Monday, June 30, 2008

CTS makes record campus offers for Anna University

On 23-Jun-2008 Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS) gave offer letters to 1,100 students of College of Engineering, Guindy. link

According to the official website of the college of engineering(CEG), Guindy, their intake of students into undergraduate courses each year is around 800 . Though I cannot find exact figures for the intake of post graduates and research students, I am guessing it would be around 400. Thus, assuming all the students graduate, every year around 1200 students pass out of the college.

Which implies that CTS has given offer letters to practically all the students coming out of CEG next year!

From the point of view of CTS, this is an excellent move, both strategically as well as tactically. Students of CEG are generally very good, both because of the stringent admission criteria (which ensures that only students with excellent academic records gain admission) as well as the quality of their facilities and faculty. So CTS can expect that at least 50% of the students will join and do very well at work. The time and effort to get over 500 good employees in this manner would have been really low.
From a tactical stand point, CTS has ensured that none of the other players (TCS, Infosys, Satyam, etc.) can get anyone from CEG! (Most campus recruitment rules stipulate that if a student has got an offer from one Tier 1 company, he/she cannot appear for any other interview).

As for the college, all their students have gotten placed and that augers well for the future reputation of CEG.

Only when I think of this with the student's interest in mind and that of the country as a whole, do I start to worry.

1. To start with, what CTS has done is to hoard potential employees. In one fell swoop they have reserved all the candidates for themselves and ensured that the students cannot get themselves jobs in any other company through the campus recruitment process. With this kind of control, now the company can delay the sending of appointment letter for as long as it wants without too much risk.
And this happens quite a lot already. I have heard of many a case where the student received the appointment letter (from a very large company) only 8 months after she completed her degree. Even after that, for over 6 months she was not involved in any project. So effectively, for nearly a year and a half, she did not do any work. Of course, from the outside we can all ask why she did not go and find herself a job elsewhere. But, in reality, most students (and their parents) are very reluctant to rock the boat once they have received an offer letter from a large company with a "good" reputation.
While I am not suggesting that CTS will follow this path, given how the market is yo-yo'ing these days, this could very well happen.

2. Of the 1,100 students, only about 10 - 15 % of them have computer science degrees. All the other are from such varied disciplines as Civil, Electrical and Electronics, Communication engineering, mechanical engineering, Industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, printing technology, mining engineering, material sciences and engineering and agriculture and irrigation engineering. Not only are these students ill-equipped to work in a software engineering environment, by joining a software company, they are also ensuring that all the work they have put in (apart from the efforts put in by the faculty) to learn their discipline goes completely to waste. Where are we going to find the next generation of competent civil engineers? Who is going to help improve the Indian agricultural sector? Who is going to lead us in our competition with China in the manufacturing sector?
Again, I am not suggesting that this problem has only arisen now because of CTS. We have been facing this problem ever since the start of the software revolution in India. It is just that, instead of addressing this problem, the Indian industry seems to be doing things to exacerbate it.

3. Will the 3rd year students who have got the offers continue to study with interest now that they have got a job offer in hand? What incentive is there for students of other disciplines to study when they already have a job offer and the subjects they need to study have no relevance to the work they are going to do! Why cannot these campus interview be conducted at the end of the 4th year (for 4 year degrees) thereby giving the students an additional one year of opportunity to learn and gain interest in their area of expertise.
The power to allow campus interviews only for students in their final academic year is completely in the hands of the colleges. If the guardians of education do not care, who will?

4. Do the students studying disciplines other than computer science have any future in their field of study/interest? Is there any overlap at all between their area of study and their field of interest? If such a overlap exists are we doing anything to sustain and encourage that?

5. What happens to computer science students from other colleges, especially tier 2 colleges which are not able to attract companies to come and conduct campus recruitment? Despite having studied computer science, do they have job openings in their area of expertise?

Has individual, corporate and collective greed become so all-encompassing that we cannot even see the kind of lop-sided growth we are fostering? We are no longer behaving like a country that wants to progress in all fronts including science, technology (other than software), equal education and employment opportunities for all,self sufficiency, alleviation of poverty, good and affordable health care for all and self preservation. We have merely become a provider of semi-skilled labour (whatever is the flavour of the day or decade) for the world.

Today, India has become just a temp staffing outfit!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Job sites and privacy issues (2)

Another question that crops up frequently is
Does fudging my contact details on my online resume reduce my credibility?

The answer, most definitely, is YES! In fact, fudging leads to more than just diminished credibility, it could actually take you to jail! Fudging any part of your resume is a big no-no. Your curriculum Vitae or resume is a sacrosanct document which typically ends with
I hereby declare that the information I have provided is accurate to the best of my knowledge
followed by your signature. While this does not make your resume a legal document, your employment contract is most definitely a legal document and it is based on the belief that the resume is factually accurate.

Given the fact that this method of "privacy protection" is used quite often on online job sites, most employers try to rationalize this behaviour. Nevertheless, on deeper probing many of them do agree that at least at a subconscious level, some amount of credibility of the person (who has done the fudging) diminishes.

Let's look at this from the potential employer's perspective.

It is only natural for a potential employer to think "if he has fudged this, what else would he have fudged?" With that thought, in one fell swoop, your entire credibility goes down the drain. Guilty until proven innocent!

Additionally, no matter what the realities of today's corporate world may be, it is difficult for most employers to understand why people have to hide the fact that they want to move on to another job. Remember, they face this situation every day in their own offices with people leaving for one reason or another (however legitimate the reasons may be). So they have been in a situation before where one or more of their employees started looking out for another job while working there. So it does not take a great amount of imagination to figure out that they will think "If she is doing that in that company, what makes us feel she won't do the same thing here?". There goes your trustworthiness, even before day one at the new job!

There is no point in starting the rest of your career on the back foot. Don't make the mistake of fudging your resume. If your job site does not provide adequate legitimate means of privacy protection, dump them and go elsewhere.

Like I said before, fudging your resume, for any reason, is a no-no!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Job sites and privacy issues (1)

Many people have expressed concerns about the privacy protection actually provided by the current crop of job sites. Despite the fact that most job sites boldly declare "100% privacy protection guaranteed" on their home pages, these concerns seem to continue to remain at the top of the users' minds - with good reason!

Having tired of explaining to each one individually, I have decided that a series of blog entries would help all concerned. In each post of this series, I will try and answer one of the constantly recurring questions. Here goes...

Q. If I register myself on a jobsite, will just anybody and everybody be able to see my resume? Importantly, will my current employer find out?

A. The short answer is yes, mostly. The longer answer follows...

Most job sites, such as naukri, monster, timesjobs and shine provide the user with multiple levels of privacy. It is very important to understand their capabilities and limitations clearly.

The first option provided is the invisibility flag. By default it is set to false so everybody can see you. You can, however, turn it on. What this does is that it effectively makes you invisible to all. Including potential employers and recruiters - which may not be quite what you want! However, you can still log on to the site, search through their list of job postings and apply for one or more of the jobs, just as usual.

The other options that sites provide is a flag that says "Don't let my current employer see me!" Usually, this is set to true by default. While the intent of the job site is good, this option, based on my discussions with many HR departments and recruiters , is pretty much worthless.

The way this option works is that when your current employer uses his/her account to login and search for candidates, you are automatically excluded from the search results so that your employer does not find out that you are actively searching for employment behind his/her back. If other employers log in with their user id / password and search the candidate database, if your profile matches the search criteria, you will be part of the search result. So far so good.

But employers are constantly worried about attrition and are desperate to know who all among their employees are planning to leave. That is quite understandable, especially in industries with high attrition rates like IT and ITES. So, what they do is identify a friendly organization, a sister concern or a recruitment firm that has accounts with some of the popular job sites and exchange account information. So company A uses company B's account, logs in and searches for "All candidates who are currently employed in company A who have updated their profiles in the last x months". Presto! they now have the list of all their employees attempting to jump ship including, unfortunately, you!

Finally, there is the third option, which is to fudge your contact information and any other details specifically identifying you, from your profile. Most job sites do not and cannot check the validity of any of these entries and so your employer will never find your profile online. Of course, there are problems with this approach. which I will address in another blog entry.

In summary, none of the existing job sites can guarantee the kind of privacy protection that you would ideally want. Not that it can't be done, mind you. Complete privacy protection is definitely possible, but you would require serious gumption to implement it! Check out Search In Stealth.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What do you do at work?

My home desktop's monitor died on me recently. I called Dell customer service and had the best customer support interaction ever!

The customer service agent, let us call her Anu, took down the monitor's serial number and after a few seconds told me that my warranty had expired 20 days earlier. I asked her if I could extend the warranty now and still have the monitor covered. She said she would check and was gone for about 3 minutes while I waited impatiently, all the time cursing my luck with gadgets which seemed programmed to die immediately after warranty expires. Just as I was beginning to think that she was never going to come back, she said "I'll tell you what; I just had a chat with my manager and this is what I'll do - I will replace your monitor as part of the existing warranty and then you can call the warranty department and extend your warranty at your convenience, if you so wish. How does that sound?"

I was obviously overjoyed and agreed to it whole-heartedly. She asked for another couple of minutes while the system registered the details during which time she continued talking to me about other things with genuine interest.

The very next day, at half past nine in the morning, I had a spanking, brand new monitor on my desk!

If somebody asks her what she does at work, she can truthfully say "I keep our clients happy by providing friendly and efficient customer services".

So, what do you do at work?