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!