Swamped?

Finding Good Temporary Help

Whether you use a temporary agency or an outside consultant, there are a few things to keep in mind to find high-quality short-term help.

"Word of mouth is probably the best way to find a consultant who meets your needs," says Silver. "When you're on the phone with business consultants and friends, ask who they use for the service you're looking for."

Once you find a consultant, make sure to check the person's background thoroughly. "Ask for references, and don't choose people just because they're nice," says Silver. "Consider their work first and foremost."

To choose good temporary help, you must first find a reputable agency. Make sure the company is accredited and belongs to the National Association of Temporary and Staffing Services, says Linda Haneborg, vice president of marketing and public relations for Express Personnel Services, an international staffing firm based in Oklahoma City. "Also, ask for references from other small-business owners who have used the service."

Another thing to consider is the type of recruiting the temporary firm does, which will indicate how carefully they select people. Are their potential employees thoroughly screened, tested and interviewed? Do the firm's employees usually complete assignments? Frequent turnover could indicate poor matching of qualifications to jobs.

Also make certain the agency is paying its employees a fair wage, warns Francis Dinha, president of NewCom Technologies Inc., a software and hardware engineering company in Pleasanton, California. He started the company alone last year and has since grown to eight employees, most of whom he hired first as temporary employees.

"If the agency isn't paying the employees a fair wage, they'll probably be junior-level people who aren't qualified enough," Dinha says.

To help a temporary agency find a good match for your business needs, there is a variety of information you should provide before the search begins.

  • Define your needs. "Are you looking for a receptionist to just answer the phones, or is it important that he or she also have computer skills?" says Neely. "Do you have a specific type of phone system? Will the employee need knowledge of your industry?"
  • Approximately how long will you need the employee? Wanting an employee who is doing well to stay on is OK, but some workers are only interested in short-term assignments and will want to leave. State your time needs up front, when possible.
  • Provide a detailed job description. What time must the person report to work and what are the hours? Will the person be dealing directly with the public, or is this a behind-the-scenes job?
  • Be realistic. "Consider the input you're able to provide the employee," says Auerbach. "If you're going to be out on the road a lot and not able to give the person much guidance, tell the agency so they can find a self-starter with initiative."

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Swamped?.

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