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Tata Consultancy Services, TCS [Get Quote], India's largest software exporter, recently asked nearly 20 employees to leave the company's Kolkata centre after the company realised that their resumes were manipulated.
In the past, India's top notch companies belonging to high-growth sectors like the IT, ITeS, BPO, banking, financial services, and insurance began the practice of verifying employees' background by hiring background verification companies like FirstAdvantage and Integrascreen.
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As per FirstAdvantage, out of two million resumes that they screened in 2006-07 for discrepancies, a whopping 30 per cent were fudged. In the same year Infosys [Get Quote] too had asked 100 employees to leave because of fudged resumes.
Ashish Dehade, managing director (West Asia), First Advantage says, "The percentage has been increasing. In 2006 it was 16-17 per cent, for 2007 it was 30 per cent and while we are just six months into 2008 the percentage is around 30 per cent," reports Business Standard.
Following the brouhaha raised over the issue rediff.com had carried an article on why you shouldn't lie on your CV on November 6, 2007. We are producing the same below as the discussion over fake resumes once again hots up.
Reasons for background checks
~ Security concerns: The above-mentioned situations are some of the more extreme instances that have made most organisations sit up and be more careful about the kind of people they hire. Security is a serious concern -- be it about that of the employees or clients' confidential data or that of the company itself. Increasingly, companies, particularly those in the IT sector are investing more in securing their intellectual property and confidential data that can influence their bottom line.
~ Incorrect or 'padded' information: Organisations are wary of candidates who seek jobs based on fake experience certificates, 'padded' resumes and portfolios. Although most HR managers have local contacts and it is easy to casually 'find out' about a potential candidate, this is not a foolproof solution of a correct hire. These days, using the services of a neutral third party or companies conducting background checks for various organisations are on the rise.
Aparna Kaya* was sacked just 20 days after being hired as a trainee graphic designer by a leading content development company. Although she had a very impressive portfolio of work that got her the job in the first place, things started going wrong just a week after hiring her.
Her design concepts had basic flaws and her colleagues also found it difficult to swallow that Aparna was always finding ways to avoid working in front of them. Her work was amateurish and it wasn't long before people started suspecting her supposed fantastic portfolio.
Her hiring manager escalated his concerns to the HR team and soon they started a serious background check on her. Three days later, she was asked to leave for misleading the organisation about her designing skills and capabilities.
What does a background check involve?
Although background verification is not an 'investigation', it can cover a substantial part of your working life. At most, previous employers confirm the duration of employment, designation and profile, compensation, and other limited information about the employee.
Background checks may also be conducted if the organisation has reason to suspect that an employee might have been asked to leave their previous jobs.
There have been numerous instances where employees were asked to leave when the information they have shared with the prospective employer has been found to be fraudulent.
More often than not, employers validate information about the following:
Use of verification agencies
These days, the trend of using a third party to do the background checks on behalf of the organisation is on the rise. Generally, third party verification agencies insist on having a go-ahead from the candidates for conducting reference and background checks before they begin verifications.
Most agencies opt for validating only the professional information and prefer not to go to the length of asking neighbours etc. While not all hiring managers swear by the value addition of a third party in their recruiting process, some feel that having a third party perspective has definitely helped their hiring process become better.
Credible and reliable information
"We want a third party check to establish credibility to the verification process so that it is relatively free of bias. A recruiter might be prejudiced. Also, most recruiters are hard pressed for time and may not have enough bandwidth to carry out foolproof checks as it entails lot of time, energy and expertise etc," opines Ajit Singh, HR manager at a leading US-based software firm.
"The verification agencies give us credible information and we reduce hiring risks to business and security. In fact some candidates are also aware that organisations regularly have background checks and now there is significant reduction in the amount of fake resumes containing incorrect information."
He mentions that they have at least the following checks conducted:
While not keen to name of the verification agencies his organisation uses for conducting such verification, Singh cautions that there are only a few players in the market who conduct credible checks. "This is a relatively niche and new market and although a lot of other players are coming in, one should be careful of associating only with agencies who have specialised skills in conducting background checks discreetly."
Essential for overseas recruitments
Background checks are equally or perhaps more important when companies look to hire overseas employees. In the absence of a local network, it becomes difficult to have credible information about the candidates, and companies take that extra effort to ensure they are getting what they bargained for with no nasty surprises in tow.
Arul Pinto, who handles international recruitments at a leading US-based MNC strongly believes in having a background check, especially overseas candidates. "When recruiting for branches overseas, we normally have more than a couple of checks done depending on the need of the client. We cross-examine the details given by candidates in their resumes / CVs."
"We also check if the candidates have a criminal record. We speak to references provided by the candidates. These references have to be professional references normally reporting authority or someone in a senior position. We desist from peer references, but go for either a reporting or a senior reference," says Pinto.
"A drug test is also conducted to check if the candidate has been on prohibited drugs in the past. However, a drug test is done only if the candidate is going to be placed offsite and the client has specifically ask for it," he adds.
New verification tools on the IT block
There is also evidence that some potential employers have begun to check out personal blogs and profiles of the applicants on networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Orkut, among others.
These networking sites are not only quite explicit in personal details, but also indicate certain proclivities of people, which can help organisations decide whether they want you in their company or not.
So, a word of caution to all prospective candidates: keep your online footprint clean and work towards building a professional reputation that can stand the scrutiny of even strangers!
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