Job Search Options - Contract, Temporary, Temporary-To-Hire and Direct Hire

When considering your job search options, you might choose to work with third-party recruiters and staffing firms. There are four main ways to work with recruiters and staffing firms: contract, temporary, temporary-to-hire and direct hire. Each option has its pros and cons, and some can even be combined during a job search. I would advise that you ask yourself which option or combination of options might work best for you and then factor that into your strategy.

Below are summaries of each option along with their pros and cons:

Contract employment is usually described as a long-term, project-based job during which you use professional-level skills. Projects can be short term or long term, and you are either self employed as a consultant or employed/paid by a third-party firm.

Why do it?
- Contract jobs usually offer excellent wages.

- Contract jobs offer freedom and variety to move from place to place, company to company, and/or project to project, adding skills and interest to your career.

The flipside
- There's a certain lack of stability, so the contractor's lifestyle may be better suited to a risk-taker type of personality.

- It is uncommon for contractors to be offered benefits, so costs may offset the relatively higher wages if you plan to secure self-funded benefits.

Temporary assignments can vary in length - from a day or two (e.g. while an employee is out sick, is out training, etc.) to several months (e.g. while an employee is on medical leave). Often, but not always, temporary assignments entail duties requiring lighter skills, especially the short-term ones. Many people refer to temporary jobs as "transitional" jobs, but I've met a few professional temporary employees over the years. These types of workers usually have other interests such as acting and music, so being non-committed to a traditional employer suits them.

Why do it?
- Temporary jobs fill the gap in between employment and can help provide some income when you need it.

- You can keep your skills up-to-date and just maybe even add new ones.

- Temporary assignments can sometimes open doors. Through networking with those you encounter on assignments, you might hear about a great job opening inside or outside the company.

- Temporary work can be used as a path of exploration into new industries and new career possibilities, especially if you're fresh out of school or have just moved into town.

The flipside
- It does take a commitment of time away from a full-time job search, so you might want to use temporary work as a last resource.

- Sometimes assignments end abruptly, and this can be disconcerting to a "Steady Eddie" type personality - someone who likes to know where the work is coming from tomorrow.

- Wages are often lower because the tasks tend to be entry-level.

- If you are receiving unemployment benefits, you will want to find out what your state agency's rules are about temporary employment income, and you will need to find out how the staffing firm reports information about your employment status to your state agency.

The temporary-to-hire option allows a company and a job candidate to go through a third-party during a designated assessment period. Sometimes the trial period is an economic choice for the company, but more often the trial is used to be sure the employer/employee match is a good one before a commitment to hire and acceptance of employment is finalized.

Why do it?
- While they are evaluating you, you can be evaluating them. Do they offer what you want? Do they meet your top priorities as an employer?

- If the staffing firm has a strong relationship with the hiring company, they should be able to give you insight and feedback during the selection and hiring process. Should things not work out, technically you would still be employed by the staffing firm and wouldn't have to show a possible short-term disaster on your resume.

The flipside
- Check out the benefits situation - does the staffing firm offer anything while you are their payroll? Also, when you are hired by the company, how long do you have to wait to qualify for their benefits? The time you're temporary probably won't count toward that period.

- Even though many temporary-to-hire positions start out as temporary and evolve to temporary-to-hire status, most temporary-to-hire jobs requires a fresh interview process. Sometimes, because of the possibility of a trail period, both you and the hiring manager might chance a less thorough interview and selection process. This increases the risk factor of a mismatch.

- Be clear about this point - are you expected to stop your job search and will the employer stop their candidate search when you start working for them during the trial period?

Direct Hire
Executive search firms, third-party recruiters and most staffing firms offer the option of presenting you for regular positions with their clients. It is called direct hire because the hiring company does not request that you go though the payroll of a third party but, rather, hires you directly as staff. Most recruiters are paid on a contingency basis - when they make the placement, they are paid - while others work on a retainer basis. Either way, their primary commitment is to the company who has engaged them for the search. However, if you spend the time to develop this relationship, you might just find that a seasoned recruiter can become a long-term advocate and coach for you - someone who can be there as your career develops and it's time to make further job advancements.

Why do it?
- A good recruiter will represent you and "sell" your candidacy well and will have both a trained as well as innate sense of matching you to available opportunities. He or she will also likely have the edge of an established relationship with the hiring authority, allowing him or her to be able to persuade the hiring company to interview you better than your cover letter ever could.

- Since there's a good chance a recruiter will know his or her client well, you'll receive extra guidance you wouldn't otherwise have interviewing on your own. He or she should give you insight to the company's culture, tell you about the hiring manager's interview style, and assist with salary negotiation.

The flipside
- Third-party involvement can be frustrating at times when the company uses the recruiter as a buffer to protect themselves from direct contact. Some go-getter type personalities might find it tedious to work through someone else.

- Clarify your obligation to go through the third party for future employment by the hiring company because most recruiters and firms have contractual terms governing this area. You might not be able to be hired directly without the third party's involvement for a period of time after having already been presented by a third party to that company.

Foot in the Door
No matter which way you decide to go, remember that when you engage with third-party recruiters and representatives at staffing firms you should develop the relationship just as you would with any person in your network. It could very well be beneficial to your career because they have a foot inside many doors that you might like to walk through. Applying to work with a staffing firm could be like applying with 50 companies at once.

Angela Lo√ęb is a published author, speaker and career/personal development consultant who facilitates workshops and works with individuals one-on-one. She's been dedicated to helping people bring who they are to what they do for two decades. She's written hundreds of articles and co-hosts an internet radio show. In addition to owning her own firm, InSync Resources, she is a partner at Great Occupations. Learn more at

Published At: Job Search Options - Contract, Temporary, Temporary-To-Hire and Direct Hire