Imagine you’ve just stepped foot inside of an enormous ice cream shop. Behind a long pane of glass, there is a seemingly endless amount of flavors to choose from. As you browse through your choices – walking past tubs of rich rocky road, bright sorbets and classic flavor after classic flavor – you notice a sign that says, “No samples. No advice. Must buy in bulk.”

How would you know what the flavors you’re interested in might taste like? Then, once you make a choice, there’s a good chance you could wind up stuck with a giant tub of ice cream you don’t even like!

That’s what looking for a job without partnering with a staffing firm is like; the best you can hope for is to get lucky with an educated guess, and is that how you’d want to handle something as important as your career? On the other hand, with hiring professionals there to support your search, staffing firms allow job seekers to sample different opportunities until they find the right fit for their tastes.

Unfortunately, many individuals looking for career opportunities are unaware of the rich history of staffing firms, their purpose in the modern economy and the benefits of partnering with staffing professionals to achieve professional goals.

Staffing History 101

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), a global advisor on staffing and workforce solutions, details the story of staffing in America in their recent, “History of the Staffing Industry.” Towards the end of the 19th century, private employment agencies began appearing in North America. During this time, agencies found workers on behalf of railway, mining and steamship companies. This group also included a collection of farmhands, cattlemen or general laborers. However, it wasn’t until the 1940s that the staffing industry as we know it today really began to take off.1

According to SIA, in addition to employment trends, new management practices and the emancipation of women at that time, “The skills shortages caused during the Second World War and the need to find work for soldiers returning from combat also encouraged a number of pioneers to take steps to establish fledgling staffing businesses.”1

As the economy grew from 1950 to 1970, so did the staffing industry. However, it wasn’t until the advent of computer technology in the 1980s and 1990s that staffing firms became the efficient teams that we identify with today. As technology improved, so did the ability of recruiters to review a growing number of resumes. By the time the internet took off in the 2000s, staffing firms were able to utilize sophisticated technologies – such as applicant tracking systems (ATS) – to quickly evaluate application materials and better connect job seekers to employers.


If that’s how the industry got to where it is today, it’s important to define exactly what “staffing” means in the modern economy. Staffing can occur within a business as an internal function without the help of an agency. In these cases, an organization might decide to do things like temporary or permanent employee recruitment, screening and selection in-house when a need arises. When businesses are unable to carry out these functions on their own, they often turn to staffing firms – agencies that specialize in employment solutions – for help.

Staffing, as an industry, plays a vital role in the economy for job seekers and employers alike. For those looking for work, staffing firms serve as a bridge connecting job seekers to employers. For businesses looking to build teams, staffing firms provide a broad range of workforce solutions which leverage years of hiring experience, pulling from vast talent networks.

Contrary to a widely-held misconception, staffing firms do not only provide temporary employment, also referred to as temp work or seasonal employment. While many people who find work through staffing firms do enjoy the flexibility of temporary roles, there are also many opportunities for those looking for long term work.


Another unfortunate misconception about staffing firms is that recruiters act as merely “headhunters,” looking to place job seekers in roles as fast as possible in order to cash in on a quick commission. In fact, it is in the best interest of staffing professionals to build strong and lasting relationships with job seekers. By thoroughly understanding their needs and career goals, staffing professionals are better able to connect individuals with organizations that will be the right fit for their personality, motivations and desires. In turn, this leads to more satisfied clients, who will come back with more team building needs.

Staffing firms actually act as the employer of record for the employees they place to client sites. These employees are known as “talent,” and do not need to pay staffing firms for their services. Staffing firms are responsible for a variety of employment responsibilities for their talent, including paying wages and providing a variety of employee benefits. If an employee were to transition into a permanent role at a client organization, the talent would then become an employee of that organization, causing those responsibilities to then fall under the client.

Staffing and Today’s Dynamic Workforce

The workplace is evolving rapidly, and these changes are opening up more opportunities for individuals to partner staffing firms than ever before. According to a study conducted by Edelman Intelligence and Upwork, 46 percent of Generation Z college graduates are opting to be freelancers rather than taking up traditional jobs.2 With the next generation of workers leading the way, what’s driving this shift towards more temporary work? Advancements in technology have led to the rise of the gig economy, one where individuals can take control of their careers one project at a time.

As David Francis, Research Manager at SIA puts it, “Technology is transforming how millions of people – from dishwashers to drivers to nurses to designers to rocket scientists – find and connect to work, which is changing how companies recruit and providing economic opportunity for people around the world in the process.” 3 With more information available at their fingertips than ever before, job seekers have been empowered to find work they truly connect with and take on jobs that fit their lifestyles with greater flexibility.

staffing flexibility


Surprisingly, an interview conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that while about one-third of workers on longer-term contract assignments get offered permanent work by the client, about two-thirds of those accept the employment.4 What about those who decline the full-time offers? As the American Staffing Association (ASA) notes, one in five cited scheduling flexibility as a key reason for choosing temporary and contract work, which could explain why so many choose to continue working in a temporary capacity. Many individuals working as a temporary or contract employee prefer the freedom of choice that comes with this new world of work.

Sampling the Job Search

As innovations accelerate the transformation of the modern workforce, opportunities for temporary work will continue to expand. Now, job seekers have access to more resources than ever before when it comes to making career decisions that fit their skills, motivations and tastes. However, this abundance of options can also lead to overload. As the Harvard Business Review points out, when it comes to choice, “More of it requires increased time and effort and can lead to anxiety, regret, excessively high expectations, and self-blame if the choices don’t work out.” 5

When it comes to having a ton of choices, it pays to have guidance. Just like a good ice cream shop will lead you through their list of flavors with support and samples, staffing professionals are here to guide job seekers through the countless career opportunities available in today’s workforce with expert insight. Sure, you could go it alone, but your career is more important than an ice cream cone; doesn’t it deserve at least as much attention as a single scoop of cookie dough?

Are you looking for new career opportunities? Experience the positive impact a staffing partner can make by connecting with our hiring experts today at!


  1. Nurthen, J. (2019). History of the Staffing Industry. Retrieved from
  2. Ramasamy, C. (2019, May 24). 6 Mind-Blowing Tech Trends Shaping the Next Decade [Web log post]. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from
  3. Staffing Industry Analysts. (2018). US gig economy grows to USD $864 million. [Press release]. Rertieved from
  4. Maurer, R. (2015, July 7). Staffing firms offer much more than filling seats. [Web log post]. Society for Human Resource Management. Retreived from
  5. Schwartz, B. (2006). More isn’t always better. [Web log post]. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

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