More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies use staffing agencies and HR outsourcing companies to find skilled temporary and contract workers, some with the potential to move into full-time positions. For organizations and hiring managers who are considering working with a staffing agency, here are some questions to help you evaluate the options and choose the one that may work best for your company:

What industry, or industries, does the agency specialize in? Use a firm that focuses on your specific industry or that has specialists with extensive knowledge in the positions you are seeking to fill. An agency that specializes in only accounting personnel is unlikely to have access to a large pool of IT candidates, or the knowledge to understand the specific skills and experience necessary to perform the job.

How do they handle the sourcing, screening and selection process? A staffing agency that handles HR services such as background checks, initial interviews and skill assessments can save you time and money. When hiring managers can be confident that the candidates they are interviewing meet the job requirements, they can concentrate on evaluating the candidates' other traits, such as personality, work style, and communication and problem-solving skills.

What types of staffing services do they provide? Some agencies offer only temporary or contract workers, while others include temp-to-hire and permanent-placement employees as well. Choose an agency whose services will address your current needs and fulfill your future requirements. By being proactive in your selection, you can avoid having to change agencies if your needs evolve from a few temporary workers to fill short-term gaps to permanent staff searches in support of sustained business growth.

How does the agency handle poor placements? Sometimes, despite the most detailed screening processes and evaluation procedures, bad hires happen. Choose an agency that gives refunds or offers other acceptable remedies for poor placements.

How large (and strong) is the agency's talent pool? Numerous factors are considered when selecting a contract worker—skill level, experience, education, personality, work style, etc. Selecting an agency with access to a large number of candidates with diverse backgrounds can give you a better chance of finding the right employee for your organization and your budget.

Do they know your business? When interviewing potential staffing agencies, ask open-ended questions about your industry and/or the specific job position you are trying to fill. Their responses can give you an indication of their level of relevant knowledge. Agencies whose personnel have an intimate understanding of these areas can often better appreciate the nuances of your specific needs and identify the most appropriate contract workers or permanent-placement candidates.

What are the agency's rates and fee structure? Do they bill separately for background checks and skill testing, or are these services included as part of the hiring or placement fee? Choose an agency with a clear fee schedule so that you know exactly what you can expect to pay for the service(s) that addresses your staffing and HR outsourcing needs.

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