By Sharon Aschaiek
Special to The Sun
This week marks the 25th anniversary of Staffing for Canada Week, a time when the staffing services industry and its members thank recruiters and field workers for all their hard work.
From June 5 to 11, companies and ACSESS (the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services) will reward temporary, contract and permanent placement staff with thank-you cards, gifts and recreational outings.
This year, the Toronto chapter of ACSESS organized a trip to a Toronto Blue Jays versus Minnesota Twins baseball game at a subsidized cost to participants.
"This week is about recognizing the important contributions of our field workers, and educating the public about the invaluable role of the staffing services industry in assisting companies with their human resource needs," says Suzanne McInerney, president of the Toronto chapter of ACSESS.
Last year, 428,000 individuals turned to the more than 1,400 staffing firms across Canada to find flexible and contract work, making staffing services the country's largest industry. The staffing market is worth about $5.8 billion and is growing at a rate of 2.5% each year.
Yet as critical a role the industry plays in the employment status of so many Canadians, many people are still unfamiliar with the protocol when using a staffing firm.
"When you first connect with a staffing agency, you need to treat the initial meeting exactly the way you would treat a job interview. We have to feel comfortable sending you to our clients," says Maria Ezzell, division director of the Creative Group, a creative talent staffing agency. "More often than not, people don't realize this."
Those considering using a staffing firm as part of their career strategy should prepare themselves for the following five stages:
For your initial appointment with your staffing service agent, you should dress as you would for a job interview.
"I would recommend a suit for the interview. Dressy business casual is good -- no jeans, no tennis shoes, no rips in your clothing," Ezzell says.
Of course, maintaining a professional image also applies when you find a job, but even more so when you're referred by a staffing firm -- it will help you maintain a positive relationship with your staffing agent, and he/she will be more likely to find you future work.
McInerney, who is also president of Staff Edge, a recruitment firm for independent staffing providers, recalls one occasion when one of her field workers showed up at her new office job decked out in Gothic black clothing, makeup and nail polish.
"The employer called me and asked me to remove the woman from the workplace!" says McInerney, who later discovered the woman observed the pagan holiday of the Summer Solstice. "If you need a day off for religious observance, definitely let your agent know."
When meeting with your staffing agent, make sure to bring any documents that reflect your education, experience and expertise in your area of employment: resume, portfolio, reference letters, educational certificates and so on.
"Your portfolio should be relatively concise so that it's not a big bag of material. You should be able to speak briefly to each piece," Ezzell says. "An online portfolio or a PDF document of samples is ideal -- it makes it easy for employers to peruse."
At your interview, be prepared to complete skill tests that measure your abilities in different aspects of your desired job.
"If you're a finance person, there are accounting tests; for sales jobs, there are behavioural and personality tests to see how you'll react in certain situations," McInerney says. "The reason is so that we can find the best placements for you."
After your interview, be sure to stay in regular contact with your agent, letting him/her know of your current employment status, new job skills you may have learned, and any changes to your career path.
Says Ezzell: "We need to be told about new software skills, if you've found another job and any new clients you've worked for, so that we can make good matches between you and our clients."
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