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Questions and answers about temp jobs

Chicago Tribune

For those thinking about applying for a job through a temp agency, here are common questions and answers from career experts:

Q. Is working a temp job held against you when you apply for something else?

A. “I think in this economy there are no negatives to going to a temp agency,” said Terri Berryman, director of career services at Roosevelt University.

What’s more important to employers is that there isn’t a gap in employment on your resume. Temporary work helps bridge the gap between permanent positions while often providing needed training and skills.

Q. Do temp jobs ever lead to permanent employment?

A. Yes, some positions will be listed as temp-to-hire. Others, known as long-term commitments, are filled solely by a contracted agency and can last for years, Berryman said.

In tough economic times, companies generally budget money for temporary workers before finding the funds for salaried employees. This gives temp employees a chance to get their foot in the door before permanent positions become available.

“It’s easier to hire someone you know than someone you don’t know,” she said.

Q. When should you consider applying for a temp job?

A. “Immediately. It’s a great way to continue to work and build your skill set,” Berryman said. “The minute you get laid off you should start looking at temp as an opportunity. Don’t wait till you have no money and you’re feeling desperate.”

Q. What types of jobs can you get through a temp agency?

A. “It can be really anything from an entry-level position to a highly skilled position,” she said.

There are temp firms that specialize in health care, information technology, finance and office work. Others focus on fields such as law and place paralegals, legal assistants and attorneys.

Q. Do any temporary jobs look better on a resume than others?

A. Obviously, a job that will further your interests and career would be more beneficial than one that doesn’t, Berryman said. But keep in mind that the very essence of a temporary job is that the worker won’t be doing it forever.

“In this economy, it’s really difficult to tell someone to say no to something if it doesn’t fit their career path. For most employers it will look better to have something than to have nothing,” she said.

Q. How do you make yourself more attractive to a temp agency?

A. Provide a professional, to-the-point resume, follow up when directed to do so, remain upbeat and energetic yet serious, answer questions with succinct, positive responses and dress professionally, said Janet Sloan, president of Seville Staffing in Chicago. “We can get people who really don’t have sufficient means,” she said. “But I can tell you that those who are most destitute but make the most effort to appear tidy and professional … make big points.”

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