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Are staffing agencies the best route for finding employment in IT?


Timothy Jessen New Concord, OH

I have had a bit of trouble finding a position that would tailor my degree. I just moved to a new town and was wondering if staffing agencies are really the only way to get an IT job? A few other positions that I had before I did acquire through a staffing agency.

11 February 2019 19 replies Mentoring



Robert Lamaster Meridian, ID

Hi Timothy. Thanks for your question, and thank you for your service!

I did IT in the Navy as a collateral duty for a couple of years. Since then, I've held five different IT jobs, but none of them was landed through a staffing agency. I'm not saying that staffing agencies can't be of use, as I'm sure they would serve a similar purpose to the route I took.

For many employers, translating military experience into a civilian job can be difficult. (I was a "SNAP III Administrator" for my IT in the Navy, which meant nothing to my first attempts at finding a job). However, the details of the position did help, because they were universal things like backup/restore, storage management, server management, client management, etc. However, it was only by taking an entry-level position for a year that my experience was recognized and promoted.

It can be much easier getting into the "right" job in a company after you are already an employee (and they have already spent time/money on getting you onboard). Very few people walk into the perfect "right" job directly from the military, in my experience. It does happen, but often there is still some adjustment needed after that first job.

I personally recommend applying to larger companies, as there is more room to move around and get that perfect fit later. Depending on your personal situation, you may want to accept or reject limited-time jobs (which are VERY common in IT). Many postings will say things like "6 month term" or similar. I stayed away from those, but they could be perfect as a tool to build experience. It kind of depends on your tolerance for moving (almost always at your expense).

In my case, starting with an entry-level IT job in a school district gave me the opportunity to learn some common software that I wasn't involved with in the Navy. It gave me more flexibility to try out new technologies and ideas without a ton of red tape (and without multiple levels of permission needed to make a simple change). I used this time to learn and get experience that ultimately allowed me to make the switch to the corporate world. School districts don't pay well, though. You may be able to accomplish the same thing by multiple assignments through a staffing agency.


Bob Molluro Wilmington, DE

Executive recruiters can make your career. I was out of college and working for two years when I decided to leave the company I was with. I accidentally signed up with an executive recruiter who trained me to interview more effectively in addition to finding me positions I was qualified for. He significantly improved my skills that resulted in a unique possibility. I went for the interview he set up. After meeting with the HR person I was set up with three plant managers who would interview me at the same time. Are your hands starting to sweat?
Mine did but I was prepared. At the end of the day they made me an offer.
My head hunter called and said "what happened"? I said why> He said this company has never given a first day offer and you received the highest offer I have ever seen -what happened? I told him about the three way and how they had prefaced the discussion with we are going to ask you questions -please answer them directly. When we are finished you can ask us anything you like.
I came out with both guns blazing. Since these managers were peers I turned to the first one who asked me the toughest questions and I said tell me what makes you feel you are better than these two guys. Then I asked another guy what he expected his next raise to be and why he felt he earned it. I had several other questions all designed to force them to open up in front of their peers. When I look back on it I realize it was great fun.

I didn't take the job but I used their offer to leverage my negotiating position with IBM who I was also interviewing with. When IBM gave me their offer I said i would like to work for you but the difference between what you have offered and my other offer that I am considering are miles apart. IBM countered with a much better offer and I worked there for thirteen years before a competitor came along and made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

My executive recruiter really made a difference so make sure you pick the right person. Don't be afraid to ask them how they will help you before you make a final selection.


Jerrod Altmeier Putnam, CT

I made the transition a few years ago from military to veteran seeking out an IT job back home, away from the cities and towns with military bases on or nearby. I'm just about to start my 2nd IT job and was a hiring manager as part of my responsibilities in the first one. Here are some of the things I learned that hopefully can help you.

1. Yes, staffing agencies are a route you can go but I would personally recommend using temp agencies only as a last ditch effort. Those are usually for entry level positions and can be VERY temporary.

2. Contractors are a great way to go, especially for military people who are already receiving benefits from their military service. Contracting positions can pay more but may not come with benefits. That's actually a pretty good deal for someone who doesn't need those benefits.

3. Use google to find local contracting companies. Check their websites out, give them a shout. There are national companies like Ranstad and General Dynamics you should check out to see if they're competing for contracts in your area. The most personal and honest help I got in my job searches was from a local contracting company.

4. Search all the job boards. LinkedIn, Monster, and Indeed were my main ones. My first civilian job I found and applied through on Indeed, my current one I found on LinkedIn and applied on the company website. It's worth your time to sit there and go through them.

5. Apply for jobs you think you're not qualified for. I ran into some that looked like they were made just for me and never heard back or quickly got a message back saying I wasn't what they were looking for. I ran into others that looked way out of my league but I applied anyway and got an interview for. When I was a manager in a Fortune 10 company I used to say to my direct reports, "You know what that VP did to get his job that you didn't do? Applied for it." You're never going to get a job you don't apply for.

6. Have multiple copies of your resume. It can be worth it to tailor it to the position you're applying for.

7. Most importantly, keep your chin up. It can be easy to come down on yourself when you're not getting anywhere. It took me over 6 months to find my first post-military job. I stuck to my guns and stayed in my field and I have to say, it's worked out great and was totally worth it. Your value isn't measure by what hiring managers think of your resume.


Denise Kalm Walnut Creek, CA

I recommend a variety of tactics. The first is retained recruiters. Search for recruiters in your area online, check them out carefully and contact one of them. But also use your LinkedIn network - go to your secondary contacts if necessary. When a person refers you into the company, you stand a much better chance of getting the interview. If you just apply online, the ATS is designed to knock out most people. Networking is very powerful and you can use both strategies to help you. For IT, consider that where you live and what company you can work for may not have to line up. I worked for years from home for 3 different IT companies. Although Google, FB and Apple don't like this, many companies do. Don't just look local.


Donna Stairs Greensburg, PA

Hi Timothy,

I am a recruiter and I own and have worked at staffing companies. I'm not sure of the IT skills you have but staffing companies can be of help.

However, I do have some recommendations. Do a Google search for jobs relating to your IT skills. If you know Java or python then search for java jobs. If you are more help desk experienced then search for that. Look for temp or contract jobs.

Reach out first to the company that has a lot of jobs posted. Call them and find out what kind of assignments they have. Let them know you do not want them to share your resume unless they check with you first. You should always know who is seeing your resume. This is important because if you apply directly to an employer and the agency sent your resume already they will either have to pay the agency or pass on hiring you.

Temp agencies are a great way to build experience, try different things and make connections. A lot of times there is an option for the employer to hire you at the end of the assignment. Ask if this is a possibility before taking an assignment.

Update or make your LinkedIn profile. There is a setting that you can alert recruiters that you are searching for a job. Also in you headline under your name say something like Veteran searching for java developer (or whatever job you are qualified for) position.

Search for groups on Facebook and LinkedIn related to your experience. Join and participate in the conversations.

I hope this helps. Feel free to take a look at my website. Www. I have some blogs that offer additional advice.

Best of luck.


Christo Snyman Morris Plains, NJ

No doubt staffing agencies are a good way to go and you should approach those that provide access to IT jobs. But remember to be systematic in your approach. Keep good notes of who you've approached, what their response has been (e.g. wait times) and set a reminder for yourself to follow up. But like all jobs, you should also explore other avenues. Don't forget to network (both online and in "real life"), keep making progress with your social contacts (e.g. church, Toastmasters, sports clubs, neighborhood events) so that people see you and hear you all the time.


Bob Molluro Wilmington, DE

Timothy, there are other approaches that can be used. There are usually Networking functions going on all the time. One of the best ways to accomplish almost anything in business is find the right person who can get you to the person who has a need. Make some new friends at these events and don't be afraid to tell them what you are trying to do and ask for their advice/help in getting you there. It will seem like a lot of wasted effort however , it only takes one person to change the entire equation. My son in law was out of work for six months, the Paris based company he worked for decided to shut down their US sales force. He Networked with a guy over a lunch counter by just striking up a conversation. The guy said I know a "Billionaire" who could use a guy with your talents. Five years later, my son in law is a partner making big bucks. Talking to people for six months seemed like an eternity but it was worth the aggravation.


Scott Gagnon Winthrop, MA

This is a very valuable resource within my company (Navisite) which helps veterans find jobs:

Good luck


Ashutosh Mehta Berkeley Heights, NJ

Thank you for your services Timothy. You have received very valuable inputs already, and here are my inputs along side of working with staffing agencies:

- LinkedIn is the best tool to start. Join group of your interest, group in your geo location, group with more members to get more visibility. Expand your network. You may want to search for the company of your interest e.g. Microsoft, and search with key word 'Talent' to find recruiters from that company
- Build your resume using expert advice and tool like
- Upload your resume to Indeed
- Keep learning new skills using online learning like edx, udemy, coursera and others.

Good luck!


Dean Goodrich Cape Coral, FL

Timothy - Thank you for your service! In my 30+ years in the IT world, as with most every industry, there are good and not so good when it comes to staffing. Depending on what specifically you are looking for, do almost as much research on them as you would an employer. The first thing I look to determine is if they are working directly with a client, or if they are simply a one-off (email and PO box) looking to fill requirements from other companies that they found online. Be careful in any agreement for 'exclusive representation' as an occasional agency might be simply shopping for your resume, then searching for a role, all the while preventing you from talking to others. Feel free to reach me directly if you care for a more specific conversation.


Jerry Welsh Middleville, MI

Staffing agencies are great. Two areas of concern 1)non-compete clauses and exclusive staffing agency only. Both of these issues could limit your ability to go directly with a company you like, without being tied back legally to the staffing agency.


David Eastman Gresham, OR

Hi, Timothy

First of all and most importantly, thank you for your service.

I think IT Staffing agencies certainly is a path to take as you look for work in this field, which by any measure, is one of the hottest fields in the United States as we work toward computerizing literally every aspect of our lives, including our autos, busses, trains and airplanes.

I think you would find it more lucrative to seek out an IT contract firm versus a general staffing firm, mostly because they have excellent contacts, projects pending and in process, and can get you the level of salary you deserve for your unique expertise.

I think in the IT field, and one of the fastest growth areas is Medical IT, you should be flexible about where you want to live and work. I have a local friend in Portland, Oregon and he does consulting work for an IT contract firm and spends a good deal of his time on the East Coast or down in California. If you are flexible and willing to travel, these types of jobs are available and especially to areas where their are scarce IT resources and people.

I hope my comments were helpful. I wish you much success in your career.


David F Eastman, CEO, US Navy Veteran


Jo Prabhu Long Beach, CA

Staffing agencies have much to offer an applicant, besides having an inside connection within the hiring company to get you in the door. Their recruiters can negotiate terms, salaries/rates, benefits, perks, and even pitch your case for you if you don't have the requisite experience-things you are hardput to explain away by yourself. True, there are good and bad recruiters, good and bad staffing agencies but its upto you to sift the grain from the chaff by asking them what they can do for you before you decide to let them represent you. Good luck!


Ashely John Lowell, MA

In my experience I have had success in both doing my own searches and applying for jobs and a staffing agency. If I were you I would us the staffing agency and also do my own job hunt as well. The more eyes you have out there looking for a job the better the success rate I would say.


Brock Renshaw Tampa, FL

I would say yes they are.

The important thing to consider is to talk with one before you apply on a company’s website.

This is critical because if you apply via the company’s website, the agency may not be able to help you. By applying you’ve already made contact with the company and it can handcuff the agency to help you.

It happened to me. The best advice I got from a headhunter was to contact the agency first.

Good luck.



Louis Schwarz Somerville, NJ

Hi Tim, staffing agencies are the primary source for staffing for companies and consulting companies. The difference in them and just posting your resume, is the agencies get paid for staffing, job boards do not. Identify a large agency and send them your resume, and if possible, stop by for a face to face interview. Give it a chance, and check back with them to see how the market is in your area. You may want to take a position that does not exactly match your resume, but an assignment you could complete. Now you need experience, later you can cherry pick.
Good luck..


Scott Gagnon Winthrop, MA

IT Contract positions are the best way companies can really get a good feel if candidates can actually perform the work in a skilled manner. Basically, a "try it buy it" approach. Contract work also allows you the ability to see opportunities that are out there and keep your skills honed. My employer embraces this approach as the need for IT staff in my area (Boston) is extremely competitive. If you have the skills, you will have no trouble finding what you seek.


ACP AdvisorNet Staff New York, NY

Hi Timothy and thank you for your question

Online job sites are a great resource to find what companies have which jobs, but your usage of the job board should end there. Once you've found a job you like on Indeed, say for the hypothetical "Xyz IT Inc.", you should consider applying directly through the company's website; this will show the hiring manager that you're on their website because you care about where you're working, and shows that you want to be a part of their team. It conveys a 'quality over quantity' message, and it's a great first impression.

Additionally, you could use LinkedIn. There are a couple well known users of LinkedIn that regularly vouch for the work that ACP does to connects Vets with industry professionals. One of them is Natalie Oliverio (Military Talent Partners) and the other is Michael Quinn (President and CEO at Hire Military, and a Senior Manager at EY).

Hope this helps.

-The ACP Team


Jodie Prieto-Rodriguez Pittsburgh, PA

IMHO I believe that Staffing Agencies are prime recruitment pools for contract workers. If you would like contract or short term options to build your resume they may be a good option. I prefer job boards such as:

o State job boards
o Indeed
o Zip Recruiter
o USA Jobs
o Monster

I have stumbled upon some mixed success with craigslist as well.

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