employment agencies

Ask The Expert: I Need A Job. Are Employment Agencies Legit?

Question: I already work 9 to 5 as a receptionist in a doctor’s office. Now I’m looking to work 5 to 9 at some entry-level job so I can make enough money to pay off my credit cards. Why? Because I want to buy my own house someday, and I just turned 30. I want “someday” to be before I’m 40. 

Here’s my problem: Many of the jobs I’ve looked into are from “temporary staffing agencies” and “employment agencies.” Are these legit? What’s the difference? How much of my money will they take? Since I’m looking at basic jobs, it’s not like I’m going to make a lot in the first place.

— Michelle in Indiana

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fastDon’t worry, Michelle, a reputable employment agency or temporary staffing firm won’t take any of your hourly pay. What’s the difference between the two? Employment agencies help employers find full-time, permanent workers, while temp agencies assist with short-term assignments.

It can get confusing because “temp agencies” can also place permanent workers. For instance, Manpower is a national firm that offers “temporary to permanent” assignments — which means if you do well, you might stick around for a long time.

Pros and cons

As for how Manpower makes its money, it’s not from you directly. From its FAQ: “Manpower works on your behalf to place you with some of America’s most admired companies — at no charge to you.”

So how do these employment and temp agencies make money? They charge the employers who come to them looking for talent. They usually charge the employer a percentage of your starting salary, which might make you skeptical: “I’ll be paid less than if I just got the job without going to an employment agency!”

That may be true, but here’s what usually happens: The employment agency lobbies the employer to boost the salary, both because it makes it easier to find quality talent and because it boosts the agency’s bottom line.

Still, there’s been controversy about these firms ever since the Great Recession. Jobs site Careerbuilder has reported that in the first four years after the recession, temp work accounted for 15 percent of all job growth. That contributed to what’s known as underemployment — when Americans want to find full-time work but have to settle for part-time.

In your case, Michelle, you’re simply looking for a second job for the admirable purpose of paying down your debts. You’ll become one of the 7.3 percent of employed Americans who hold a second job, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I don’t want to discourage your work ethic, Michelle, but I might suggest you review your finances to see if you really need to moonlight at all. Call us for a free debt analysis at  1-800-810-0989. If nothing else, our counselors can offer advice on how to best pay down those credit cards quickly.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a  CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

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