The Bottom for Technical Recruiting Just Keeps Getting Lower

November 11, 2020

Ordinarily I wouldn’t drag something this specific onto my geek blog, but every time I try to reply to the pimps email it bounces.

gandi.net doc

I had never heard of gandi.net. Given how well their email works I suspect they won’t be around for very long. Why do I need to have an unsubscribe link when I reply to email that came through their system?

How does an automatic filter identify “poorly organized content” anyway?

At any rate, I doubt this pimp will be around that long. Here’s a few rather obvious reasons.

Nice tag line, but you have to actually earn such a tag line.

no https

I tried, they don’t have an https:// address. Even I bothered to do that and I hate having to mess with my Web sites. Despite what people tell you, it’s a lot of work when you have Web pages that specify the full path to other Web pages on your site. Relative pathing is insecure but it is a cheat I see in many Web programming examples.

So, basically this pimp called because one of my alerts popped up they were now shopping around a gig that I believe has been open for two years. It looked like the client dropped some of the more worthless requirements so I responded. Really bad clients do this. They bounce an opening from pimp to pimp to pimp unwilling to believe they are offering too little money for too many skills. Another massive mistake bad clients make is wanting senior developers to use AGILE. Professionals won’t touch AGILE with a hundred mile pole. No, getting paid doesn’t make you a professional.

This person at least spoke native English which was refreshing. They left a message. When I called back I didn’t hear “The Magic Jack Customer you have called…” so I had a bit more hope than I do with the illegal alien firms. Hope that was quickly dashed. It was a short phone call. Recruiter tried to play the “professionalism” card. You have to be an actual professional to play that card.

Just how up on technology is a firm that hasn’t bothered to get an https:// address? Admittedly it is not that secure, but it is a touch better than nothing.

I tried to respond to the email they sent me, twice, but that gandi mail service (which won’t be around for long) wouldn’t let either email through.

What really sent the gopher down the mountain was someone thinking all they needed to be a technical recruiter was a telephone. They believed that they could read verbatim from the script of questions and that the questions would be good and just. Said questions generally are provided by account managers that know even less about technology than the recruiters. Those questions are never right.

Senior Developers

Senior developers, those with 30+ years in the field who have other interests in life take a lot of time off. Some of us write an award winning technical book series during the off time. Others work on OpenSource projects like that CopperSpice and Diamond thing you’ve been reading about on here.

At this stage of a senior developer’s career you only take projects that are interesting. You work really hard at a high billing rate for 6-14 months then you take 8-24 months off doing other things. It’s called semi-retired in some circles. I call it a stress free life. Coworkers can’t understand how I can join a project putting in 70-90 hours per week for almost the entire length of the project. Well, it is because I do these other things to decompress between projects.

Being able to come home to the family farm really helps as well. Yeah, I get drafted into an awful lot of grunt labor while I’m here, but it is different. (We just finished harvest btw, and I just got my new title pushed out the door so it is time to get back under contract.)

Senior developers have more past than future in their careers. We’ve done lots. Things that interest us we continue to do. We aren’t built in such a way we could fully retire even if we have the $8+million a person needs to retire in America.

Respect and Professionalism

It is the height of disrespect to not bother learning anything about the industry for which you recruit.

It is the definition of unprofessional to assume you can work from a short list of questions provided by someone else.

Only the lowest of the low try to chisel a remote rate down to illegal alien wages then expect the consultant to travel on-site out of state for the same shitty rate.

Seriously, if you are going to be recruiting C++ developers then you need to read an overview of what C++ really is. “Just another programming language” ain’t gonna win you qualified candidates. You need to be able to vet the questions you have been given to ask. Some of the really bad ones you can vet with a quick Web search.

C++ Does not have versions, compilers do

Here’s a little snippet from wikipedia

Zortech C++ compiler

That is the first C++ compiler I worked with. I upgraded from their DOS C compiler. You will notice the compilers have versions.

gnu c++ compiler version

It is far too long to include in a single email, but Gnu and most other compilers have command line switches controlling which STANDARD is used.

When working with CopperSpice one must use c++17 and that is what I’ve been using lately. When working at/for/with medical device clients I tend to use c++11. The medical device world tends to not skim the bleeding edge; favoring security and stability over new and cool.

Traveling Consultant

When one is a traveling consultant they take corporate housing. This means they have to work 1099 instead of W-2 because under W-2 travel expenses are not tax deductible as a business expense. (If you have been telling people to do that or have been doing it yourself expect a rather brutal conversation with the IRS. Bring a lawyer because you might be going to jail.)

Corporate housing is very expensive.

One must also pay income tax in multiple states. You really need a tax professional to handle all of that for you. Also leave any over payment in the hands of the state and federal revenue services. Nope, nope, nope, that isn’t your savings for a big end of year trip or splurge. That’s your insurance policy. If there turns out to be some horrific mistake on your taxes you can pass the red face test.

Truth be told, unless it is a catastrophic mistake, you aren’t even asked to take the red face test. You just get a letter in the mail from the IRS (or your state version) saying “according to our records this isn’t allowed so your carryover is now this amount.” Hang onto that letter and hand it to your tax person next year. Know that this will happen periodically. Sometimes it will be your fault and other times the agency’s mistake. Consider it a cost of doing business and move on.

When I’m going to a place I’ve never been before, after staying in a hotel for the first couple of weeks so I have an escape hatch if we don’t like each other, I book corporate housing. National isn’t the highest of the high end nor are they low. They are really more upper middle.

National rates for boulder

It has been my experience that those “starting from” prices are for the studio apartments even when you tell the search you want at least a one bedroom. Please re-visit my three part series “Calculating Your Minimum Billing Rate.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Know that I wrote than in 2011 after a similar dispute with a pimp. Your first week must pay for a full month of corporate housing.

31 days * $130-per-day = $4030 / 40 hours = $100.75

No, you can’t spread it across the entire month because the other weeks have to cover your other expenses.

No, you can’t make Extended Stay America work for six-plus months. I use them for short contracts of three months or less. You usually get a lot of construction crews in them though. At 4am on Monday morning the fire alarm goes off because some fool didn’t read the sign about turning the fan on high before starting to cook bacon. Plan on brutal Monday mornings when you stay there.

One can make Residence Inn or Candlewood Suites work for six plus months if you don’t mind communal laundry. Just know that you will have a studio without an oven. You can’t bake Cod fish for a healthy supper nor can you heat up a frozen pizza. Electric stove top or a microwave are your cooking options. I point this out so you don’t fall into the price trap.

Candlewood Suites option
31 days * $75-per-day = $2325 / 40 = $58.125

The hidden cost here is the roughly dollar per load to wash clothes and another dollar or so to dry each load. More importantly you will be eating most of your meals out unless you want to subsist on salads and microwave dinners.

Rolling Over

Don’t get me wrong, I like Candlewood Suites. I’ve used them quite a bit over my career. I go in with my eyes wide open though. I know I will be eating out almost every meal. (I’ve never tried to cook bacon in one either.) When I know a gig will not run longer than four months and it is in an area where none of the corporate housing companies I talk with has a unit rolling over, I first look for Candlewood. I have consulting friends who love Residence Inn; I just can’t make the numbers work for them. I guess I love money more than I love the place?

Please don’t talk to me about AirBnB or any of these other room rental places. That’s always a tragedy. They definitely aren’t long term options. As a general rule the only place within a reasonable commute of your client site will fall into one of these categories.

  • Someone with a zillion kids looking to make a buck on the side by having you take the “spare” room the kids keep scattering toys in.
  • The elderly couple who want you to spend each evening meal with them telling them stories of all the places you’ve been and things you’ve seen . . . until you run out of stories.
  • That 400+ pound dude with enough back hair to be mistaken for an ape and you know this because they have a penchant for walking around in red bikini underwear that come out of a plastic tube.
  • A “basement unit.”
  • An in-laws apartment.

During my college days I rented an in-laws apartment. They are typically created by people who hate their in-laws. You typically find them in bungalow type houses. Someone adds a few dormers to the attic. A bathroom and a tiny kitchen area along with a sleeping area and a “living” area. No air conditioning. One tiny little stick out the wall heater but you are supposed to just let the heat drift up from the first floor through a tiny opening.

A college kid can do something like this for a while. A senior developer cannot. After a week you won’t be working at the level the client needs you to work and you will be canned.

The only good way to save money on corporate housing is to have a long term relationship with a housing company.

Most people have a complete misconception about corporate housing. While there are some companies that have individual units with furniture and things previous owners left there; renting it out time and time again; that is not most. The previous type companies deal only in wire transfers or company checks via ACH. You can get a slight deal if you have a big checking account, but the quality of stay will vary rather dramatically. Most will be condos in the “cheaper areas” of a location. I have had pleasant stays in some, but . . . you have to know what you are getting into.

Your primary type of corporate housing company has leasing arrangements with newer apartment complexes. They also have leasing arrangements with furniture leasing companies. You have to sign for a minimum three months or pay a real premium. They need anywhere from 48-hours to two weeks to set up a unit for you. They take credit cards. After the initial three months they will let you do month by month.

All of the furniture and dishes are new or very very close to it. One corporate housing company told me I could take any of the dishes I wanted when I moved out. They said I had paid for them moving in and they were just going to take them to a second hand store. I didn’t take anything because, just how much of that stuff do you need?

These companies have standards. When you are a new customer they set up a new unit, period. You will be quoted list price. When you are an old customer who has rented many times, you can call a rep and ask for a roll over unit. If you have a fantastic relationship with the company you can tell them “just clean it.” Your move-in fees will be really low. You will get a slightly better deal on the rent. If your relationship is only good or the rep is new, they will inside on putting new bedding and towels in the unit. Fees will still be lower than new and you may get a break on the rent. You definitely won’t pay the advertised price from the Web site.

You are still going to pay a lot of money.

Corporate housing is not a $50/night low budget hotel. It is also not “a furnished apartment” like many apartment complexes try to pass off. You give them your credit card, fill out a little form for the background check, wait a few days. Then you show up with your clothes and computers. Everything else is there and ready to go. Find a grocery store and go shopping. You have a washer and dryer in your unit. You have parking. You have television (usually in both living room and bedroom).

More and more corporate housing companies have come to the realization they actually have to cater to business travelers and that business travelers need a desk with an actual office chair.

Desk and chair national set me up with

After years of begging various corporate housing companies and even sending some links to used office furniture shops near the housing unit telling them they could bill me $70 for the desk and $100 for the chair, National got me a brand new desk with a second hand chair. That’s why I’m talking National up so much here and why I look to them first for pricing. I know I can get an actual desk.

I got really lucky with Apex Corporate Housing on one gig. They are a cash and carry type corporate housing company, no credit cards. The unit they had for me was a two bedroom and it had two desks.

Primary desk

Keep in mind that a traveling consultant goes on-site to work like a dog and make a lot of money. You aren’t a tourist. You aren’t there to try out all of the restaurants and see all of the attractions. You went there for billable hours. Your cost of living is more than twice that of the locals. If you are like me with a book series and OpenSource projects, your “off time” you spend working on new books, writing blog posts, and doing a bit of OpenSource coding.

I love going on-site in the winter! Especially when I can get in-building parking!

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