Five Tips for Hiring Temporary Staff

During a time of hiring freezes, it's a good idea to get a grip on best practices for filling in with interim workers.

Many companies have implemented hiring freezes lately, but “freeze” doesn’t necessarily mean absolute zero. Critical finance and accounting positions will be filled, though not always by putting people on the full-time payroll with benefits. Depending on needs, hiring temporary staff could form a bridge to the return of a healthy economy.

Because of the hiring freezes, some temporary staffing firms say their business at the moment is flat at best. That, plus the fact that more people are identifying themselves as interim workers (some because they lost their jobs, others as a lifestyle strategy), may lead some corporate finance managers to assume they’ll be able to find cheap fill-in labor. Don’t count on it.

Here is a collection of tips from staffing firms on hiring temps:

Be aware of the market. Although the unemployment rate is almost 7 percent, there is still a shortage of financial reporting and tax specialists. “Those skill sets are still very tight. You may think you are in the driver’s seat, but in fact you’re not so much,” says Aaron Brooks, managing director for the Chicago office of the Mergis Group, the professional services unit of recruiter Spherion.

Give the recruiting firm an exact salary range to it doesn’t send you candidates you love but cannot afford, counsels Andrew Reina, practice director for Ajilon Finance Solutions.

Allow the recruiter “under the tent.” The process will be most effective if the recruiter understands how your team is organized, your culture, and the project flow. Dedicating the time to bring them up to speed pays off, Reina says.

Expand your view of what the temp could do. If, say, you need an interim controller to close the books for the current month, think about additional value that person could provide. “Maybe you’d also like to reduce your close cycle and bring in somebody who’s done that before,” notes Brooks. “When you look at the ROI of bringing that person in, it’s going to be more positive.”

Know that time is of the essence. Treat the hiring process like buying a house: If you don’t make an offer to a qualified candidate quickly, you may lose out. Return your recruiter’s calls, evaluate résumés promptly, and make arranging interviews a priority, Reina urges.

Define what will constitute “success” for your temp staffer. That might be easier for a higher-level position, such as controller or CFO. When hiring staff accountants, managers often are not careful enough, according to Brooks. “Very often people just throw people at a problem,” he says. Always come up with a way to measure whether the person you hire accomplished the objective, because “you get what you measure.”

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