The nation’s economic woes have meant heartburn for much of the United States’ workforce. People face unemployment, lay offs, job insecurity and salary decreases. Companies have also been hit hard, according to West New Yorker Michael Fazio, who runs the Manhattan-based, temporary job placement agency Prime Staffing.
“In a downed economy, the first thing to come back into the hiring process is temps and consultants,” he said. “The word ‘temp’ has a definite stigma attached. Oftentimes one thinks of temps as second class citizens.”
But not at Prime Staffing.
Most markedly, when people think temp agencies they think large gaps of unemployment between short-term jobs, lack of health benefits, and an uncertain future. Fazio offers his employees benefits, vacations, and holiday pay, amongst many other perks.
“In a downed economy, the first thing to come back into the hiring process is temps and consultants.” – Michael Fazio
Fazio has made it his mission to find the most talented and best-qualified employees available, and to keep them consistently working. While most temp agencies are national, Fazio’s places able workers in well-known companies in New York and New Jersey. Keeping it small, he said, helps him maintain high standards.
Jersey City resident Natalie Ortiz has been with Prime Staffing for over a year. In April, she began her current job as an executive assistant for the Madison Avenue branch of TD Bank.
“I’ve always been really hesitant about staffing agencies,” she said. “What I really value most is that I’ve been here for a year, they consistently call to check in to see how things are going, and they immediately answer any of my concerns.”
Taking a chance with temping
“Most people who are unemployed want a permanent job,” Fazio explained. “We tell them, ‘Listen, treat this temporary spot like a working interview.’ There have been many success stories from those who were most hesitant, and the truth is, would you rather be sitting in your house sending out unanswered resumes?”
By “working interview” he means the temp-to-permanent, or temp-to-hire positions that companies offer when they want to get a feel for employees before committing to them. Rather than conducting several long interviews, they actually test drive people. And the people get paid.
Fazio estimates that around 15 percent of those in his agency are hired permanently, but this does not mean his employees are left hanging out to dry. They are kept busy with between 35 and 40 hours of work per week, every week, and the incentives to stay are far-reaching.
Prime Staffing offers child care programs, IRAs, and even happy hours. Fazio mentioned the latest and greatest held at Manhattan’s Public House where around 60 temp employees gathered. These sort of services fill in the gaps that make average temp jobs unappealing and they increase employee retention, he said, which is a goal.
“These guys are top of the line,” Ortiz said. “We get paid vacations and sick days. They really take care of you. You’re not just another person looking for a job.”
The ‘prime’ in Prime Staffing
The key to Fazio’s business’ success, he says, is the screening process. “We’re not just sending a warm body to an office to fill in the holes,” he said. “We won’t even consider placing many people; even those with terrific degrees. If they have a poor attitude of drive, that means nothing.”
Which is how they build their reputation with their top of the line clients, and it is also why said clients continually seek out Prime Staffing temps. They have placed thousands of people in such reputable businesses as New Jersey’s St. Bonaver’s Medical Center, Hoboken’s publishing company John Wiley and Sons, and many Manhattan hospitals. In fact, around 65 percent of the businesses Fazio deals with are in the healthcare industry, and around 35 percent are in banking.
“Part of my business plan is to try to be as recession-proof as possibly by working with healthcare and financial industries, which is something that is always keeping us rolling,” he said. “Believe me, we are very busy. For instance, if I found 10 qualified pediatric nurses today, I could place them tomorrow.”
Last year Prime Staffing employed 900 people, and that number is growing, Fazio explained. After a potential employee emails his agency, a recruiter calls the person in if they’re qualified. They then meet in the office with a team to check out personality, and then there is a process of background screening and testing.
“Once they qualify, the process can go pretty quickly,” Fazio said. “We go over what is available at the moment. Timing is really everything and the more flexibility they have, the more the opportunity.”
He added that if everything goes smoothly a well-qualified and willing employee may be placed within one or two weeks.
“It was a very fast turnout and I was really nervous,” Ortiz said. “I thought they’d just place me anywhere, but it worked out because I really love where I am now.”
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org