Dec 21

A few months ago, I found myself seeking a new web development job.  Although the entire process itself could make for a very entertaining narrative, I think the most memorable portion was my experience with a local car dealership in my area. 

The story began with a simple newspaper ad mentioning their [the car dealership's] need for a “web guru with experience in search engines, design, and keywords” (yes, they were seeking a web developer exclusively through the newspaper).  Although hesitant about a job title of “web guru”, after viewing their dreadful web site, I thought I'd give them a call.  My call was greeted by a sales manager with a welcoming (although somewhat fake) attitude of excitement and interest in meeting me.  I had lots of experience from my last job (Eponym.com & Scrubshopper.com) in development, design, e-commerce, marketing, search engine optimization, and even personal experience marketing cars on Ebay– so I felt like it was a great fit and they seemed to agree.

The obvious down-side: I knew it wouldn’t be easy working for a car dealer. Surprisingly though, the initial interview process went off without much of a hitch (except for an expectation they had for me to work Saturdays and be a car salesman part-time).  Fast forward to our final meeting:  After setting up meetings and having them canceled repeatedly, I began to feel that they were playing games with me.  This infuriated me and as time wore on, things would only get worse.  After yet more delays, I finally showed up to see their offer and haggle it out with them.  They first ushered me into a cold, dark, and tiny office buried deep within the building that had a very hard, uncomfortable little chair in the corner for me to sit on.  The sales manager came in and said a little blurb about how much they needed me, then decided to go check and see where the owner's son, we'll call him John, was.  After a lengthy period of sitting in this blank, cold, room — alone with nothing to do or look at (another typical car dealer tactic), he returned alone.  “He’ll be here shortly,” he stated matter-of-factly.  After yet more fruitless minutes, John came in and we began haggling back and forth on typical employment issues and miraculously came to an agreement on most of them, but salary still hadn’t been mentioned yet.  John jogged out of the room “to grab the offer from his Dad” (who apparently made these types of decisions). 

He was gone for another good amount of time (again more delays), in which he returned with a plain piece of white paper with a number scribbled on it hot out of the copy machine.  Now I can't be certain, but I truly believe he simply wrote a number on a piece of paper and photocopied it so that it looked like it hadn't come from him (still more silly tactics).  He had gone to a 'higher authority' such that it seemed the decisions on the salary weren't within his control at all.  I won’t tell you the number written on the piece of paper, but I can honestly say it was pretty degrading.  I had the knowledge and skills to completely change the profit margins of this business, but they had just effectively ruled me out – by treating my like just another car sale.  I stared at the paper big-eyed, and using a technique they use themselves, stated: “well, that’s not really a do-able number for me.”  I let my words hang in the air which created an awkward silence, knowing one of the two men would eventually respond.  I could feel them doing their very best to make me squirm… they had done this throughout the entire process.  I wondered how often poor customers were trapped in this room bitterly seeking a decent deal on their new car, but instead feeling confused and upset by the entire experience.

After a tense minute or so, John cautiously asked me what I felt was a better number.  I was prepared with salary data from our area for similar job descriptions (courtesy of Salary.com) and offered them both copies of what I was expecting.  The median salary was considerably more than twice their offer.  “We can’t go that high at all, it’s just not feasible,” the sales manager blurted out gruffly.  I shrugged my shoulders and started packing up my things.  “Don't worry, we’ll put our heads together and come up with a new number that you might like more,” said John.  They had already lost me; there's no way I would work for a company that would treat a prospective employee like they had.  As I walked out, the sales manager promised he would call me the next day with another offer.  I knew it wouldn’t come; instead, they would wait for me to call them and I simply never would.  How could I ever trust an employer like that?  I am still in awe of the tactics they used on me. 

Two weeks later, I received an offer from Consumer Testing Labs (my current employer) that made me feel that I was a valued employee– even before I ever started the salary negotiation process.  This feeling of value contributed greatly to my accepting the job.  You may be thinking: “spoiled kid, that’s nothing compared to my horror story job offer.”  I agree, it wasn’t that bad– but it was bad enough for me to want to share my experience with any other young web developers out there seeking a new job.

So what's my point with this article?  I don't have a vendetta out against this dealership or any member of the company.  Truthfully, I just want to show young developers out there who are in the process of seeking a new job what to look out for.  I'd also like to inspire companies seeking a talented web developer to carefully review their hiring and salary negotiation processes before assuming existing methods will work for this type of specialized employee.  Web developers & programmers are a completely different type of person than you [likely] currently employ and deserve special attention.  We are information specialists and our value is not only in the skills and experience we possess, but our ability to instantly change the profit margins of your business (if sufficiently motivated and talented).  Moral of the story: invest in us and we can more than offset our salary in sales, profits, and other intangible benefits.

- Dustin Weber

One Response to “What Not To Do When Hiring A Web Developer”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Is it just me or did this article change?
    What happened to the original one?

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