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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby Steven Z. » Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:51 pm

I have just started a job search for a bench position. I have an MS in Chemistry with biochemistry and molecular biology as my area of greatest expertise.

It seems as though almost all the labs use temp agencies to hire workers. I have heard two conflicting theories for this.

The optimists are telling me that they use the agencies to try out new workers and if they like them they bring them in full time and gladly pay the fee to the agency.

The pessimists tell me that these are small poor companies that use the temp agencies to get cheap disposable workers without paying benefits. Furthermore, such jobs are miserable dead-ends with significantly below market wages.

Which version is closer to reality?
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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby P.C. » Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:54 pm

Difficult to tell. The first scenerio certainly happens.
To dispell the idea of small, Pfizer and other large drug companies use temps all the time.
I have been on crews where they did temp to hire, on the other hand, companies hire temp when they cannot or will not hire permanently, for instance when they are offshoring, but need certain tasks completed (Example, during Pfizer Global Manufacturings offshoring from Lincoln NE). It all depends.
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain
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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:06 pm

There is truth in both of those statements. I'm more in line with the first one, the positive outlook, but there are definitely some big issues that are pointed out correctly in the negative viewpoint.

First off, YES, a big reason that companies use temp agencies is that they have a super-cheap fee involved for the permanent hire when it comes, AND they get to 'Try you out" first to see how you do. This is the best of both worlds. As a recruiter, if they came to me and they wanted a search done we'd find them what they are looking for and charge them 25% or so of the projected salary. And they WOULD NOT get a "look see" to determine if that person fits. So, there are companies who admittedly don't do anywhere near the due diligence on the "fit," who simply put people in front of them in these temporary jobs, and when the company finds one that works out, the fee is LESS THAN HALF that of the recruiting firm. SO - you can see why these companies are used! Its like the pet store that says, "You don't have to pay for that puppy today. Take him home and see how he acclimates with the kids. If you like him, come back and pay me later." What do you THINK is going to happen!!

But - there are negatives. First off, there are indeed crummy benefits. Or no benefits at all. And, once you are in that job for more than a year or two, people start to look at you as a "professional temp" and it is hard to get a job outside of the temp world (that's kind of an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp").

I don't really think that they are miserable, low end wages. I think they can be valuable stepping stones if you play your cards right. Just don't lull into a sense of security in a temp job. Just like being in a postdoc, it's a position that you should be constantly thinking of "getting OUT of."

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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby Michael J » Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:20 pm

I'm sure there's a spectrum of outcomes, but before my PhD I went through a temp agency once, had no benefits for 4 months, and then got hired on permanently. It was actually a very good experience. I wish I was having that easy a time going from postdoc to industry scientist!
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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby Andrew » Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:53 pm

I don't know what temp agencies you've worked with Dave, but I've used some of the big names like Kelly, Lab Support, and Addecco and they tacked 25% on to the hourly wage of whomever we hired. I think we may have even paid some terminal bonus if we converted them to permanent. The difference between them and the traditional recruiters is the level of the talent pool. The temp agencies focus on BS level chemists and biologists, and they don't have much access to the PhD level talent pool. We indeed used them to try out young people with no proven history. The wages that we paid them were comparable to our permanant hires, so it was in fact 25% more expensive to go this route. However, the benefits package added about 30% to the cost of the new permanant hire, so it worked out about the same. I would agree that one should not do this too long as it looks like you are not suitable for the traditional job market.
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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Sep 11, 2009 8:32 pm

Andrew, I was not including any up-charge in my figures. I am only talking about the "convert to permanent" fee, which is dramatically lower than a traditional recruiter doing his or her job resulting in a placement. These companies have to make a living, and that's what the 25% up-charge is all about, for managing the worker's administration (and some admittedly poor benefits). Most companies pay about the same, perhaps a little bit more, than a normal Full Time Employee (FTE) but the FTE has all kinds of benefits and the costs of administering them as an employee, etc. I never heard a company complain about how much it costs for a temp.

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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby Andy R. » Fri Sep 11, 2009 9:05 pm

Steven,

It goes both ways. People as yourself, fresh out of school, don't often have the contacts or network to get that first industry job easily. The temp worker uses the temp agency's connections to get a temporary assignment. Are these jobs often lower-rung jobs? Yes, but that dosen't mean you can't profit from the experience. Temping is a great way to gain experience and add to your network of professional contacts.

That being said, if you do go down the temp agency route, work hard and go above and beyond at any assignments you get. This will help your prove yourself in the eyes of the employer and hopefully vie for a permanent position. Don't just show up for the paycheck.

Once you get a permanent position, the added experience and network/contacts will likely mean you'll be less reliant/won't need to temp in the future.

Good luck.
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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby Elsie » Sat Sep 12, 2009 7:09 am

We've had good experience with a temp agency for hiring technicians. We do it when we're so busy we can't go through a pile of resumes ourselves. The agency we use has done a really good job providing good people and we always convert them to permanent as soon as possible.

That said, we prefer to hire people without the agency, because there are always questions about when to do reviews and how to deal with vacations and such...the workers feel a little out of sync with everybody else for a while.
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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby Nathan » Sat Sep 12, 2009 10:24 am

On the positive side, they provide BS biologists with a foot in the door; however, their benefits are not as good as academic or government employers. I used this approach to get interviews in the RTP area with many companies. Often these positions are only for short periods of time replacing someone on a short leave of absence or a small project not really offering permenant employment. Unless the position is truly a temp to permenant hire, I would continue to network for the right industry position.
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Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

Postby JM » Sat Sep 12, 2009 8:05 pm

I had an overall positive experience with my job through a temp agency. That was after I finished a B.S. in chemistry and I wanted to work awhile in industry to help me figure out if I wanted to/need to go to grad school (I was burned out a bit then and really didn't want to jump right into grad school).

As others said, the benefits are poor/non-existent, but I thought the pay was fair for the position/location.

The company I was placed with was a large company. Usually there was a one year "probation" period there for the temp workers, and for the ones that worked out, they usually tried to hire on, as long as there continued to be work for them. However, the temps would be the first to go if layoffs had to happen.

My supervisor there was a great mentor, someone I admire a lot as a scientist. I still talk to him a few times a year and sometimes we even have "reunions" over a beer with some other "alumni" (i.e. other temps that moved on too). My time for moving on was when I went back to grad school - the job helped me decide that I needed to go to grad school for what I wanted.

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