Monday, December 21, 2009

Exploring the underbelly of the recruitment space in India

I recently attended the 4th ERA Convention at Chennai. It was a well-organized half-day affair jam packed with speakers and panel discussions. What was really heartening to see, as an outsider, was the frank and open exchange of views between industry leaders and HR heads on the one side, and CEOs of recruitment firms on the other.

I could easily see that there was little love lost between the two sides. While the results of their business together was clearly not satisfactory to either side, there was however, clear agreement that recruitment firms were an absolute necessity for most companies and that the two parties need to sit down and find ways to work together in a more meaningful and predictable manner.

Easier said than done, because the entire recruitment system, especially here in India is broken in more places than you can shake all your fingers and toes at!

Over the next few posts, I am going to explore the underbelly of the recruitment system where recruitment firms, employers and the candidates dance to different tunes that only they can hear. Today, we will start with how, in the last 20 years (since the advent of the IT boom), people have become more and more commoditized and how this is creating problems for all the parties concerned.

People, in the eyes of most organizations, are merely commodities. Most companies in India, for the bulk of their recruitment are looking for mindless borgs that are cheap and can do their work to a reasonable extent. This is especially true at low to middle levels across industries such as IT, ITES and retail where body count:size of the company as goats:An Arab's status.

With that being the case, recruitment agencies are forced to behave like body shippers rather than talent scouts, thereby leading to recruiters providing low quality resumes like food at an all-you-can-eat for a dollar ninety-nine buffet. Which of course, naturally p*sses off the companies.

Additionally, many of the people thus recruited in bulk have very little by way of career growth (what does a call agent become with experience? What does a retail shop floor attendent become after a few years?), and hence show very little loyalty and constantly jump ship for meagre hikes. This again creates a lot of angst in companies who promptly blame the recruiter for selecting substandard people.

Needless to say, people are also getting a raw deal in all this, with recruiters overselling the job opportunity and employers not explaining clearly enough the actual job description. Plus the fact that many of these people are moving from rural into urban areas means that they feel they have no choice but to accept any job that comes their way.

All adding up to a lose-lose-lose situation. And nothing that can be readily rectified until fundamental attitudes change.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to look for a job without putting pressure on oneself

StressImage by Dave-F via Flickr

Looking for a job can be one of the most anxiety inducing activities that one can undertake. Last week I wrote a post about how you can look for a job without unduly stressing yourself.
To read it, go here.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Speed interviewing works

I am sure you have heard of speed dating. This is a process in which a lot of men and women looking for dates come together in a hall and each man/woman "dates" every other woman/man for 1-2 minutes. The idea behind this is the belief that it takes a person only a minute or two to decide whether another person is compatible to them or not. While many people were sceptical about this concept, other scientific studies have shown that we as human beings are actually very quick at judging other people, and quite accurately at that.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Blink, where he tells us how intuition, sixth sense, impulse or whatever you may want to call it, is a highly evolved brain function that helps you make quick decisions.

Recently Seth Godin has written about how speed interviewing works. What he says rings true, because in my experience, I have always been able to judge the suitability of a person within the first 3 - 5 minutes (even though I ended up stretching the interview for half an hour).

So next time you are interviewing a bunch of people, give speed interviewing a try. And let me know what you think.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Job applicants lie for financial jobs in the depths of the recession

Job applicants are attempting to deceive firms in the financial services more and more. And those turning to lies and embellishments to land jobs are the youngest applicants.
Read more about it here.
Relevant news from elsewhere on the web.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The fickle Indians

Last week, I visited a private arts and science college on the outskirts of Chennai to inaugurate their computer science association.

They have three courses related to computer science - BSc(Computer Science),B.C.A, and BSc (Information Technology). Since inception, these courses have been growing in demand, so much so that from the intial one batch they had, they have now grown to 3 batches each year in order to accommodate all the students opting for these courses!

Except this year. This year, due to the negative publicity that the IT industry has received, thanks to the economic downturn and the Satyam fiasco, there have been very few takers for these software related courses! This behaviour has been seen in other colleges also. Even reputed engineering colleges such as Guindy Engineering College and the IITs have not been spared. All these colleges have a few computer science seats still unfilled! Unheard of, since the dot com burst, of course!

This is one more symptom of the malais in the Indian psyche, culture and the education system. Most students seem to choose their courses not based on their interests but based on what is in the greatest demand in the job market.
This results in a skewed educated work force leading to myriad problems including
  • Intense competition for some courses leading to tension and stress among students
  • Lack of growth in some areas which are not as "job friendly"
  • A low diversity work force, making the economy dependent on the flourishing of a few industries and highly susceptible to any downturn in those industries
  • Complete lack of excellence in any industry
  • Lack of manpower in other areas of engineering, not to mention pure sciences.

All this leads to India remaining merely a labour force rather than a country aspiring to push the envelop of science and technology.

Will this ever change?
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Sunday, July 26, 2009


DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN07 - Nandan M. Nilekan...Image via Wikipedia

I don't usually write about non-job market related stuff on this blog. But every once in a while, I need to express my views on other issues. One such issue is the Unique Identification project headed by Nandan Nilekani. I believe that, though this is not directly connected with the job market now, soon the Unique Identification will be playing a major role in every aspect of our lives including our professional one, so in a way, I guess this subject is not entirely off-topic.

I am planning to keep a close watch on how the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is progressing and give unsolicited advice every now and then. Please feel free to voice your thoughts as comments to this post.

The first task that the UIDAI is planning to embark on is to create a database of the 1.17 Billion Indian population. Apparently, the database will help in the issuance of identification cards for every person in India.

I already have two issues to raise here:

The first is about the database. While I hope they use the existing databases for a start, for the UID to really work where the others have failed, they have to ensure that the large portions of the population that have always fallen through the cracks are covered this time. One example of such a population is the Bihari population that has migrated to all parts of India in search of work. Take for instance the Biharis who have moved to Chennai who form a large portion of the labour force that is working on the MRTS projects. They have completely uprooted themselves from their native land and have moved to Chennai, lock-stock-and-barrel. They have no home address, many times no homes at all (living under the partially constructed MRTS), and have precious little by way of unique identification.

Can we take two or three such clearly identifiable "problem" populations and see if the envisaged solutions work?
Some questions we should be able to answer clearly include
1. How can they uniquely identify themselves?
2. How can they register under the PDS scheme?
3. How can they ensure that their children get admissions in the nearest public schools?
4. How can these people enroll under the NREGS, NREGA schemes and avail the benefits?
5. How can we provide them with (and track) the basic health coverage that they require?

I hope we do not just concentrate on the low-hanging, easily identifiable, middle class, urban population.

My second issue is even more fundamental - is providing an identity card workable?
Given that a fair number of people don't have homes, or even pockets (Remember, Sarees have no pockets), will people be able to hold on to these cards for long periods?
How ruggedized can these cards be?
What percentage of these cards are expected to be lost on an annual basis?
How long will it be before people report missing or stolen cards?
What will it take to provide replacement cards?
Will one need to go to a police station and file an FIR to get a replacement card?
What identity proof does one need to provide to get a replacement card?

I am sure we can think of a million other issues that are specific to poor nations such as ours, that are non-issues in more advanced countries which have these identity cards. So here is my fundamental question - Do we need to provide cards at all? What if we record into our database the finger prints (of all 10 finger, if you will) and the retina prints of every citizen? Anytime we need to identify ourselves uniquely, we have all that is required right there with us. Would that work? what are the problems?

Please do leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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Advice for participants of the Virtual Pool Program at Satyam

As you know, Satyam, or Mahindra Satyam as it is called now, has created a virtual pool program(VPP) for over 7500 of its employees. As part of the program, the employees will remain on the rolls of Satyam for another 4 months. During this period they will be paid a reduced salary, but would not have to attend office. If during the next 4 months, there are openings in Satyam, then these employees belonging to the VPP will be given first preference and reinstated in their old position. If, however, no openings materialize, then at the end of the four months period, the VPP members may have to resign and find other employment.

While this is not a satisfactory situation for anyone - employees or company, it is one of the few options that Satyam has had given the market and company situation. In my mind, I am pretty sure that a majority of the people in the VPP will not get reinstated unless the global economy dramatically improves, which is quite unlikely, though there are signs of recovery.

So, I thought it may be a good thing to list down some of the things that Satyam employees reading this blog could do to help themselves.

First, realize the following:
1. That you come from a company that has been one of the top 5 delivery organizations.
2. The Raju fiasco and the downturn in the market has resulted in this situation and not your performance.
3. Satyam, the company is also not entirely to blame for this situation.
4. As a trained Satyamite, you are probably one of the better software engineers in India.
5. Given a choice between an ex-Satyam candidate and any other candidate, most software services companies would still prefer an ex-Satyam-ite.
6. There are always opportunities for good candidate in any market.
7. The market will definitely improve.

Now, do the following:
1. Build your network now.
2. Start looking out for opportunities.
3. Call and tell your friends that you are looking for openings.
4. Get your paper work in order [Your joining letter, service letter, recommendations from your boss,...]
5. Request your company to provide you with a copy of the credential verification report that they would have procured when you were hired.
6. Build your profile with all the details of the projects you have done.
7. Keep an eye out for all the job openings within Satyam, so that you can quickly identify those that you are suitable for.
8. Join thousands of your fellow VPP members on and dramatically improve your chances of finding your next job.
All the best.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Your resume database is your enemy

Diabetes365 Day 32 November 8th - The business...

A lot of companies (and placement agencies) collect and maintain their own database of resumes, in the mistaken belief that this will help them identify the right talent faster. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me illustrate this with an analogy.

Assume you are running a pharmacy (drugstore/apothecary), and 75% of your stock is past its use by date. Assume also that you add your new stock into this same inventory and mix it up. Now tell me, do you think your shop will meet the demands of your customers, be profitable, or efficient?

Answer's very clear, isn't it? So how come you don't believe the same is true with your resume database. Each resume is equivalent to say, a capsule of medicine. It ages, obviously, because the resume is a static document which is nothing but a snapshot of the profile of a person at the time it was written. Its typical use by date is three months from the time it was written. Now if you have a steady stream of resumes being added to your database and you maintain these resumes for exactly 1 year in your database, that means that at any given time 75% of your database is outdated!

Collecting fast expiring resumes and storing them locally is the worst thing you can do. It's like hoarding perishables!

Now you may ask "what's the alternative? I still want to keep the list of people interested in joining my company and I need ready access to their skills and competencies".

Lucky you, there is an alternative. It's called Live Resumes and it's available on Simply put, a live resume is a resume in your database that is accessible to and maintained by the candidate. Did I hear you just say "Wow! Why didn't anyone think of this before"?

And that's just one of the features that makes unique. If you are a placement agency or an employer, check out You will never need another site for any of your talent identification and acquisition needs.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

My interview in Bangalore Mirror

Bangalore Mirror has carried my interview today in the business section (5th June 2009). You can check it out here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Demand more pay - get fired sooner

Many people used the last boom period to vastly inflate their salaries - by hard bargaining, threats, and strategically timed and frequent jumps. Today, when companies are looking to cut costs, these people stick out like white elephants and are invariably the first to get the boot.

Here is something I've been advising people for a long time. When you negotiate your salary, have a realistic idea of what you are worth to the organization and aim for that.

In order to arrive at your realistic worth, take the following into consideration:

1. Market price
Find out what people like you are generally getting. Ask around, check with your peers, class mates, and professional recruiters. Read industry reports. Don't go by heresay. The hike your friend's friend's neighbour's son is supposed to have got has no bearing on what you should realistically expect.
2. The current demand for people like you
Is there a great demand for people with your qualification and background? Is this temporary or do expect sustained demand?
3. The current supply of people like you
Are there many people like you available in the market? Are your skills easy to learn? Can people be trained quickly and inexpensively to do your job?
4. The value you will directly bring to your employer
Wherever possible, this should be in terms of direct revenue.
5. What the future holds
Does the market for people like you fluctuate in your domain? Is this a temporary phenomenon? Remember, nothing remains the same for ever.

I am not saying don't take advantage of a situation, just don't take undue advantage. I can't spell out the distinction between advantage and undue advantage, but like the Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart once said about porn, "I know it when I see it"
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Proliferation of my profile

My Cyber Social MapImage by frankdasilva via Flickr

Today my social profile is distributed and duplicated across multiple social networking sites - facebook, myspace, twitter, orkut, xing,... the list is endless. I don't think I will be able to keep them all synchronized and up to date. However, it is still only my social profile, so I guess it is not earth-shattering.

But imagine how it would be if the same were true about my professional profile. If a potential employer sees different versions of my resume (which is the same as my professional profile, or should be, in my opinion) on different sites, what would she think?

What I need is a place to store my single definitive professional profile and a way to control access to it tightly. I must be able to say "Here is my latest resume. You will be able to use this link for the next 3 days to see it. By the way, I have hidden some of the information that is not relevant at this stage, so if you need any other information, let me know". I must be able to pull the plug on the link even earlier if I want to, or I should be able to show more information under the same link, or even have it password protected. That's the kind of control I would like to have over my resume, to start with.

What do you think?
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Monday, April 20, 2009

On alternate careers - An interview with eminent photographer G. Venket Ram

My interview with advertising photographer G. Venket Ram has just been published in the career advice section on Really inspiring.

Go here to read it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Using technology to improve referrals

In the previous post, I promised to show how technology can make the referral process even more effective. So here goes. Instead of the usual wordy blog post, I have decided to use some diagrams, for a change.

First, let's look at the standard referral process.

In addition, using his network, the active candidate can identify and enlist the help of the right referrer from within the potential employer's organization.

And finally, when a candidate applies directly, the company can use the network of its employees to find the employee closest to the candidate and enlist that employee's support in sussing out the candidate before making the offer or even taking the recruitment process forward.

As you can see, technology can be used to dramatically improve the performance of referral based recruiting by making the already active participants, that is the company and the candidate, push the passive actor perform his role as the referrer.


What is needed of a referral based job site.

In the previous post, we saw why many of the referral based job sites have not succeeded. In this post, let us see what a good referral based site needs to provide in order to be effective.

  1. The ability for the company to inform its employees about job openings within the company
  2. A facility for the employees to forward the job opening to their friends
  3. Support for the candidates to apply for the job opening through a selected employee(referrer)
  4. The ability for the company to track which employee has referred which candidate, so that referral bonuses can be properly disbursed.
  5. The ability for the company to collect, aggregate and easily filter through all the candidate so as to be able to identify the right candidates.
  6. All other facilities of a job site, including the ability for companies to search for candidates, and for candidate, to be able to apply for a job directly.
Nice to have:
  1. A facility by which all members (of the site) can bring their network on line so as to enable themselves and their friends to find the right referrers.
  2. A site that is not just a job site (where people register only to look for a job) but is a comprehensive career related networking site that ensures that companies are also ready to have their employees registered (as their presence on the site helps in the referral process).
  3. An ability to find referrals through the network of friends' friends.
Rather straight forward and simple, don't you think? Well, this is all that is required to technology-enable the existing manual referral process. But with technology on our side, it would be very sad to if we were to just limit ourselves to duplicating a manual procedure.

In the next post, we shall look at how technology can be used to make the traditional referral process work even better.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why referral based job sites are failing

In the last post we saw how and why referral works. We realized that in order for referrals to work:
1. An employee of the company has to be involved.
2. A disincentive for recommending incompatible, unqualified people must be in place.
3. A monetary incentive is not mandatory but can help in making more people participate actively.

Let's now evaluate the current online referral based job sites on the above three criteria.

1. Do they mandate employee involvement?
Most sites do not. They give everyone an option to apply for a job or forward the job to a friend.

2. Are there disincentives for recommending a non-qualified candidate?
Typically not. Since the referrer is not part of the company, his reputation is not adversely affected if the referred candidate is sub par. This also means that there is no incentive for the referrer to do any pre-qualification of the candidate.

3. Is there a monetary incentive?

That's one out of three, at best! No wonder most online referral sites don't work!

Lesson learnt: An additional "refer a friend" button does not maketh a referral jobsite.

Next post, we'll look at what is required to make a good referral site.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How and why do referrals work?

In my previous post, I asked why online referral based job sites are failing. In this post, let's go back to the basics and try and understand why referrals work.

Referrals work when a person (say, your employee) brings two parties she knows reasonably well, namely your company and a potential candidate, together because she believes that the two of you are compatible.

The operative phrase here is "she knows reasonably well". This knowledge of both the parties is what allows her to decide who to refer. Typically, before referring a candidate, she answers the following few questions to herself:
  • Will referring him adversely affect my reputation within my organization?
  • Is this guy good enough?
  • Are his credentials genuine?
  • Will he be thankful of getting this opportunity in the long run, or will he curse me? and
  • Are there roles for him here that match his talent and capabilities?
If you notice, questions 1 and 4 are not so much about the company or the candidate and more about the repercussions of making this referral on her own career/friendship. Obviously then, the decision to refer is well thought through and hence the chances of compatibility between the two parties is very high.

It's how most arranged marriages happen in India (or anywhere else in the world where arranged marriages are prevalent). A relative of the bride/groom knows somebody very well who knows somebody who knows the family of a potential groom/bride. The credibility and strength of each of the connection help in bringing two families together. At every stage, the people doing the connecting know that they will face a lot of flak if the marriage does not work. And if the marriage works, the result is the reward!

In the case of employee referrals, over and above the result being the reward, is the monetary incentive promised by the company. However, if you really analyze this, the incentive that the company promises is not so much a reward for success as a mechanism to make their employees think of and evaluate each of their close friends (and their friends' friends) as potential candidates. The real reward continues to be the good feeling of helping two parties.

A disproportionately large reward would backfire because your employees may throw caution to the winds and start referring even strangers in the hope of hitting the jackpot. Similarly, if there are no disincentives to making bad referrals, the referral success ratio would seriously plummet.

Ah-a! Now we are getting a hint of why some online referral based sites have not worked very well. Let's explore this further in the next post.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Yellojobs going down?

A few months ago, a IT specific employment referral site closed down because their model was not working. Earlier this week, we heard from that may be shutting down.

Yesterday, I was talking to the head of HR of a large multinational and he tells me over 40% of their new employees are recruited through internal referrals. Last month, I talked to a HR manager of one of the top 3 IT companies in India and I believe over 35% of their new employees come through various referral schemes!

We all know that new employees that come through referral schemes fit in, work well, and stay longer with the organization.

So if referrals are a HR's best friend, why are referral based job sites faring so badly?

Watch this space...

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Mallika Sarabhai - Gandhinagar Constituency

Mallika Sarabhai, the daughter of eminent scientist Vikram Sarabhai and reputed dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai is standing for MP from Gandhinagar in Gujarat.

Did you know she has an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) and a PhD in Organisational Behaviour?

See the complete profile of Mallika Sarabhai here.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Know Your Politician

Manmohan Singh, current prime minister of India.Image via Wikipedia

As a contribution from our side to the Jaago Re! campaign, we have collected details of some of our eminent Indian politicians so that you can Know Your Politician. We have just added a few to start with and will be adding more in the days to come. If your favourite politician's resume is missing, leave a comment and we will add it as soon as possible!

Don't forget to go and vote!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

A series on alternate employment avenues

In India, we are obsessed with our children following a well beaten track when it comes to career and employment. I still remember when I passed out of school, everyone around was asking me, "Do you want to be a Doctor or an Engineer?", as though those were the only options available. It's been more than 20 years since then and things have not changed that much. We still want our children to do whatever is bringing in the best moolah today. We dont want them to experiment with or explore other possible avenues. When they show interest in other fields, we chastise them for not being realistic. As parents we do all that we can to stifle any passion that the children may have in areas that do not have a clear track record of regular fat paychecks.

But, the most passionate, successful and happy people I have met in my life have been those that have followed their heart and done what they believe is their reason for existence. Their list of options, it seems, was not limited to Engineering, Medicine, Law, Accounting, and Teaching .

When I wrote the post Are you gearing up for the next boom?, I realized that it may be time to write a series of articles on people who have succeeded in non-traditional areas of employment. We need our youth to find something that they can be passionate about, where they can chase their dreams, have a shot at happiness and get to change the world for the better.

The basic idea behind these articles is to show that one can go down a new career path and still make a comfortable living. So, while success for most of the people we are going to meet in this column may not be defined in terms of money alone, my articles will concentrate a bit more in that area, as I find most parents in India today understand that language better.

The articles will appear starting later this week on the career advice section of

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Good guys deserve to stand out!

The title of this post is one of the slogans used by an up-and-coming job site to promote their resume writing service. This is a service provided by most of the leading job sites today.

While I understand the compulsions of a company to create new services and revenue streams, I cannot understand how "resume writing" can be considered a service for anybody. A resume writing service on a job site is like a photo enhancement service on a matrimonial site!

Till about ten years ago, as an employer, I used to form a part of my opinion about the candidate based on how he has presented himself on the resume. I used to be able to get insights into the candidate's written communication skills, clarity of thought, language skills and other "soft" skills based on how well the resume was crafted. Mind you, I never cared for the aesthetics of the resume and have always been skeptical about the overly flamboyant and flowery ones.

Aishwarya Rai

Over a period, I noticed that the opinions I was forming based on the resume were getting more and more inaccurate. I soon realized that this was because somebody else was writing the resume. During this phase, because the resumes were of such good quality in terms of language and presentation, the real candidate would almost always fall short of expectation and hence be rejected [In retrospect, some of the candidates may have been selected had they not added additional baggage by way of setting my expectations high]. Going back to my matrimonial site analogy, if in your photo you looked like Aishwarya Rai, as a prospective groom, be sure that I would be sorely disappointed when I see you in person!

Once an interviewer feels cheated, there is very little you, as a candidate, can do to change the opinion of the potential employer in the available time. If the resume has been done by somebody else, how accurate is the data therein? How factually accurate are the accomplishments listed? Have they also been embellished? Your credibility is lost and your chances disappear even before the interview is half-way through!

Instead of providing services that give the best chance for both candidate and company to find the right match, these resume writing services end up as a dis-service to both parties.

Good guys definitely deserve to stand out. Just not through getting your resumes written by somebody else. There are many legitimate ways by which genuine candidates can stand out and distance themselves from the fakers. Check out to find out how. Read more about it here.

Remember, if you can write a fantastic resume yourself, there is no need to use a resume writing service. If you can't write one, getting somebody else to write one is almost always seen as a deception by the interviewer. Either way, outsourced resume writing is a service you don't want.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are you gearing up for the next boom?

I know that the market conditions are looking rather bleak now, but sooner or later, things are going to pick up and then eventually we are going to get into a boom period. It may be later this year, next year or maybe even later, but it is bound to happen.

So what are you doing to be ready for the next boom? Do you have spare time now? Here are some of the things you can do instead of agonizing over the present situation:

  1. Learn a new skill or a language. Some of these skills will come in handy when things get better.
  2. Take up a hobby. You will learn to relax and gain some expertise
  3. Build your network. A network built without the requirement for immediate gratification/profit is almost always stronger.
  4. Set your house in order. Plan your future. Revaluate your priorities. You will have a clearer idea of the way forward when doors open.
  5. Get involved in some charity that you never had time for before.
  6. Maybe even start a new company.

The possibilities are endless. You have time on your hands now, use it wisely. The good times will come, as surely as the day follows the night.

Are you gearing up for the next boom? Write in and tell me what you plan to do.

Friday, February 27, 2009

How to spot a fake resume

Here are somethings you need to look for to ensure that you are not being hoodwinked into recruiting someone with fake credentials.

The information that is most often faked are the following:
1. Skills
2. Projects
3. Salary details
4. Employment records
5. Educaton records

There are reasonably easy ways to get to the truth, though they are not completely foolproof.

The fake resume exponent knows that companies search for candidates on job sites using keywords. They also know that to end up in the top 2 - 3 pages, they need to match as many keywords as possible. So in their resume, they add all skills that are commonly searched for by companies, whether they possess the skill or not.

The way to defeat this is to ask all candidates to send in their updated profiles with the following details for each of their skills
Have you just heard about it, or have you undergone training, or do you have hands-on experience?
If you have undergone training, state when and for how long?
If you have hands-on experience, what is the length of the experience and when was the last time you used it?

This forces them to cull down their list to those that they are comfortable with because they know that now they cannot just say "Oh! I have heard about it and hence I added it to my skill set" and get away with it.

Clipboard, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V or to the tech-uninitiated, Copy & Paste. That is what has led to a lot of the same projects floating around in different resumes. This is not very easy to identify during the resume scanning stage itself. However, you can do somethings to prepare yourself.

Search the job site database as well as your own database of resumes to see if anybody else has done similar work from the same company. If you find that similar projects have been done by people in some other larger company, then there are two possibilities - either it is faked or this candidate was on a sub-contract to the larger company.
At the time of the interview, remember to grill the candidate on projects where nobody else around this person has done similar work. Ask specifically for details such as the team size, her exact role, platform was it developed on, when was the first version released, who is using it, and similar details that only someone who has actually worked on the project will know.

Salary details
Outright faking and embellishment are both quite common. Especially sales people, they tend to add their fixed salary, their sales based incentives, including potential incentives that would have been theoritically due to them if they had met some highly improbable sales goals(which they never did) into their "Current salary".

Ask specifically for fixed salary, take home, incentives and other variable components. Don't ask for the CTC (Cost to company). In many cases a CTC, even when genuinely reproduced by the candidate, can be misleading. This is because many companies add a lot of variables, sometimes even those the candidate may not always be eligible for, into the CTC in order to make the salary package appear more appealing to the candidate.

Employment records
Did you know that there are many companies in India whose sole revenue model is to provide people with a ficticious employment record. Hyderabad and more recently Bangalore are notorious for this. Ameerpet in Hyderabad is a well known locality where new companies constantly crop up. Keep an eye out for companies with buzz words like tech, info, infocom, etc. from these areas. If you have not heard about the company before, check the ROC (Registrar of Companies) records - they are online - and see if these companies are actually registered at all.

At the time of interview, ask about which office they worked in, the address, the way to get there, how many people work in that company, the name and phone number of the immediate project manager (If it is a 100+ people company and he gives the name of the CEO for everything, watch out).

Just checking to see if he has a complete set of documents including offer letter, service letter, relieveing letter and last payslip is not enough because these are part of the package that the fake company provides. Checking if an official website exists is also not enough because most fake companies cover that angle also. And calling them to check if the guy actually worked there is no good either. You can ask if Mother Theresa worked there and they will say yes, because that is part of the package too!

Education record
Not as common as the others, this is still prevalent enough to get a mention. At one time, maybe even now, degrees from Osmania University were notorious for being fudged. In fact, the US Embassy had a blanket ban on seeing anyone with an Osmania University degree!
Ask for contact details of classmates at the time of interview if you have doubts and call them immediately and ask them where they studied, what degree they pursued and when and cross check with the information that the candidate has given.

Alternately, you can ask these candidates to register on and build their credibility before applying. That should take care of most of your problems. You can read more about the credibility score here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2009 - A year of fake resumes

Every time there is a downturn(or a steep upward swing) in the job market, the number of fake resumes increase. Happened in 1998-2000 during the Y2K boom and again in 2004 during the DotCom bust. Inevitable that it will happen again this year.

Here's why:

First reason is obvious - there are more candidates than there are job openings. So more competition and hence more desperation and consequently more faking.

The second reason is less obvious.
Many of the college graduates passing out this year(2009) will not find employment because of the prevalent conditions. Let us follow the life of one such student, say S and see what may happen.

S passes out of college in the top ten percentile of his class. He is also one of the handful of students to have got an offer while in Campus, though the joining date has not been specified yet. He waits for a couple of months hoping for the confirmation letter, but nothing materializes. Enquiries with the company result in standard and vague responses such as "Wait, we will get back to you" or "Call back in 2 weeks". A few more months go by and after losing hope of ever getting into his "dream" company, S starts looking out for other opportunities.
But the market is still down and there are no takers for freshers. His resume drowns in those of thousands of others in the same boat. Tension starts building up at home.

Nearly a year goes by. Market shows signs of recovery. There is renewed hope. Companies start looking for freshers again. The campus recruitment begins for the new batches. The 2010 students pass out. Now the 2009 batch and 2010 batch start competing for the same jobs. As always, companies looking for fresh graduates show a bias towards freshly passed out candidates. They prefer the 2010 freshers over the 2009 freshers. After all, if he has not found a job for over a year, maybe he is not good enough, they think.

S still has not found his job and it is nearly two years since he passed out. The longer his employment record remains empty, the more remote his chances of landing a job. Problems about conflicts in seniority in age vs. experience, imagined or otherwise, crop up during the few interview he manages to wrangle.

Pressure at home is intolerable. Parents think S is just lazy and make sure they tell him at every opportunity. S, in desperation, is driven to a company in Hyderabad that promises to give him an employment record for a fee. He coughs up the money and buys two years of experience and a matching set of documents including a well crafted resume, an offer letter, a service letter, a relieving letter and even a last payslip.

Now he no longer has to compete with the freshers. S has got 2 years of experience now. He hopes that nobody will find out that the company he is supposed to have worked for doesn't even exist. He is a fugitive for the rest of his life, not knowing when justice will catch up.

The people who fake their resumes because of the first reason are just plain criminals. They probably would have done it anyway! I hope companies find out in time and avoid recruiting them.

However, the second set is driven to crime (and faking a resume is a crime, whatever you may say!) and some of my sympathies, I must confess, are with them.

If, as companies, we all decide, it will be quite easy to make sure that the the story I have told does not end that way. All we have to do is make sure we give the 2009 batch candidates at least the same priority as those in the 2010 batch. After all, it is not their fault that the market tanked now!

If there are company heads reading this, please, please, please, don't forget the 2009 batch. They are every bit as smart as the other batches and deserve all the chances we can give them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The resume is dead. Long live the resume!

Here's a suggestion. Take all your resumes - I am sure there are many versions, mostly outdated in your harddisk - and delete them. You don't need them anymore. Resumes in the form of Word documents and .pdfs are passe.

What you need is a LIVE resume. Something that remains alive, current and grows with you. Something that is immediately available to the potential employers you wish to approach. Something that is constantly working to find a great job and career for you.

And you've got it. Go to, register and fill in your details - for the last time in your life. More about it here.

While there, check out the different ways to utilize as well as help your network of friends, colleagues and classmates.

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tough days ahead for the 2009 batch - but there is hope

Let's have no illusions. The students passing out this year are going to be seriously affected by the current downturn.

Very little campus recruitment
To start with, campus recruitment has dried up. While, last year companies were competing the be the first to reach the campus, this year very few companies seem interested in conducting campus interviews.

Delayed joining dates
Even when campus recruitment has been conducted, the tentative joining dates are way out into the future (tentative being the operative word here). Some may never be asked to join, or they may be asked to take up roles that they may not want (Wipro recently gave freshers, recruited for their software divisions, the option of joining the BPO wing).

Very few jobs in the market
Many of the companies I have talked to in recent days have told me that they have very few or no vacancies, especially at entry and junior levels. The market conditions have to get better, not just here, but in the rest of the developed world as well, for this situation to change.

And even when the market bounces back...
Let's say the market bounces back next year and there are a lot of job opportunities. Most companies, based on their behaviour so far, would be looking to recruit the "freshest" freshers (2010 pass out) ahead of the still experience-less 2009 batch.

What to do?
There are few things that you, as a 2009 student, can do to redeem the situation. First thing to remember is that though things are bad, they are not completely hopeless. There are still jobs out there - they are just not so easy to find anymore. So, this means that you will have to be really enterprising to find job openings first, and then get yourself selected.

So how do you find the job openings?
  1. Exhaust the usual sources first - jobsites, newspapers, college notice boards, etc. Everybody is going to be doing that.
  2. Milk your network. Here is where you can join together with all your classmates and collectively improve your prospects. Let's say you have 30 people in your batch. Let's also assume that you've had 5 batches pass out before you. That means that you have a potential group of 150 alumni that you can tap. Out of this, say, a 100 of them are currently gainfully employed. Conservatively, they may be distributed among 30 companies. The equation is very simple now. If each alumnus can help one fresher into his company, the entire class will get employed. Voila!
You will need the support of your college, the professors, and the alumni association (if there is one), but it is definitely possible. can help you build this network quickly and tap into it. Get all your classmates to register and rope in your alumni too.

All the best!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dear Michael Arrington

Dear Michael,
I was deeply shocked to hear about the incident in munich. Though I have never written to you before, I am an avid reader of TechCrunch and your blog posts.

The value you are providing to the start up community is immense. I cannot imagine how a relatively harmless occupation such as your's can generate such vitriolic and violent responses.

Please do not stop doing what you are doing because of a few assholes. For whatever it is worth, my most sincere sympathies are with you.

It is time for the usually silent, moderate masses (such as I) to stand up and make our disgust for such behaviour known.

And whoever you are, who spat on Michael, know that you are worse than SCUM.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The king has left the building

There is an article in the Times of India today about "Mansions" beginning to empty due to layoffs. For the uninitiated, "mansions" in Chennai are not castles where kings and lords live, but inexpensive, mostly dingy, cramped bachelor pads housing hundreds of men (mostly) working (again, mostly) in the IT and ITES sectors.

What is interesting is that, while there are reports of visible after-effects of layoffs, there is as yet no report on which companies are doing the laying off. Neither companies, it seems, nor the laidoff employees want the world to know that there are layoffs happening!

For companies, it is the worry of political backlash that is stopping them from going public about retrenchment and for the employees it is the social stigma associated with being laid off.

Kind of a strange win-win situation - in reverse! Just like in the case of "Slumdog Millionaire", we seem to have this overpowering desire to deny the obvious and hope that nobody finds out!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Satyam support group

If you are a Satyam employee looking for a support group, please go to There is a forum there called Satyam support. Please urge your fellow employees also to participate. We need to support each other in all ways possible.

All the best.

What will happen to Satyam now?

B.Ramalinga Raju - India Economic Summit 2008Image by World Economic Forum via FlickrIt is now beyond a shadow of doubt that the Raju clan will no longer be at the helm of Satyam. And very shortly, the representatives of the Raju clan will also be shunted out. So what does the future hold for this IT major that has won many projects and awards and had a team of over 50,000 talented people working across countries on countless critical projects?

Here is a quick run down of possible options.

1. New board and executive team takes over.
This would probably be the best thing that can happen - for the company, the employees and the clients. Things can go back to normal and the well-oiled project delivery machinery can continue to do what it has done successfully for nearly 20 years.

However, it is not that easy. New leadership has to emerge and should be able to grab the attention and support of the existing employees. More importantly, the new team must find some money, at least working capital, right away. And finally they have to convince the existing clients to stick around and continue to have faith in the company. After all, whatever has happened has not been at the cost of the clients, at least not yet.

The biggest down side is that the new team will have to face all the law suits and class actions that are being filed now, here in India and in the US. Can they manage to revive such a large company and take on all the legal issues at the same time?

2. Get taken over by some other company
This is probably the second best option. Very similar to the first option, except that a new management team, mostly from outside of Satyam will take over and run the show. There will be some collateral damage at the top management level of Satyam where some of the upper management people will be let go. The rest of the employees would be spared as, like in most Indian IT companies, the people are the main asset.

The down side is pretty much the same as in case 1. That is what makes this option unlikely.

3. Individual divisions carved out and sold
This is salvage time folks. This option holds a lot of promise and benefits for the new owners as well as the clients. Already Tech Mahindra is talking about taking the telecom division of Satyam. This will be good for the existing telecom clients of Satyam and for Tech Mahindra which will get a new set of clients and projects as well as a talented team.

However, this option is not so good for the employees. Time and again, we have seen that when this kind of a carve out happens, most of the employees are shown the door. I am sure Tech Mahindra already has very good people and spare resources for the Telecom sector and so, many of the middle management and programmer level resources will be let go.

The beauty of this option is that the company that takes the division(s) only gets the clients and possibly, the employees. The charges of corruption and the cases filed against Satyam will continue to remain with Satyam. All gain, no pain!

4. Close down/bankruptcy
The final option. Not good for anybody. Not even for the competitors - TCS, Infosys, Wipro and others. If this happens, the faith in the entire Indian Software industry will be shaken further. Questions about the auditing and financial practices will come up. Questions like, "who really knows the situation within these companies?" and "Satyam today, who next?"

The optimist that I am, I am hoping for option 1 to materialize. GO Satyam GO!

(No harm in updating your profile though, if you are a Satyam employee - try
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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why are you not getting responses to your job applications?

This is a question that is being asked more and more often these days! The answer is not that complicated, if you understand how the online job boards work (or don't).

1. Fake candidates

Bad news -Your application is getting drowned by fakes
Surprised! You shouldn't be. While you are busy building your resume based on facts, there are thousands of candidates building theirs on fake credentials. While you are adding all that you know to your skills list, they are adding all that the companies are searching for into their skills list (even though they have no such skills). While you are entering the factual details of your education and employment records, they are faking theirs. While you are working on your single, definitive resume, they are uploading multiple profiles, under slightly different names.

They are doing it so that they appear high up in all searches made by potential employers. And in the process bury your resume somewhere beyond the 10th page of the search results where no employer ever goes!

Good News - Faking doesn't lead to a job
However, don't for a moment think that the fakers are getting all the jobs - the employers and the interviewers are not dumb. Over 99% of the fakers are caught out during interviews and are disqualified. But, they have already done the damage to you and the company by taking the interview slot that should have rightfully belonged to you. The main point to remember here is that those openings are still unfilled. You just need to find a way to reach them!

Solution - Distance yourself from the fakers
You need to build your credibility. Till recently, there were very few clear and easy ways of doing that. Which is why we started Here is how you can thwart the plans of the fakers - by proving that you are genuine in ways that they cannot.
a. Register on and spend some time to update your profile.
b. For every college degree that you have, connect to at least 5 of your classmates.
c. For every employment record, connect to at least 5 of your (past or current)colleagues, preferably including those you reported to.

Very easy to do, if you are a genuine candidate. Not so easy, if you are a faker. On, we have built an algorithm that determines how genuine a candidate is based on the nature and diversity of connections.

Once you have built a healthy score, you will start appearing higher up in search results as employers look at resumes with higher credibility first.

Read more about it here and here.

2. Fake job postings

Bad news - Many of the job postings are fake!
Surprised again?! At least now you know. The truth is, for some of the unscrupulous recruitment companies, this is an easy way to collect resumes. Advertise a few nonexistent jobs and collect all the responding candidate resumes.
So that they can show case a large resume database and hope a genuine opportunity comes along.

Good news - There are still good guys around
There are still a lot of genuine job postings by both genuine placement agencies and direct employers. You just need to find out which ones are genuine.

Solution - Check out the credentials
Look at the websites of the recruitment companies, ask your friends, call the recruitment company, write to their support addresses - basically check out the credentials of the recruitment company before you apply. If you are a candidate with less than, say, 5 years of experience, don't stop applying. So what if a few more recruiters have your cv? It will only do you good. Just adjust your expectations and understand that you may not get responses from many of them - that way you will not be disappointed.

3. Market conditions

Bad news - Job openings are limited in today's market condition
Everyone would have told you that this is the main reason why you are not getting responses. Not entirely true. While the number of job openings have come down, they have not come down so drastically. Every day, I hear companies lamenting the lack of good candidates.

Good news - There are always openings for the good guys!
There are always openings for good candidates - even in bad times such as now. Look for openings published by direct employers. There are still many around. Remember, many of the openings are not getting advertised so much (advertising cost a lot and the ad budget is one of the first things that gets chopped in a bad economy).

Solution - Utilize your network
The thing to do is to make sure you are aware of all the job openings that are available, whether advertised or not. The way to do that is to ask your network of connections if there are openings in their companies. Don't have a network? WRONG. If you have started building your credibility, you have started building your network. The people who enhance your credibility (your classmates, friends, and colleagues) are the ones who can spot the right openings for you.

Bottom line
Do not let the fakers stop you from finding your dream job. Use online tools such as to control your career. You have the power now.

Register on today and Make your career move!

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