Each option has its pros and cons, and some can even be combined during a job search. I would advise that you ask yourself which option or combination of options might work best for you and then factor that into your strategy.Contract employment is usually described as a long-term, project-based job during which you use professional-level skills. Projects can be short term or long term, and you are either self employed as a consultant or employed/paid by a third-party firm.
Temporary assignments can vary in length - from a day or two (e.g. while an employee is out sick, is out training, etc.) to several months (e.g. while an employee is on medical leave). Often, but not always, temporary assignments entail duties requiring lighter skills, especially the short-term ones. Many people refer to temporary jobs as "transitional" jobs, but I've met a few professional temporary employees over the years. These types of workers usually have other interests such as acting and music, so being non-committed to a traditional employer suits them.
The temporary-to-hire option allows a company and a job candidate to go through a third-party during a designated assessment period. Sometimes the trial period is an economic choice for the company, but more often the trial is used to be sure the employer/employee match is a good one before a commitment to hire and acceptance of employment is finalized.
If the staffing firm has a strong relationship with the hiring company, they should be able to give you insight and feedback during the selection and hiring process. Should things not work out, technically you would still be employed by the staffing firm and wouldn't have to show a possible short-term disaster on your resume.
Check out the benefits situation - does the staffing firm offer anything while you are their payroll? Also, when you are hired by the company, how long do you have to wait to qualify for their benefits? The time you're temporary probably won't count toward that period.
Even though many temporary-to-hire positions start out as temporary and evolve to temporary-to-hire status, most temporary-to-hire jobs requires a fresh interview process. Sometimes, because of the possibility of a trail period, both you and the hiring manager might chance a less thorough interview and selection process. This increases the risk factor of a mismatch.
Executive search firms, third-party recruiters and most staffing firms offer the option of presenting you for regular positions with their clients. It is called direct hire because the hiring company does not request that you go though the payroll of a third party but, rather, hires you directly as staff. Most recruiters are paid on a contingency basis - when they make the placement, they are paid - while others work on a retainer basis. Either way, their primary commitment is to the company who has engaged them for the search. However, if you spend the time to develop this relationship, you might just find that a seasoned recruiter can become a long-term advocate and coach for you - someone who can be there as your career develops and it's time to make further job advancements.
A good recruiter will represent you and "sell" your candidacy well and will have both a trained as well as innate sense of matching you to available opportunities. He or she will also likely have the edge of an established relationship with the hiring authority, allowing him or her to be able to persuade the hiring company to interview you better than your cover letter ever could.
Since there's a good chance a recruiter will know his or her client well, you'll receive extra guidance you wouldn't otherwise have interviewing on your own. He or she should give you insight to the company's culture, tell you about the hiring manager's interview style, and assist with salary negotiation.No matter which way you decide to go, remember that when you engage with third-party recruiters and representatives at staffing firms you should develop the relationship just as you would with any person in your network.