How to Ace an Interview for a Temporary Job

Manager explaining assignment to office worker
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Interviews for temporary jobs are just as important as interviews for permanent positions. It's a competitive job market, making it quite likely that there are multiple candidates interviewing for any temp role. 

The Interview Process for Temp Jobs

When you’re interviewing for a temp job through a staffing agency, you will interview with the agency's staff.

Expect to answer questions about your previous work experience, skills, and strengths and weaknesses, as well as questions that pertain to the role at hand. If you’re hired, you may also interview with the company where you’ll be working, or you might just be sent directly to an assignment without having to interview again.

Sometimes, companies will hire temp workers directly, without using a staffing agency. If that's the case, after putting in your application, you’ll interview with a hiring manager at the company.

You may also be asked to interview with the department in which you’ll be working. 

In all of these interview scenarios for a temp role, it's important to make the best impression you can on the interviewer. To do so, follow these strategies. 

Research the Company

Take some time to look up information on the company. Find out what types of temp staffers they’re looking for as well as what kinds of placements they offer. You should have a sense of what the company does, as well as its culture. 

Dress Appropriately in Neat, Clean Attire

Don’t make the mistake of letting go of your professionalism. Since you’re essentially an ambassador for the temp agency at the companies in which they’ll place you, the staffing agency needs to believe that you’ll make a good impression.

Wear business casual attire at the minimum—and nix the sneakers, jeans, wrinkled shirts, or dirty shoes. Depending on the job, it may be a good idea to go with full business attire.

Have Your Resume, a Notepad, and a Pen on Hand

In some cases, individuals seeking temp work may not have a resume. Though you should do your best to prepare one, if it’s not possible, at the very minimum bring a list of your work, volunteer, educational, and extracurricular (if you're student or recent graduate) experience. Here's how to build a resume in seven simple steps. 

Know Your Availability

If you’re a student, know the exact dates that classes start and end, and your class schedule if it's during the semester.

If you have other engagements, keep a list of them. You don’t want to flounder when asked whether or not you’re available, as the staffing agency could easily pass you up for someone who is definitely available.

Think About Interview Questions and Answers in Advance

Review sample temp job interview questions, and spend some time thinking about your answers.

Temp job interview questions can differ from regular interview questions in that they can be highly specific to the role.

For example, if you’re applying for a data entry job, you may be asked to perform a typing speed test as part of the interview process.

How to Ace the Interview

  • Be on time, or a few minutes early (not more than 10 minutes early): Also, don’t rush out. Be prepared to spend up to a couple hours with the temp agency as they identify and analyze your skills in order to assign you to an appropriate position.
  • Have a breath mint on the way there, but nothing in your mouth when you arrive: And, finish your coffee, soda or snack before you arrive!
  • Smile, introduce yourself, and offer a firm handshake to everyone you meet: Once again, at each company you work for, you’re technically a representative of the agency. Put your best foot forward during your staffing agency interview, so they can trust you’ll do the same wherever they place you.
  • Be honest about your goals: If you are looking for a temp-to-permanent position, make sure they know that. If you’re pursuing an education to further your professional development goals or one that relates to the type of temp job you want, speak up about it, with the goal of communicating the fact that you’d make a dedicated employee.
  • Answer questions honestly and try to put a positive spin on all your answers.
  • Think of a few questions of your own to ask when you have the opportunity: It's fine to write them down ahead of time on your notepad.
  • Remember people's names and use them when speaking: Communication skills are important in literally every job you could have, so emphasize them during your interview.

After the Interview

Check these signs to see how well you did, and think about whether there's anything you need to mention when you send a thank you note or email message after the interview. It’s good etiquette to thank your interviewer.

Doing so gives you an opportunity to mention something you neglected to say during the interview or a point you want to clarify. Plus, it keeps you in interviewers' minds when it’s time to decide on which person to hire.