads, surfing the Internet, networking and mailing resumes. But for more and more job seekers, an effective job search can also include registering with a staffing services firm.
"It's good to look in the newspaper and on the Internet, but it's also good to have a professional agency working at no charge on your behalf," says Jeff Kells, vice president of Armor Personnel (www.armorpersonnel.com)
Photo, Drake North America
"Many companies don't have the resources to undertake a candidate search and rely on qualified agencies to help them," Kells says. "Unless you're tied into an agency, you could miss out on a lot of job opportunities in your skill set."
Staffing firms are hired by client companies to find qualified candidates with specific skills -- from general labour to executive -- and are paid a fee in return. According to industry standards, it's unacceptable to charge a job seeker for placement services.
Today's staffing firms offer temporary, contract and permanent positions in virtually every employment sector, including office/technical, industrial, contact centre, engineering, finance, IT, scientific and telecommunications.
Some firms cover a broad range of sectors, while others specialize in niche markets like accounting and medical services.
Staffing firms can open the door to a host of temporary positions, a viable option in today's competitive economy. For employers, hiring temporary employees can be a cost-effective way to manage peak periods of production. It also allows them to test potential employees before hiring them full time.
For job seekers, temporary employment is an opportunity to explore careers and build skills.
"You can build your skill set without damaging yourself by job hopping because you're an employee of Manpower," says national recruitment manager Shannon Jackson (www.manpower.ca)
. About 35% to 45% of all temporaries find full-time work through temporary positions, she reports.
But before registering with an agency, do your homework, advises Steve Jones, immediate past president of the Association of Canadian Search, Employment & Staffing Services (http://acsess.org)
. ACSESS promotes best industry practices for the recruitment, employment and staffing services industry in Canada.
"Most staffing companies have areas of expertise," Jones says. "Determine what kind of work you want to do and find out which agency is most likely to find you that type of work ... Ask employers which staffing firms they use. Visit a staffing firm's website to see what types of jobs they post."
Find out how the firm will help you meet your goals, advises Karen Meredith, president of Drake North America. "Your recruiter should help you understand what you want to be at the end of the day," she says.
Drake offers a behavioural assessment tool that identifies your strengths and weaknesses.
"We look at ... what you like to do and match that to a career path," says Meredith.
It is also launching an interactive resume designed to showcase a candidate's abilities and achievements.
"Our job is to help candidates focus on the end objective and to communicate their skills," Meredith says.
"We guide them and coach them so they're spending their time wisely." But registering with a staffing firm is not enough to guarantee success.
"There's a common misperception that you send your resume in and your accountability ends," says Jackson. She offers the following tips:
During the registration process, ask to see and understand the results of your skills assessment and ask what type of positions you are qualified for. If you don't think they're an accurate reflection of your skill set, ask if you can retest.
If you don't believe the person understands the opportunities you're interested in or qualified for, have an honest conversation with them.
Ask recruiters such questions as: What skill sets are you hiring for? Are you hiring for the type of positions I'm qualified for? If not, when do you think you will be?
Maintain regular contact with the firm following registration until you're employed.
Register with multiple staffing firms.
Once you've accepted an assignment, do your best to complete it.
If you're offered a position you just can't turn down in the meantime, give as much notice as possible.
"The best thing a candidate can do for themselves is to own their job search and manage the agency," Jackson says.
(Linda White (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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