👨‍💻 Software Development Body Shop Archetypes

littleROSE
6 min readJul 13, 2021

A client’s POV

What kind of software development body shop agencies do you encounter most frequently when recruiting for full-time and contract roles? I’ve put down my five archetypes (a client’s POV). Feel free to distill some more from your own experience in 💬 comments.

Software Development Body Shop Archetypes — The Hoarders, The Middlemen, The Oversellers, The Redeemers, The Partners
Software Development Body Shop Archetypes — The Hoarders, The Middlemen, The Oversellers, The Redeemers, The Partners

Prologue

Please don’t take the lines below too seriously if you’re in this business. We all do need such services and appreciate the benefits you provide. ❤️ (This goes much deeper into my work history so hopefully there’s need to say that every agency we work with on a long-term basis at Twisto is our “Partner”.) I’m intentionally (sometimes) exaggerating things — that comes with the territory when talking about “archetypes” — and I’m more than sure you’re able to mock us, your clients, as well when it comes to modes of collaboration, sharing info about company culture, processes, budgets and our response time. 😃 (Definitely also 💬 comment on these so that readers on both ends can reflect!)

At the same time I realize that more than ever we need to 🎓 educate people, attract more gals / guys into the field and develop junior engineers so that we not only draw from the (already quite drained and “recycled”) talent pool but also actively contribute to it. That said, as far as body shops are concerned, it seems fair to expect some service beyond what you could provide yourself when you’re on your own.

Archetypes

💰 The Hoarders

The keyword here is “quantity”. Their candidates wonder who you are, start the interview with “What’s the name of your company and job description?” (sometimes they even ask what “body shop” means) and you’re thinking whether you’re really paying someone for passing you profiles of every single software developer on LinkedIn who they got in touch with first (and likely on the day before). It gets even better when you find out they also recruit from your own team for a competitor because there was no internal sync about this detail. Everything is negotiable (the name of the company on the ever-changing contract is updated twice in the meantime), there’s next to no screening on their side and they like that you perform tech assessments because once you’re ready to shake hands, out of the blue there’s yet another company offering a higher price for the (suddenly) senior gal / guy and you should go work out the salary with the candidate yourself. (What kind of value do they bring in the process again?)

🛡️ The Middlemen

By and large, this group has a well-structured database, clear procedures and is very careful about (not) granting you direct contact with the candidates. The resumes you receive are anonymized to the extent they’re barely readable. (Not even talking about the need to reverse-engineer technical terms in CVs translated to English from native languages by people without domain expertise.) You know that there’s someone, somewhere who needs to re-create each calendar invitation and rewrite and forward each message you intend to send to the applicant. When we also consider the super detailed list of skills mentioning all languages, frameworks and libraries where the developer at hand wrote at least one line of code (which, especially when talking about more senior devs, often misses the point as you’re looking for more general experience and abilities, motivation, one’s current goals / interests and whether they would therefore fit and enjoy the kind of work they’ll be engaged in the team you wish to reinforce), the economics of what the high margin on top of the candidate’s salary is spent on becomes clearer and it also makes you feel like the whole industry became quite dehumanized.

🤥 The Oversellers

Do you know the project management rule that one should multiply a software engineer’s estimate by 1.5, 2 or even 3? When referring to the “Oversellers”, don’t forget to divide the years of experience on a profile by a particular constant, based on your observation, since the lowest seniority level here is the mid-level. After a short desk research (or during the interview if you’re unlucky), you’ll find out that “an expert with 10 years of experience with software development” (not talking about the fact that you care more about one’s delivery rather than the total number of years) actually means 2 high school summer part-time jobs at IT support, 5 years of occasionally setting up WordPress sites while studying at a university, one year internship at QA department in a large company right after graduation and (finally) the subsequent 2 years of software development where the job title recently changed from “Junior Software Engineer” to “Software Engineer”. Well, what can you do. Despite the lack of experience, we’ll get him quickly up to speed. At least he worked with our stack in the past. Oh wait, he didn’t… (Have I already mentioned that you need to alter your tech assessment tasks quite frequently as you’re getting suspicious about the fact that the latter candidates come up with a solution even before you’re able to state the problem?)

🌏 The Redeemers

Doing business with this type of body shop seemingly has the lowest barriers to entry. You’re transferred from a world of permanent lack of manpower and high (and constantly rising) salaries (even as we see how the frequently adopted remote-by-default work contributed a bit to balancing the wage differences among countries in IT) into a kingdom far, far away where there’s a silver bullet-like secret mercenary army at your disposal that can solve all of your problems and save you from your sin of not pushing back enough when the timing for scaling the dev team was discussed. After the initial euphoria, you slowly begin to wake up… The setup of your new colleagues is sweetened by due diligence and the paperwork around data protection evokes thoughts about how easy it would be to enforce law in a particular foreign country. Your already busy calendar is now enriched with 2am meetings (fair point, working asynchronously is a skill we all need to sharpen anyway) and whenever there’s an emergency, you can smoothly follow up your night shift with the regular one. It’s quite likely that someone works on something else than they should — it either got lost in translation, or maybe the newcomers are just simultaneously learning a new programming language and English — so the work takes twice as long and you pray that the QA team doesn’t end up with being unable to run the app whatsoever. “This says a lot about where the company is heading” from a trusted workmate / friend is your trigger to book a flight and straighten things up as Zoom calls don’t help. But their rate is truly unbeatable so it still pays off, right? Right? (Note that the definition of the “Redeemer” archetype can be extended by large nearshore, not only offshore, consulting companies and small elite teams or individuals working on their own projects but happy to join you if you can motivate them with an interesting engagement or simply pay the right price.)

🤝 The Partners

The “Partners” have the whole E2E process ready. They walk you through it and don’t change the terms of the deal (no surprises). Partners are interested in everything about the company, take part in interviewing, onboarding and help you with planning resources (including booking them ahead of time on their side). They recommend carefully selected candidates with whom they already went through the basics, assessed skill and cultural fit and confirmed interest in a role. Partners don’t offer individuals but well-coordinated teams. (Or the first fellow is provided with such a vision in mind.) They care about whether “their” developers enjoy the work, pay attention, support and contribute to their professional development, and take on all people management responsibilities. They readily give you honest feedback and are happy to get and process feedback as well. If something doesn’t click on one side or the other, the Partners are proactive in finding a solution. Partners have complete ownership over initiatives they deliver and participate in design and implementation of various tweaks and best practices (not only) in the engineering team. You won’t tell the difference between “your own” and external developers and feel that the MD rate is justified.

So, what can you take out of it? You can make a copy of this spreadsheet and evaluate / reflect on your suppliers.

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