Employment Agencies: How Do They Work?

Employment Agencies Overview

Employment is difficult for everyone; it’s hard for job-seekers to find work, just as it is hard for employers. A single job opening can draw massive amounts of applicants, and a job-hunter can send out a multitude of online applications without getting a single reply. How can people bypass all the red tape present in the hiring process? A common solution is to use an employment agency. Employment agencies are firms that get hired by companies to help them with staffing. These agencies find workers to fill in for all sorts of positions, both temporary and full-time, for any career field.

There are both public and private employment agencies; the United States government runs a public employment agency known as the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. The ETA helps Job-Seekers by providing them with online tools and resources, as well as a network of offices across the country.  The ETA aims to promote private and public sector jobs by connecting to state and national job banks.

Private agencies also help to place job-seekers in careers, but more so in the private sector. Private employment agencies generally specialize in one of three fields: Executive search firms, personnel placement services, and staffing services (also known as temporary help services).

Employment agencies help millions of people find jobs every day. Both the temporary and contract industries employ over two million people from staffing companies. These companies hire 8.6 million employees each year.

How do these employment agencies accomplish all this? Read on to learn about how employment agencies can help both businesses and job-seekers.

How an Employment Agency Functions

Employment agencies can handle a lot of the grunt work needed for human resources. It takes a lot of time and money to fill an open position. The American Staffing Association estimates that hiring an employee can cost as much as 7 to 20 percent of the position’s salary and can take from 30 to 45 days to fill. For a lot of companies, this can be somewhat inconvenient, making it a smart decision to hire an employment agency to assist with the hiring process.

Employment agencies can be a crucial tool for job-seekers everywhere. Public agencies are free and can offer many tools to a potential job-seeker. Agencies can open doors and help people find positions they may not have otherwise been able to get access to. Staffing agencies help people gain experience in different industries or those looking for part-time or short-term work.

Many employment agencies will offer free training to potential job-seekers, which can include software and computer training. Helping a job-seeker improve their resume and become more marketable. The most prominent employment agencies include Accountemps, Spherion, Adecco, Office Team, Aerotek, Manpower, Kelly Services, and Labor Finder.

Types of Agencies

If a business needs a specific person for a job, they can contract with a personnel placement services form, also known as a recruiter. The recruiter will handle the search process and find an employee that suits the open position, finding potential candidates for the company to interview.

If a company needs to fill a senior-level management position, they can hire an executive search firm (or headhunter). Headhunters work under a retainer agreement, as the fact that they hire people for very high profile positions means that executive firms use a strict code of standards.

When companies need people to temporarily fill a vacant position, they can hire a staffing agency. These agencies find skilled people to work on a temporary or contract basis. Some companies will recruit employees from agencies on a temporary basis, and later transition them to permanent employees.

How to Use an Employment Agency

Employment agencies are a critical resource for job hunters, while employment is not guaranteed, and the agency can supply opportunities that would be hard to get on your own. When using an employment agency, you’ll go through some of the following steps: find and register with an agency, multiple if possible, fill out an application, provide your resume, take some qualifying tests, get interviewed, and go through any necessary training.

Private employment services will charge a fee for their services, sometimes the hiring company will pay the agency, but often it’s the job-seeker that pays the agency for their services. If you end up paying for employment services, always be sure that the agency is certified and reliable. While using an agency won’t guarantee you a job, it will work to help you find a suitable position.

Finding an Agency

Find an agency that suits your specific skills and needs. Also, be sure to do your research before signing up with an agency, make sure that the agency is reputable. Signing up with multiple agencies can help speed the process up, as it can take a while for an agency to find a job that matches your qualifications. Agencies will often want you to provide them with your resume so that they can have it on file; they will also likely want to test you on the skills listed on the resume.

When the temp agency finds a match for you, they will call you and arrange the assignment. You might not hear from them right away, as sometimes it takes more time for the agency to find the right opportunity, but it’s important to keep checking in. When you’re working on the assignment, you will have to keep a record of the time worked so that the agency can pay you correctly. Once the job ends, you’ll reenter the agency’s pool for future consideration.


  • American Staffing Association. “Staffing Facts.” (Aug. 19, 2010) http://staffingtoday.net/statistics/facts.cfm
  • Association of Executive Search Consultants. “The Value of Retained Executive Search and the AESC.” Jan. 19, 2010. (Aug. 20, 2010) https://members.aesc.org/eweb/docs/Retained%20Executive%20Search%20and%20the%20AESC.pdf
  • Earle, David. “Measuring What Matters — The High Cost of Turnover.” Staffing.org. Jan. 21, 2010. (Aug. 20, 2010) http://www.staffing.org/library_ViewArticle.asp?ArticleID=489
  • Federal Trade Commission. “Help Wanted … Finding a Job.” September 2002. (Aug. 20, 2010) http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro22.shtm

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