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How to Interview for a Temporary Position

by Lisa McQuerrey, studioD

Interviewing for a temporary job is much like interviewing for a full-time position. Regardless of whether you find a temp job on your own or go through an employment agency, your goal is to present a professional image and convey the pertinent education and work experience that qualifies you for the job. Dress professionally, arrive on time and bring a detailed resume that outlines your academic background and your work history.

Relevant Experience

Be prepared to talk about your work experience and how it will be beneficial in the temporary position. If you’ve held other temp jobs in the past, note this as well. Because the job you’re applying for is short-term, you'll be expected to quickly come up to speed and become a contributing member of the team. An employer doesn't have time for a long learning curve, so emphasize your ability to quickly grasp concepts and get to work.

Industry Knowledge

Companies that hire people for temporary work are usually looking for individuals well-versed in their particular industry. For example, many retail outlets hire seasonal employees for holiday sales rushes. In this instance, your knowledge of customer service and your ability to acclimate to a busy shopping environment on short notice will be important to attaining the position. Likewise, if you're interviewing for a temp secretarial position, you'll be expected to be proficient in computer programs, note-taking, juggling multiple phone lines and other administrative tasks. You may be asked to take a test to demonstrate your proficiency in key areas.


Temporary workers must be able to quickly adapt to their surroundings, learn policies and procedures, and jump right into the everyday workflow. Stress your communication and interpersonal skills and your ability to get along well with a wide range of personality types. Emphasize your ability to be self-sufficient and self-directed in your work and to quickly mold to different management styles.

Long-Term Goals

A temporary job interview may include questions about whether you're interested in full time work, should the temporary position evolve into something permanent. Answer based on your preferences. If you're looking strictly for short-term work, say you’ll be 100 percent committed for the term of your contract. If you're in the market for something full-time, let it be known you’d be open to transitioning to a full-time role if one comes available.

Temp Agency Interviews

Many job-seekers looking for short-term work sign on with temporary staffing agencies. These companies assess your skills and background and match you with appropriate employers. When you initially meet with an agency rep, you'll be interviewed by her, and depending on the type of position you're seeking, you may have a follow-up interview with the employer. Treat the agency rep with the same level of professionalism you would in any other interview scenario. Be personable and stress your scheduling flexibility. Many companies that hire through placement firms need people to fill in at a moment’s notice, so the more open your schedule, the more work you’re likely to land.

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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