Monday, January 31, 2000

Ileann Jimenez has been working as a senior manager at Hire Knowledge, a temporary employment agency in Georgetown, for two years. The agency has 11 offices in the United States. The D.C. location was one of the first to open 10 years ago.
Hire Knowledge has about 5,000 high-tech, computer clients for PC and Mac in the Washington area. The company serves clients whose staffing needs range from secretaries to engineers.
Question: Are companies looking at temp agencies more now, with this tight labor market?
Answer: I think the nature of the temp industry has always been highly attractive to the D.C. marketplace. I think companies are looking at Hire Knowledge for more technically specialized staffing then ever before. However, I’m not sure if this is just the 1.2 percent unemployment rate or rather the fact that the District has evolved technically in the last 10 years.
I do recognize that some of our clients are having a tough time finding and keeping the talent specifically in the fields of Web, system engineers and programmers that will stay for longer than a year.
But we are doing better in 2000. Especially with the virtual agency that allows both client and associate accessibility with our staff.
Q: Is it hard for you too, to find employees?
A: They find us. We match the candidates skills with our client’s needs. If it is a match, then we begin the interview process which is two to 2* hours long. We interview and test between 50 and 100 potential candidates a month. Not all candidates are registered with Hire Knowledge. In fact, about 50 percent make it. Only the best and very best make it with HK. We do encourage them to come back after acquiring more experience or stronger skills.
Q: Has the tight market affected your relationships with temps and employers in any other way?
A: Sure. People can be picky now. There are so many choices now. Employers want to keep their people, and they fear they will leave in a year or two. So they ask us what benefits to offer to keep them there. So our clients really took to us for a lot of things, including how to improve their employee retention rates. And a big part of that is treating them well, treating them like people. Also, of course, offering the right environment and the right salary.
The workplace in the District companies and nonprofit organizations really have to come up with more creative ways of keeping employees.
Q: Where do you get people from? How do you recruit?
A: From our Web site ( we have great success with associate resume submission. By word of mouth we have been able to recruit top designers, programmers and networkers with excellent recommendations. Yellow pages still do the trick for us as well.
Internet recruiting is often used when looking for a specific skills set that we don’t often receive in the D.C. area.
Q: Who are people who temp?
A: We interview so many people every week, every month. But not everyone ends up registered with us. Mostly, it’s people in transition, and D.C. is a very transient city.
But other people have been at the same job for a long time, and they start to feel that their skills are not refined, so they want to upgrade those skills.
It’s also a way of life for a lot of people. Especially Web developers and Web animators [who] want to change jobs often. They want to keep moving up, and using the latest technologies.
Q: How do you keep good temps? Do you feel pressured to offer more benefits?
A: We are competitive with other agencies’ health and vacation benefits. Good temps don’t always stay temp sometimes they become permanently placed.
There is no pressure. Each quarter as we evaluate the types of assignment each associate temp has had, we ask for a revised resume to better place them with their stronger skills set.
We have temps that have been with us for seven years, or temps who were permanently placed and three or four years later have called us back to supplement their income or find them a new job.
Q: What is the turnover rate at your agency? Do you feel that you are constantly on a treadmill or do you have time to relax?
A: We are constantly on a treadmill. In our industry it is never wise to get off the treadmill. We need to stay one step ahead of our clients, so that when a client makes a request we are prepared with the best computer staffing solution.
Q: How many temps become permanent employees?
A: Well, not everybody wants to be permanent. I would say about 40 percent become permanent employees.
But they like the lifestyle. They fear becoming rusty in their field, losing their skills, not upgrading them often. Sometimes they get great offers, and you think they would want them, but it’s not always so. It’s not the right decision for everybody.
Q: Has the D.C. marketplace changed in the last 10 years, and if so, how?
A: In the last 10 years the District has grown along with what the market has required. Ten years ago we had a lot of requests for people to proofread and for graphic design. Now we constantly get requests for system engineers, for example. The District has become a lot more tech savvy than it was 10 years ago.
Q: How has your job changed, along with the marketplace?
A: More and more companies are starting to use temp agencies, more than anything in the Web development area, because companies are not sure where those departments are going. So we are always filling gaps.
Startup companies are especially good clients. We have had a few to call in and say their entire office is moving here so we have to do the entire HR for them. They get to choose people exactly with the qualifications they want… .
The Web is just beginning to boom. An average company now has Web development. Two, three years ago, they didn’t.

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