India Inc grapples with rash of fake CVs
India Inc is hit by an onslaught of CVs with fake degrees and employer information. C Sujit Chandra Kumar and Neha Tara Mehta report.india Updated: Jul 20, 2008 02:42 IST
When a Delhi-based manufacturing company approached Ajay Trehan’s AuthBridge Research Services to verify the background of some of its employees, it led to the unearthing of a curious case. Suman Agarwal, one of the executives who had joined two years earlier, turned out to be her sister Shalini Agarwal (both names changed to protect their identities). “The scrutiny of documents and interaction with the HR department of her purported previous employers revealed that she had assumed her deceased sister’s identity to grab the job. Suman had been interviewed and offered the job but it was her younger sister Shalini who joined,” says Trehan.
What Shalini did may have been an extreme and rare instance of corporate fraud but three surveys conducted across the country between January 2007 and March 2008 have shown that three in every 10 job seekers make false claims on their CVs while applying for jobs, as reported by the Hindustan Times (3 in 10 people lie to get a job: research, July 14). “Our statistics show that 30 per cent of the resumes coming to us have one or more areas where there is a discrepancy,” says Ajay Trehan of AuthBridge Research Services. “The increase in workplace fraud and its resulting losses have made organisations vigilant, especially in the last two years. So, background screening has become a crucial part of the hiring process."
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The growth of companies like First Advantage, which started its India operations in 2001, and claims to have done over two million background checks in India in 2006-2007, proves the importance the corporate world now attaches to checking the claims made by job aspirants.
The concept of background checking was introduced in India about seven years ago and assumed relevance in the changed security environment after the 9/11 attacks in the USA. “With a number of Fortune 500 companies initiating business in India, either by setting up their own offices or outsourcing work, background checks became an integral part of the hiring process,” says Ashish Dehade, MD (West Asia) of First Advantage.
It is not often that background checks by agencies such as First Advantage reveal the links of a prospective candidate to a terror outfit, but it is very common to find discrepancies in employment related details, which Dehade says form 70 per cent of the irregularities.
Unlike abroad, having gaps in between jobs is frowned upon in India, points out Vineeta Singh of Quetzal Verify Private Limited, which was recently set up by fresh graduates from IIM-Ahmedabad. “Candidates often shift their joining and leaving dates by 1-2 months here and there.” She adds, “When you ask them why they left, it’s always something lame like —‘For better future prospects’, when they were actually asked to leave.”
Atil Malia, group president (HR), in the Essar group of companies, says incompetent HR departments have to share some of the blame for allowing such dishonesty. “A good HR department can plan and anticipate the requirements of the company and do talent mapping. But when you try to fill up vacancies in a hurry, there is no time to do proper background checks,” he says.
Agrees Sachit Kumar, director, Globe Detective Agency Private Limited. “I blame a lot of clients for these frauds. They don’t insist on originals.” For the last two years or so, he says, background checks were just a formality, with companies desperate to hire people. “They are now becoming more stringent and getting their HR department in order,” he says.
Says Savita Mathai, Vice President-HR with Draftcb + Ulka, “We ask people to submit their last degree certificate, proof of salary and relieving letter from their previous job. So there is no way they can lie and get away with it,” she says. “The larger problem is when candidates do not disclose important facts about themselves. For instance, they may have a substance abuse problem or a medical condition. That is why, it is important to do rigorous back checks. We do a minimum of two reference checks for all candidates and insist on a medical test.”
Checking with references may have become standard industry practice but it is hardly foolproof. “There was this case in which the candidate gave the name of a present employee of the company as his professional reference but provided his friend’s cell number,” says Trehan. “During the verification call, the friend pretended to be the referee and vouched for all the details but said he had left the company. When we checked with the company to reconfirm the referee’s claim, we were told that a person by that name was still with the organisation! The verifier then called the cell number again claiming to represent a market research company and it turned out that the person was not the referee at all.”
Says Anil Sachdev, CEO and founder of Grow Talent, “It helps to call the previous employer and ask whether they would hire the candidate again.”