A woman in a brown blazer sits facing the camera. Across a table from her are another woman and a man who both face away from the camera. The woman facing the camera shakes the man's hand with a smile.
You can find temporary employees through the usual means, like social media or job sites, or you can source them through staffing agencies. — Getty Images/Kerkez

If your company needs to fill a position during the holidays or cover a job while an employee takes a leave of absence, a temporary worker can help. You can hire a temporary employee directly or use a staffing agency to find part-time, full-time or seasonal workers. However, a tight labor market makes hiring temp employees harder (and more expensive).

Consequently, many business owners receive fewer applications and more report having no-shows for interviews. Or a company hires someone, but they skip their first shift. Overcome these challenges by improving your approach. Create a plan to attract the right people, vet and interview candidates and quickly get them on the job.

Using a staffing agency vs. hiring a temporary employee

According to the American Staffing Organization, "pre-pandemic, there were about 25,000 staffing and recruiting companies, which altogether operate around 49,000 offices." These firms hire roughly 16 million temporary and contract employees to work in various sectors, such as in industrial, clerical and managerial positions.

A staffing agency speeds up your hiring process by recruiting and pre-screening job candidates. You pay a fee covering the firm's service charge and the temporary worker's direct costs, including state and federal unemployment, taxes and worker's compensation. In return, staffing agencies handle new employee paperwork, payroll and human resources (HR) tasks.

Hiring temporary workers from a staffing agency will cost more than sourcing them yourself. You could pay 25% or more per hour over what you'd pay to employ a temp directly. Other options include hiring a contractor or gig worker for non-core business tasks.

Decide what type of temporary worker you need

There are many reasons why people choose temporary work. Some need extra flexibility, while others want to learn new skills. As such, temps often scan job ads looking for keywords like “seasonal,” “part-time” or “temporary.” Hire wisely by knowing what you want and making it clear to job seekers.

The four types of temporary workers are:

  • Temporary employee: Typically, a temporary worker fills a vacancy for less than a year or fewer than 1,000 hours of work. They may work full-time or part-time.
  • Seasonal worker: A seasonal worker is a temporary employee that works full- or part-time during your busy season.
  • Part-time staff: Although temporary and seasonal workers may work part-time, they're not permanent employees. Hire part-time team members to cover longer timeframes.
  • Independent contractor: Hiring a virtual assistant or freelancer as a 1099 worker can reduce your workload and give your team more time to focus on core business goals.

[Read more: Temporary vs. Contract Employee—What's the Difference?]

Hiring temporary workers from a staffing agency will cost more than sourcing them yourself.

Outline the job and identify your ideal candidate

Temporary workers may receive less training than permanent employees, making it vital to source candidates with existing skill sets. Decide what your must-have and like-to-have characteristics are before writing a job description.

Think about the role, tasks and ideal applicants and describe the following:

  • Job responsibilities.
  • Experience required.
  • Duration of employment.
  • Soft and hard skills.
  • Training requirements.
  • Individual characteristics.

Streamline your recruiting process

Whether you're hiring on Indeed or posting on social media, prepare to act fast. A complicated and inconvenient process turns off applicants. And in a tight labor market, by the time they get around to filling out an application in person, they may already have another job offer.

Improve your recruiting process by:

  • Providing an online application accessible via mobile devices.
  • Reaching out immediately to applicants with a phone call or text message.
  • Accepting messages from potential candidates on social media platforms.
  • Using an open hiring model (first-come, first-hired) to fill entry-level positions.
  • Leveraging various employee recruiting tools, like job boards.
  • Offering to make a hiring decision within 24 hours or less.

[Read more: CO— Blueprint: Recruiting and Managing Employees in a Virtual World]

Vet, interview and hire a temporary worker

Vet applicants by adding screening questions to your online application and having a couple of questions ready to text or ask on the phone. Also, you may want to offer video or phone interviews to reduce the time to hire. After conducting a job interview and verifying credentials, make a decision and get the paperwork signed.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO— is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Published January 14, 2022