7 critical characteristics to look for in a great office temp


Temporary employees play a large role in many organizations. In fact, more companies are choosing to hire employees on a temporary basis, rather than long term, for a variety of reasons. Because hiring someone new takes a lot of time and resources from your company, it’s essential that your company gets it right. By choosing to go with an office temp employee, you can get someone on essentially a trial basis, and perhaps transition them into full-time work.

Before you can transition them into a full-time hire, they need to be good temps first. There are several traits that all good temporary employees will have in common, and searching for these during the initial screening and hiring process will benefit your company in the long run. Not only will you have a more successful experience while the employee is there temporarily, but you make it more likely that this person could become a long-term part of your company.

1. Their skill set

The primary factor to look for in any office temp is their skill set. If the temporary positions regular duties involve entering numbers into a spreadsheet, you probably don’t want to hire someone who has limited experience with spreadsheet software, or worse: no computer skills whatsoever. Likewise, if the role’s tasks involve answering phones or making calls, you’ll definitely want someone who speaks with confidence and authority – and, of course, someone who speaks the right language. When hiring a temporary office employee, be sure to carefully scan their resume and see where their skills lie. Also think about the role the person will be filling, and what type of skills they will need to do the job properly. While some training will likely be necessary, you want to limit this as much as possible, so a base set of skills is a must.

2. Relevant experience

It’s not enough to just have knowledge of a certain skill; your office temp employee should also have relevant experience with it as well. While temp employee candidates may not have as much job experience as other candidates, you should still try to look for someone who has experience in the area you are filling. Even experience that is closely related to the job you’re hiring for is better than no experience at all. Building on the prior example, if none of your temp candidates have experience answering phones, you could still hire someone who may have customer service or retail experience, since they would likely have enough relevant experience speaking confidently to customers.

3. Passion for their work

Just because someone is only going to be working with you for a short period of time doesn’t mean they don’t have to be passionate about what they do. Granted, very little candidates will ever express how passionate they may be about data entry, schedule management, or whatever the task may be, but try to look for temporary office candidates who show passion in other ways. For instance, maybe a candidate is passionate about being detail-oriented, and getting their work done correctly and efficiently. Maybe the candidate is passionate about the type of work your company is doing. Find someone who is passionate about gaining experience through this position, or who wants to turn the temporary position into a long-term one. Finding a glimmer of passion somewhere in a temporary candidate’s eyes will make all the difference.

4. The ability to adjust quickly

Since this office worker may only be with you for a short period of time, you don’t want to waste a lot of it on training. You want a temp employee who is able to adjust to their new surroundings quickly, and who can get started on their work without much hand-holding. Once you’ve gone over the basics of the job with the temp, you should be able to trust that they can handle it from there without too many more questions. For times when the job duties may be more complex, designate another employee from the same department to be their go-to person for any additional questions the temp employee may have during the first few days.

5. Adaptability

While it’s important that your temp employee is able to get started quickly, they should also be able to switch tasks when necessary. Things change, and you may find that you need your temp to start working on a different project part way through their employment. For this you’ll need a temp who is able to switch gears easily enough, and won’t cause problems when asked to perform a different task.

6. Reliability

You want a temp employee who is going to show up on time every day and be ready to work. When looking for an office temp to hire, you should talk to their previous employers and find out how punctual they were. While you likely don’t have time to go through deep conversations with each past employer for each candidate, there are a few basic questions you can ask about top candidates, and their punctuality should be one of them. Showing up on time is a sign of professionalism and caring about their work – two things you definitely want to have in a temp.

7. Productivity

Finally, when all is said and done, you want a temp that is productive. You assign them their task, and they come in each day and complete it, without getting distracted or making too many errors. The goal of hiring a temp employee is to assist you with tasks around the organization, and if they are not productive while doing this, there is no point in them being there. Unlike long-term employees, who may sag from time to time, you don’t have the luxury to wait for temp employees to revitalize themselves. Finding out productivity levels is difficult before you hire someone, but this is another question you can ask of past employers, or of their agency.

Look for as many of these characteristics as you can

When scanning through the list of temp candidates, it may not be possible to find someone who has all of the qualities listed above. Your goal should be to prioritize which characteristics are most important to you and your organization, and then look for those traits first. You can then ask better questions during the interview phase, or when you’re working with the temp agency.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find an office temp that has all of the characteristics mentioned above, and better yet, you’ll have a successful working relationship with them. Who knows, the temp could be so good that you end up offering them a permanent position, in which case the time you put in now vetting a temp will pay off even more. Hiring a temp can be a great benefit to your organization, but only if it’s done right. Keep the characteristics above in mind the next time you are looking for a temporary employee, and you’ll be on the right track.

Photo credit: WOCintechchat via Flickr (license)

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