BANGALORE/NEW DELHI: Last month, R Nandan, a 33-year-old employee of IBM, was discovered to have used his wife’s academic credentials to get his Rs 24-lakh-a-year job, putting the spotlight on rampant resume fraud faced by India’s $100-billion information technology services sector.
Had it not been for falling out with his wife, Nandan’s fraud may never have been exposed. Every year, despite the IT industry’s stated resolve to stamp out the problem of applicants lying about their academic qualifications and work experience, thousands like Nandan manage to sneak in. This is raising questions about whether companies are serious about tackling an issue which has the potential to harm India’s reputation as the world’s preferred location for outsourcing technology services.
One in every five CVs floating in the Indian IT industry is suspect, industry insiders and hiring experts say.
“At any given point in time, up to 10 per cent of the existing workforce in companies would be caught for fabricating or exaggerating their qualifications if verification tests are conducted,” said Aditya Mishra, head of staffing business at Ma Foi Randstad, a leading HR services company in India.
HR experts say that the issue of resume fraud is very closely related to the integrity of the employees and their employer, and such instances would definitely have an impact on India’s image.
“If companies don’t get their act together on this, their reputation will be impacted. It speaks about their integrity,” said Ganesh Shermon, partner and country head for human capital advisory services at KPMG.
The industry’s inability to stop candidates who seek to game the system has partly got to do with lack of firm commitment from companies to follow uniform practices across the industry. “Honestly, most IT firms don’t care; they just terminate these employees and forget about it. Unless employees, who fake their credentials, are taken to the police, this issue will never come to an end,” a senior executive of another Bangalore-based IT company said, on condition of anonymity.
Continued high prevalence of resume fraud also raises questions about the efficacy of National Skills Registry, an initiative that industry body Nasscom started over five years ago as a long-term solution to the problem. As many as 118 large companies are members of the registry, which currently has a database of 1.1 million candidates, according to Nasscom. Of this, nearly 8 million candidate profiles have been vetted, so far, with the help of some 17 third-party background verification agencies.
“When hiring and employee churn happens at such a large scale, some of these fraudsters manage to sneak in and that is bound to happen where things happen at this scale,” said Nasscom president Som Mittal, who did not think that resume fraud has reached a proportion where it threatens India’s image as preferred offshore location. “Of course it is best if we can eliminate the problem. We will crack this.” The industry body expects it would take another 18 months before the registry would achieve critical mass of candidates and becomes a de facto choice for companies.
Meanwhile companies claim that they have deployed checks and balances to ensure that bad apples don’t sneak in and create a stink risking the entire firm’s reputation.
Wipro said typically 20 per cent or one in every five resumes in the industry is fake or has forged information. Wipro has deployed an e-Recruitment system, which brings down the fake resume rate to less than 1 per cent of the total active applications, the company said.
Infosys said that it conducts several rounds of interviews before making an offer but still comes across cases of fraud. “We conduct a verification of credentials given by the candidate, mainly education and previous employment record. We do get occasional cases of fraud which we deal with strictly as per our code of conduct,” an Infosys spokeswoman said in an email response.
Most large IT companies also outsource some of the background verification to third-party agencies such as Authbridge, Pinkerton, and Crederity.
Once university databases becomes accessible online and electronic marksheets are available, companies will likely have better chance at catching the black sheep, but till then the industry will have to rely on eternal vigil by hiring agencies and HR managers to ensure that the sector’s reputation is not affected.