Sriparna Chakraborty
Friday, March 30, 2007
Smita Jain (name changed) enjoys her work as a software professional. Her company, one of the best in storage technology, keeps her satiated with a good pay package while she gives her best to the job. On the outside, she is the face of a successful, well paid techie in the industry, but beneath all the happiness and determination, Jain holds light to a ‘shameful’ secret. Her resume was (remains) doctored.

However, Jain is not alone. A KPMG study — India Fraud Survey Report 2006 — which covered over a thousand organizations across India, reported 15-24 percent of resumes in India are fabricated. Pre-employment screening agencies that fight this menace say the number today could be as high as 30 percent. That would mean that there are many more Jains working in the same organization with forged resumes. And now with corporate world waking up to the fact that a large number of their workforce hitched rides on forged resumes to gain entry, has forgers like Smita and many others living in fear.

While one would expect discrepancies from young techies, it came as a complete shocker when U.S. based electronics retail giant, Radio Shack, ousted their CEO, David Edmundson, for faking his resume while another top executive from Bausch and Lomb was shown the door. In India, as well, an applicant for a top position in an IT company, with a requirement of twenty years experience, faked his IIT and IIM degrees. He almost got the job till a pre-employment background agency blacklisted him.

Mukund Menon, Vice President, HR, Satyam Computer Services, says that rising competition and the alluring IT industry pushed techies to take a shortcut and misrepresent facts in their resume. According to Nasscom findings, only 25 percent of the four lakh engineers are employable. Certainly, but not necessarily, a few from the remaining 75 percent do not mind indulging in a little phony act to enter the software world, notes Venkataraman RR, Senior HR Manager, Telelogic.

Last year, Wipro sacked close to hundred employees while Satyam Computers fired five hundred employees over a period of one year. They had given incorrect information about their work experience in their resume.

Wipro found to its horror that in some cases employees had even produced their work experience records, with companies that did not even exist. Vice President, Strategic Resourcing, Wipro Technologies, Achuthan Nair, saw a similar pattern in the language, education and work experience in all the resumes during an internal audit. This led to Wipro digging out the nexus of recruitment agencies that helped employees embellish their resumes.

The trail led to the finding of thirty such employment agencies from where Wipro hired some of its employees. Nair believes that about ten to fifteen percent of any recruitment agency’s resume base has false data. These recruitment agencies for a price of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 help employees show experience.

Cross-check resume
This rising trend of ‘faking resumes’ has given rise to background screening as an emerging industry in India. “About six years ago, this industry did not exist in India,” says Ashish Dehade, Managing Director of First Advantage Pvt. Ltd., a pre-employment background-screening firm. This holds true as last year First Advantage conducted close to a million checks in India alone. Estimates put this industry size currently at about Rs 250 crore and growing. Dehade adds that of the approximately 15-18 percent resumes that have misrepresentations, about 29 percent relate to education while about 70 percent have misrepresentation of facts related to work experience.

Address, education, previous employer of the candidate is scrutinized during a routine background check. “Junior level applicants substantiate their application by providing form-16 or experience letter from the previous company. While for the senior level people a referral check is done,” adds Sujatha Saha, Senior HR Manager, Manhattan Associates.

“The root cause for fake resumes is that employees know that they can get away with it,” believes Varun Gupta, Senior HR Manager, Applied Materials. Pre-screening is a three week process in most companies and errant techies should know where to draw a line as it is becoming mandatory across organizations, he adds.

Will a blacklisted candidate find a place in the industry again? “No,” says Saha, “his integrity is in question. He has done it earlier and might not deter from indulging in it again.” Gupta disagrees and puts across that every candidate deserves a second chance. “If he wants to amend his acts, he should be allowed to.” “Get qualified,” advises Menon, “rather than faking degrees. Such candidates should be frank with their next employer, it’s another way to make amends.”

The industry too is taking steps in controlling this racket and Nasscom skill registry is an answer notes Menon.

The Registry — a centralized database of information about the employees’ professional and educational background has been specially designed to ensure authenticity of data through independent verification and biometric identification of individuals. The National Skills Registry was launched in mid-January last year to effectively filter out errant employees, and reduce the risk of fraud-related activities in the IT industry.

However, what’s to stop employees, who have been fired, from quietly slipping into their
next job?

Corporate India will have to come up with an initiative before it faces more malpractice and embarrassment.

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