Sitting inside his glass-paneled cubicle at the showroom of a large automobile company in Greater Noida, sales manager Sanjiv Kashyap is a not-so-busy man.
His sales team is busy discussing the outcome of the India-Australia cricket Test series rather than attending to customers. But there are hardly any. The flood of customers they were used to last year is now a trickle.
“We used to sell six to seven cars and attend to about 150 enquiries daily. Now we sell only two or three cars and handle about 60 enquiries daily,” Kashyap said.
The scene is representative of incidents across India’s economy. The economic downturn is leaving its mark across sectors. Slower manufacturing growth and a prolonged downturn in Western economies are hurting jobs in manufacturing and services alike. Employers are freezing hiring or hiring less.
Which means if you are planning to change jobs this year, it is going to be a long haul, as companies are choosy in who they hire and how.
As firms hold back planned capacity expansions, new job openings will come bundled with stringent screening procedures including a demand for rigorous referrals and background checks, human resource experts say.
Background checks through an outsourced agency have become more of a norm than an exception, with rising incidence of “fake CVs”.
Headhunters, which HT spoke to, advised job seekers to prepare for multiple rounds of interviews that can, in some cases, extend upto months.
“Be prepared for grilling, not-so-friendly negotiations on salaries and stringent background checks. Its time to be patient,” said Uday Sodhi, chief executive officer at HeadHonchos.com, a job search site.
Crederity Info Services, a Bangalore-based background screening firm found in an internal survey that nearly four out of every ten potential job applicants quote inflated salaries and tenures.
Many applicants also give inaccurate dates to cover up job-hopping details or gaps in employment.
“There is a growing trend of people exaggerating their attributes while shielding their weaknesses or negative traits cleverly from employers,” said Surajit Saha, spokesperson for Crederity Info Services.
Being rigid about salary and location may work against job seekers.
“This year, one cannot dictate terms and one needs to be flexible about the geographies and industries,” said Hitesh Oberoi, CEO at Info Edge India that runs job search portal Naukri.com.
For those who already have a job, the next year may be tough.
“It might be bad but not the worst. Only brilliant performance can drive pay packets this time, nothing else,” said Sangeeta Gupta, vice-president of the National Association of Software and Service Companies.
Social media checks
Here’s wisdom from Manish Sabharwal, CEO of staffing firm TeamLease: “Job seekers had better brush up their skills and focus on personal branding. Find your differentiation factor, tone up the efficiency and shift to multi-skill competencies.”
In a shrinking market “survivor’s guilt” — the feeling that you may be the next one to go — is common.
“To avoid that, use the low tide in collecting vocational certificates and diplomas to win the times when hiring will come back,” Sabharwal said.
Experts say employers will increasingly check out a prospective employee’s social media activity to find out details about personality and related aspects.
“Gear up for questions on how you harness your linkages on networking sites or how content-savvy you are,” said Nasscom’s Gupta.
“Your prospective employer may stalk you on Facebook, LinkedIn or other sites and might bump into your account to analyse your psychology and professionalism. Take off your personal status messages and photographs, if any,” said S. Varadarajan, executive vice-president, HR, at Tata Teleservices.
“After having worked as a project manager for nine years, I lost my job last month as contract orders stopped coming,” said Paran Gogoi, a graphics designer.
Whether it is a slack-time hit Kashyap or a break-seeking Gogoi, the new rules of hiring could make a big difference.