Should you tell a temp agency you're signed up with other agencies?

This question is always asked and I genuinely have no idea why, nor what is the best answer. Why do they want to know?

I admit I have lied in the past, saying I work with no other agencies (“you’re my first and only, forever, promise!”). I’m not going to lie any more, but my instinct is to refuse to tell any agency which other agencies I work with, on grounds of professional discretion. Is this likely to hurt me or help me?

Do you have non-compete agreements with any of your agencies?

Oh my, no. I get the impression each agency would like non-competition without making it a contractual issue, though. I’d happily sign a non-compete if I were given some level of steady work.

I used to work for the HQ of a national contract programming firm, and that kind of behavior would not be appreciated if it was ever discovered. After all, you can make the agency look stupid/dishonest, if they say to client Acme, “look what a unique skill and experience set masonite has - and the only way you can access it is by engaging Mega Temp Services. We’ll sell you the services of masonite for just $100/hour” - but then Alpha Temp offers Acme your services for $95/hour.

If you are a star performer in high demand, Mega Temp will probably put up with almost anything, as long as you provide clients with top notch services. But if you are just another temp and can be easily replaced by someone else, lying is risky.

I doubt anyone can negotiate steady work indefinitely, but what you can negotiate (assuming you are in high demand) is a better pay rate.

Take everything I say with a planet-sized grain of salt, though. My experience was 25 years ago and is possibly totally irrelevant today. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the industry you are in makes a big difference.

One thing I have a feeling is true across time and industry, however, is that the temp industry is cut-throat and, shall we say, “expedient” when it comes to how they operate. (I’m talking about the agencies themselves, not people like you who provide the work temp agencies are selling.)

I was last a temp in the early 2000’s. I was signed up with several agencies back then, and I always told each agency that I had other irons in the fire. As far as I was concerned, I was in it for me and mine, and agency loyalty didn’t enter into it at all. Whichever one got me the jobs that worked for me, benefited from having me as their worker. If any agency had told me I had to be exclusive with them, I would have laughed in their face and walked away.

That makes sense, thanks. I won’t lie again, on principle, and now I see how it could have bitten me.

So it’s risky, and it’s wrong. Do you have an opinion on refusing to name the other agencies you work with? It’s one of those intrusive questions I see as nobody’s business but my own, which is the real reason I’ve lied in the past and said none. Now, I intend to say something like “I’m signed up with several agencies, but I’m not at liberty to identify them to you. I’m sure you’d feel the same if another agency asked me if I worked with you – that’s your business, not your competitors’ business.”

Agree 100% with all of this. You told them you had other irons in the fire, but didn’t name the specific ones, did you? Did you ever get pushback on that? On all the applications I’ve seen lately, it’s not a yes/no question. It’s “Please list all the other employment agencies you have ever worked with, in the space below.”

I think your suggested approach is perfectly fine. For one thing, they can probably guess who else you are signed up with. If you are temping for a particular industry, chances are there are only 2-3 big players. Second, if they are that desperate to know who else you are signed with – well, in that case it is up to THEM to explain to you why it is to your benefit to tell them.

Again - just my opinion from being with an agency 20 years ago, so I could be way off base in terms of how things work at present.

I agree with Hey Hey Paula and I do, in fact, name names. If I recall correctly, both she and I work in the same industry (legal support staff).

I routinely use placement agencies when job hunting (and temp agencies if I’m between jobs - mostly they’re the same agencies actually) and I always not only tell them I’m using other agencies, I name the agencies and keep a running list (to the extent I know) of the firms my resume has been submitted to and where I have interviewed. I also am very, very up front that I’m not only using other agencies, but using my own best efforts and not hanging around waiting on them. If they want the fee for placing me (which I am aware is fairly substantial), they can damn well earn it by being the one who actually places me. If I can do it myself, then tough cookies.

In the last three jobs, I’ve done the same thing - two I found using my own efforts (one of which didn’t last long - the job was awful and I stayed just under a year) and one of them through an agency.

None of the agencies have had a problem with this - they’re aware that qualified professionals who are worth hiring aren’t generally going to dick around waiting on them indefinitely. They always ask and I always tell the truth - it prevents me and also them from looking unprofessional and from being caught in a lie (which is not the way I’d want to begin a professional relationship).

My position is they get paid if they find me a new position. If they don’t find me a new position, then they don’t get paid. Too bad for them. They’re not going to get bitchy with me for using my own best efforts - after all, chances are good that in a few years I might be in the market to change jobs again and they might get another shot. Plus, they don’t want to get a reputation among the available labor pool of being assholes about this - poor word of mouth can kill a placement firm dead, especially if it’s industry-specific.

A truly reputable temp agency will suggest that you sign up with other agencies as well. Particularly if they know you are hoping to translate temp work into a perm job.

I think I would be tempted to write, “,” “,” and then the name of the agency that asked you this question. Then cross out the last one and write, “Oops!”

This. I went looking for a job last year (didn’t end up finding one, instead took a promotion at my current job) and every single agency that actually talked to me told me to go to all of the other headhunters in the area. And none of them were upset in the least when I told them I intended to.

They didn’t even ask me who else I had signed up with. They just understood that I needed to try in as many places as possible. Some of them saw it as a sign of my willingness and eagerness, as a matter of fact - a positive point in my favor.

One would certainly think so. I still don’t understand for sure WHY they ask, unless it’s for CairoCarol’s idea that they may want to put a candidate forward as an exclusive offer, if they can genuinely do that.

I’ve always understood that the primary reason they do that is to help avoid duplication of effort and annoying their paying customers (the businesses hiring people). It’s not actually much (if any, frankly) of a benefit to you if a hiring person for Job X sees your (probably identical) resume five times - and is almost certain to annoy the hiring person, possibly annoy them a whole lot. If a given hiring manager has already decided you’re not a fit for whatever reason, seeing your resume three more times from different agencies (or from you directly) will just be a pain for them.

On the other hand, if they look at your resume and put it in the short stack for interview, seeing it three more times from different sources won’t put it any more on the short list - and to some hiring people might shed an unflattering light on your resume. Some folks might take seeing your resume four times as an indication you might be desperate (“desperate” is never a good look for anyone - and might translate to a lower offered salary) or just disorganized.

The placement firms I’ve worked with mostly sent me a list of places they were intending to send my resume for comment before they did it - so I could help them weed out duplicates and in case I had specific objections to working at certain places.*
*There are law firms in Phoenix I would have to be well and truly desperate to even consider working at - the legal community isn’t that big, and one hears stories.

I’m really beginning to get the impression I’m working with a lower caliber of agency than some other people are. :smiley: In my experience they never ever tell you what companies they’re submitting you to, protecting the privacy of their clients. Only if a client expresses interest, then the agency tells me who they are so I can choose whether to go on the interview or not.

At any rate I just got a 2-to-6 month placement at a dream employer, and did it through my own efforts with no agency involved. (Naturally I’ve let my current agency know I’m out of the market for now.) If it turns permanent, which is possible, I’ll never have to worry about this business again. If I’m back in the market down the road, all the info in this thread has been really useful and will help me in future temping. I’d like to thank everybody who posted.


If it helps, I’ve worked almost exclusively with industry specific placement firms :slight_smile: They have a bigger incentive for behaving like organized professionals and usually have better contacts. Plus, while any competent legal secretary can do an admin or exec assistant job perfectly well (and in fact our job often encompasses those tasks as well), the reverse just ain’t so. The pay difference between the two jobs is pretty substantial, as is the responsibility level and level of expertise required.

I stopped using the general placement guys in favor of the industry specific ones after about the fifth time a general firm sent me to an interview with a company who wanted an administrative assistant or executive assistant rather than a legal secretary. “I make shitty coffee, but draft a hell of a letter of representation” isn’t precisely where you want to be while having an interview :slight_smile: Hiring an experienced legal secretary for an entry level admin assistant position is sort of like hiring a NASCAR pit crew member to work at Jiffy-Lube.

An agency wanting exclusivity seems a bit sketchy.

For general jobs a sensible employer is going to pick one agency to work for them.

For specialist jobs the sensible employer should go to specialist agencies who will politely ask their candidates: please, can we put you forward for a role at NamedCorp?

I fear the agent whose desperate to know who else you are with is going to spam employers with resumes.

Goddamn taboola ad. I clicked on it by accident. WTF is taboola anyway? :googles:

…It’s a marketing platform? I thought it was some kind of funny homeopathic drug.

Anyway. I was thinking about this. The only way I would accept exclusivity from a temp agency is with a guarantee that they would place me. I mean, that’s only fair, right?

My agreement with companies that I’ll approve any submission, and I won’t allow myself to be submitted by two different firms for the same position. I really shouldn’t - and I understand this - allow two different firms to represent me to the same company in the same department.

I worked for a while with an exclusive agency. It wasn’t my favorite thing ever, but even there, they didn’t expect you to not look when you weren’t getting paid, you just couldn’t submit to any of their clients.