Staffing Agency Etiquette: How Applying Through a Staffing Agency Differs from Applying Directly

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Staffing agency

Staffing Agency Etiquette: How Applying Through a Staffing Agency Differs from Applying Directly

Applying to a job via a staffing agency is a different process than applying directly to that position.

If you’ve never applied to a job through a staffing agency, there are some things you should know about the process. Going into it blindly could leave you… well, blindsided. So here’s a list of things to consider before submitting an application via a staffing agency.

The staffing agency is your primary point of contact.

Once you submit an application through a staffing agency, your point of contact for that position will be the staffing agency. You shouldn’t contact your potential employer directly; if you do, it could be seen as a violation of your contract with the agency and it could cost you the position.

We give a lot of advice on this blog for interview etiquette, and a lot of that advice only applies to direct applications. If you’ve submitted an application through an agency, you shouldn’t reach out to the company’s hiring team directly. Don’t send a follow-up email, and don’t inquire about your status. All of this should be handled by the agency at this point.

There are pros and cons to this, of course. If you’re used to taking a hands-on approach to your application process, it can be a little frustrating to put that in the hands of someone else. On the flipside, it means that a lot of the little touches will be handled by the agency, giving you more time to focus on other aspects of the job hunt, like practicing your interview skills and researching the company you’ve applied to.

You will likely sign a non-compete agreement.

Before your application is submitted, you will most likely need to sign a non-compete agreement. The terms vary from contract to contract, but it’s likely you will not be able to apply for the same company via a different agency for at least a year. In some cases, you might be agreeing to more than that, say a longer time duration or a broader employment blackout.

Before you apply to a position with a staffing agency, you should read the non-compete agreement thoroughly and make sure you are willing to agree with the terms. If the agreement is longer than two years, or if it would lock you out of applying for other jobs within your field, you might want to reconsider. Being contractually locked into a bad agreement because you hastily signed a piece of paper is a bad situation to be in, especially if you just want to be working.

The staffing agency decides your pay rate.

Your pay rate is decided by the staffing agency, based on what the client (your employer) is willing to pay them. If you want to renegotiate or ask for a raise, you need to approach your staffing agency rather than the company you’re doing work for.

If you’ve recently been given a positive employment review, that’s a good time to ask for a raise. Just make sure you’re asking the right person. The manager who you report to at your job probably has little to no say over how much you’re making. In fact, they probably don’t even know your rate.

Since the staffing agency decides your rate, you’ll need to speak to them directly about any adjustments to it.

Don’t badmouth your staffing agency to your employer.

Your staffing agency and your employer likely have a long-term working relationship that both sides have been cultivating for years. One person who comes in and complains is likely not going to change that. In fact, you’re just going to look like a troublemaker.

If you have issues with your staffing agency, talk to them directly. If they’re a good agency, they would probably love to have some feedback so they know what they could be doing better.

Speaking negatively about your agency to your employer only makes you look bad, and it doesn’t help you solve your issues. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by voicing your concerns to the wrong person. Talk to your staffing agency directly.

Understand that you are the product the agency is selling.

Basically, the way the agency/employer relationship works is that the agency is selling a product that the employer is buying. That product is you.

While this might sound a little cynical – no one likes to be thought of as a “product” – it also lets you know where the power lies within this relationship. If you think of your work in terms of supply and demand, you’ll better understand how to work that relationship in your favor.

For example, if you know that you’re working in a high-demand field where positions are excruciatingly difficult to fill, you probably have a lot of negotiating power when it comes to asking for a raise. If you know you’re a valuable asset to the company you’re working for, they’re not going to want to lose you. All of this can be worked to your advantage.


Working through a staffing agency can have a lot of benefits, but it also comes with its own etiquette. If you follow this etiquette, you’ll be better positioned for success. But you can’t follow it if you don’t even know what it is. Hopefully the tips we’ve listed above will empower you to make the right decisions about your employment.