Industry Market Trends

How to Go from Temp to Full Time

May 11, 2010

Because finding full-time work has been particularly trying in this economy, many job seekers have taken part-time and temporary positions, hoping to get hired full time. For those looking to turn a temp assignment into a permanent job, consider these tips.

While unemployment remains just under 10 percent, with more than 15.3 million people looking for jobs, temporary work continues to stand out as a bright spot, according to staffing firm Accountemps.

Since last September, the number of temporary-help workers increased by more than 330,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics's latest data indicate. For the seventh consecutive month, temporary-help services jobs posted strong gains in April, adding 26,000 positions last month.

Companies that are not quite ready to hire on a full-time basis often bring in project professionals to maintain productivity and keep initiatives on track. Although temp jobs don't come with a full-time employment guarantee, "they often result in a permanent hire," Melanie Holmes, VP of world solutions at Manpower North America, wrote last month.

As CNBC/Yahoo! HotJobs also points out, employers tend to permanently hire temporary workers as the economy improves, which is beginning to happen:

Companies began converting staffers from temp to permanent positions in late December but "it picked up steam" in January and February, said [Rob Wilson, president of staffing firm Employco Group], a trend that other firms — Adecco, Manpower, and Kelly Services — have also seen. But while the hiring of permanent employees is a positive sign, experts say it's slower than in past recoveries... . "It's a little slower, but the pace is picking up," adds Mike Webster, executive vice president of Kelly Services. The sector that has seen the most temp jobs segue into permanent positions, experts say, is manufacturing.

Under the headline Temporary Jobs Will Begin the Job Boom, Tig Gilliam, North American CEO of HR solutions provider Adecco Group, recently wrote at CNBC, "As temporary and contract jobs pick up, more and more of them last for a month, or a few months, or a year, and finally more and more of them are becoming permanent."

For those looking to turn a temporary assignment into a permanent job, consider these practical tips:

  1. State your objective. Let your temp/staffing agency and the potential employer know you're ultimately looking for a full-time, permanent job. "If they understand that upfront, they may be able to place you in a role more likely to lead to that result," Accountemps says. "When a position warrants full-time status, businesses commonly look first to staff who have excelled in the role on an interim basis," according to Max Messmer, chair of Accountemps and author of Job Hunting For Dummies.
  2. Understand the company culture. "Each company is unique, with their own set of values, codes of conduct and employment brand," Tom Egan, VP of talent acquisition at recruitment firm Veritude, explains at the Boston Globe. What is the company's mission statement, priorities, reputation and unwritten dress code? Who are the key players, how does the work get done and what are the internal dynamics? Accountemps advises observing the written and unwritten (nuanced) rules of the workplace, asking questions when clarification is needed: "For guidance, watch how managers respond to certain situations and model your behavior on theirs, as appropriate."
  3. Show flexibility and initiative. "Once you're on the assignment, bring the same intensity to the temporary job you would to a full-time position," Accountemps recommends. "Adapt quickly to the organization's corporate culture and start contributing immediately." Take advantage of free training opportunities offered by the firm to help build your skills and the value you bring to employers. Actively participate in meetings, and be willing to take on work that may not seem to fall into your assigned role. "Remember, the more you contribute and the more projects or teams you are involved in, the more indispensable you become to your manager or the company — and that's exactly the position you want to be in," the Boston Globe says.
  4. Maintain a genuinely positive attitude. "Approach every project with a positive outlook and prove that you can be a valuable addition," Katharine Hansen, creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, advises. Employers will assess how well you handle constructive criticism, setbacks and other job-related challenges as part of your overall performance evaluation. Let the best of you shine through: listen actively, make eye contact, be upbeat and sell your strengths. And avoid the all-too-common pitfall of giving canned, insincere answers to questions.
  5. Adopt a team mentality. Think of yourself as part of the team, department wise and company wise. "Suggest ideas, but don't get carried away," Hansen advises. "Offer to help your colleagues with work, take the extra time to learn about your teammates and develop relationships," the Boston Globe suggests. "The more effort you make, the more people will get to know you and think of you for future openings." Also, show genuine concern for how the workplace runs and the future of the company. "If you aren't interested in the company, why should the company be interested in you?" career expert Nathan Newberger asks at
  6. Advertise yourself. Network. "As you fight for that permanent position, the best advantage is to have people on your side," Newberger emphasizes. To that end, tap your professional network, the services of a staffing firm specializing in your field and key people at the client company. Get to know as many people as possible at the workplace, including those outside your department. "Temping is a terrific networking opportunity because you're rubbing elbows with all kinds of people who have the opportunity to see what a valuable employee you are," Hansen says.

Simply put, take a long-term approach to the temp position by performing as if you're a permanent employee already.


Career Expert Offers Five Tips for Turning a Temporary Assignment Into a Full-Time Job

Accountemps, Jan. 21, 2010

The Employment Situation - April 2010

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 7, 2010

Temporary Jobs Will Begin the Job Boom

by Tig Gilliam

CNBC Guest Blog, Feb. 5, 2010

Temp to Perm

by Melanie Holmes

Contemporary Working (Manpower), April 6, 2010

Employers Slowly Begin Hiring Temp Workers Permanently

By Joseph Pisani

CNBC/Yahoo! HotJobs, 2010

5 Tips for Making a Temporary Job Permanent

by Tom Egan

The Boston Globe, June 9, 2008

Turning a Temp Job into a Permanent Position

by Katharine Hansen

Tips on Moving from Temp to Perm Hire

by Nathan Newberger

Success Stories: I Went From Temporary Worker to Full-Time Hire, March 29, 2010 (last updated)

The Disposable Worker

by Peter Coy, Michelle Conlin and Moira Herbst

BusinessWeek, Jan. 7, 2010

Job Hunting for Dummies: Keys to Successful Job Hunting

by Max Messmer

Job Hunting for Dummies (2nd Edition), 1999