The resumes of many jobseekers in India's outsourcing industry could contain more fiction than fact.
An estimated one in five job-hunters overstates his or her academic qualifications, embroider work experience or inflate previous salaries. This phenomenon risks raising questions about the quality of India's IT workforce.
Recently, the growth in the outsourcing industry has calmed down after the frenzied years when companies expanded at between 25 per cent and 35 per cent annual rates by hiring scores of workers each quarter.
Nevertheless, the industry is vulnerable to an increased threat of resume fraud because talent is still in short supply, and thousands of fresh entrants join the workforce every year.
Ernst & Young India, in a report released earlier this year, says there is a significant increase in incidence of fraud in the technology services industry, including in recruitment, over the past decade. Tricksters could get past the multiple safeguards and verification processes that even large companies have in place.
The larger companies have a multitude of checks and processes in place to trip up such tricksters. Leading outsourcer Wipro says it weeds out most of the bogus claims through a rigorous and stringent process, reducing fakes in its active database to one per cent from the industry average of 20 per cent.
"Wipro has a robust, evolved and scientific system to weed out fake resumes," said Deepak Jain, senior vice president and global head of workforce planning.
Authentication and verification
Besides internal safeguards, many IT companies typically use outside agencies for authentication and verification, says Ankita Vashistha, director for strategy and growth at offshoring advisory firm Tholons.
These issues have spawned a whole new category of such agencies. "Social media, too, contributes to increased vigilance of qualifications and presents a formidable tool for IT companies," she says.
When outsourcing companies handle sensitive projects for large banks and financial institutions, resume authenticity is closely connected with employee integrity, says Kris Lakshmikanth of placement firm Headhunters India. Reference checks then become a mandatory customer requirement. "Many clients demand that employees working on their projects have to be security cleared."
Still, many cheats go undetected in a country where well-paid outsourcing jobs are much sought after. Even those caught faking it are rarely punished beyond being terminated from employment - India's legal system is onerously slow.
In many cases, the police do not even come into the picture. Fraudsters get away and others are emboldened by the lack of action because the risk-to-reward equation is skewed.
Lack of concerted effort
The competition for talent inhibits resume fraud detection because companies are reluctant to share former employee details, such as salaries. There is no concerted effort to put out or collate a comprehensive database on fraudsters.
Some years ago, Indian outsourcing industry body Nasscom set up a National Skills Registry with over 100 companies as members to combat resume fraud. However, the database is incomplete and profiles of most job-hunters do not figure in it, negating its usefulness.
Many ambitious Indians write long resumes running into six or seven pages - including extraneous details such as father's vocation, blood type and passport number - against the accepted global practice of single-page resumes. It is a complicated challenge for recruiters and an unending headache for the industry.
In a market that is cut-throat for companies as well as prospective candidates, resume fraud weighs heavily on the credibility of India's outsourcing industry.
Saritha Rai is an India-based journalist and commentator who covers technology, business and society from her ringside seat in Bangalore.