Recent musings on hiring and an imperfect job market

Hiring in India is not easy. Generically, it’s not easy anywhere. In perfect markets the demand side and supply side are mature and there is no hidden element. In India, just like the Bombay Stock Exchange, the buyers and sellers are in dark, few people know the right price until they get into a transaction. There are great candidates who almost never know great companies who could be a match.

I have been actively hiring people for my new gig at Bitzer Mobile. We are trying to rope smart engineers to join our Bangalore office with expertise in C/C++, Java, PHP, Android, iOS with varied years of experience. Here are some observations as experienced in the last 30 days.

  1. Imperfect job boards. I wrote about this last year. Job boards are broken, monopolistic and owned by recruiters and mass e-mailers. They are good for bean counting your overall candidate flow with most of them a wrong match.
  2. No separate board for freelancers and short-term opportunities. Unlike US-based Dice, there are none in India in the forefront. This is partly because of our Indian mindset of job security. However, Hasgeek’s job board has an opportunity.
  3. Compensation disparity. The compensation range swings ultra-wide. For a PHP developer with 3 years experience it could range from INR 3L – 9L
  4. Recruiters hold the fort. A good number of candidates swirl around recruiters. The main reason is the failure of the boards to land them a gig directly.
  5. Expected compensation is also mind-boggling. Candidates look for anywhere between 35% – 80% jump from their current compensation.
  6. Immature technology. The matching of requirements and resume is pure art. Even after 20 years there are few tools which integrate well with boards, do application tracking, give a relevance score of matching, etc. There are some high-end tools but they are prohibitively priced. I use recruiterbox for applicant tracking and I love it. But it does not integrate with LinkedIn, google calendar, skype, etc.
  7. Filtering candidates. I have been using interviewstreet for giving MCQ and programming questions to candidates. A few “good” candidates have indicated that they are not interested in taking the online tests. Knowing that resumes are always “dressed up”, it’s impossible to call and do a 45-minute verbal test and hear the answers. I would love to pay someone to administer these tests by calling the candidates and asking multiple choice and general non-programming questions to do a filter. Latent applicants would never take the test.
  8. Almost all entrepreneurs are good candidates. This is a dichotomy in my mind. Thanks to my previous life as an investor with The Morpheus and a developed empathy for entrepreneurs. Realized this recently when I called up 2 such candidates immediately after seeing their application and their LinkedIn profile. I bypassed the usual process of screen-resumes / online-test / phone-call / face-to-face. Entrepreneurs are good problem solvers, but they may not be a good fit. This is highly debatable and my recent sample set is only 2.
  9. Logistics. It’s impossible to get a candidate for a face-to-face during the weekday. Multiple candidates have cited varied reasons ranging from ‘far-away’ to ‘can’t get-away-from-my-desk-as-my-TL-is-watching’.
  10. There is no craigslist-like board for startups. Nor there are any mailing lists, nor there are any startup hiring mixers. I would suggest that Open Coffee Club/Headstart should kick-start a joint mailing list for startups to post jobs. Reminds me how successful KIT-list was during the post-dot-com era.

And yeah, we’re hiring.

The picture is of a candidate from a lathi-charge scene at an event for police hiring for multiple openings. The jobs are almost never advertised and given to cronies. Depicts the irony of India’s roaring growth and the depth of imperfection in India’s job market.

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  • Bhavesh Shah

    Nice one bt u cn try E-hire too frm naukri they will filter and call the candidates for interviews .. Do u have anyone dedicated for HR in ur org ? .. That wuld help too .. Also resume search in naukri is far better than advertising

    • I’m always scared of using naukri, monster knowing how their sales processes are..

  • Thanks for the Hasgeek job board link. Going to try it out for out PHP requirement as well.

  • Well written, thanks! And also for all the links, they’re really useful.

  • Satpal Parmar

    Most of the hiring woes you mention are by-product of hiring practices used by software industry as a whole. I do not know any HR who will not say we are looking for best talent. but when you see how their Hr department works, no self-respecting guy will like to join thr compnay. Whole hiring thing is broken. 

    In my 6 something years in industry where i worked with few industry leaders one thing that was consistent is ad hoc approach toward hiring. 

    Here is the cycle:
    a)Engineering manger did want to filter candidate.  He is too busy. So Hr will filter candidates. key word matching.  so if you did java in school there is possibility you will get a call.

    b) interviewing is not cheduled in the task list of any staff member (so why they shud bother wilh quality ask same stupid question no matter if you 2 exp or 6) , 

    c)No one got trained for interviewing and they tend to forget technical people suck in communication.( most interview are prove me wrong matchs , others are tell me what I am thinking puzzles)
    d)requirement are badly communicated to HR, , consultants and recruiter (you reach there n they tell ohh we are looking for bsp but for automobile exp, we rwant Linux kernel developer to fix bugs) 

    e)Hr department is filled with BBA temps (trust me MBAs r not better). All they care about is footfall. N number of candidates every wknd.

    f) Requirements are broadcast (wtf!) to recruiters. 

    g) Thanks to LinkedIn recruiters are now one large family. So one job requirement will reach to all and one. If you are employed, expressing interest for change will be suicidal as you will start getting calls one after another. Betterlook for better option like employee referral, direct mailing to hrs. 

    h) On visiting employer site you find no job opening or outsourced jumbo application form wr they want you to fill size of your penis. By thsi time You start thinking are you really want to work with them? 

    i) One find day they ask you to appear for a interview. When you reach thr welcomed by receptionist. Sorry no HR today is Sat! Thensee a huge line of wannabes. You start feeling :oh no not again. 

    j) Finally you decide lets talk to manager may be he agree to at-least 50% of your demands. Manager hate hiring, its pure pain so he will ager 35 % of your demand. You know other will pay 5% more but then you need to shift house lets postpone the plans for a while. Chapter Closed. 

    So from hiring point of view I think your best bet is is employee  referral and a convincing no non-sense (ninja/rockstar/hacker are not looking for job, if they you will get to know or they will find you if you worth the try ) job description on career page of your site that reflect the quality of talent you are looking for.  

    One last thing:Hiring for start-up is different from big  companies. Work is different, (you have to wear multiple hats, no 9-5 and sat offs), culture is different (good startups r about products, product dev cycle are long and risky and reward only those who r willing to stick for long , you do coding from scratch while working with unproven technology , hardly any training/ mentoring support, no time for documentation and support). You cannot communicate this reality through job description. Candidate himself shud understand this. This need people with different mindset. And this filter out 80% of people working in s/w industry. Many start-up do not realize this difference or fail to communicate it clearly. They often failing convincing why it worth the risk. I doubt start-up hiring can be outsourced to recruiters. I believe in 10-20-40-30 principal wr top 10% are best candidate not looking for job unless you give them a reason, next 20 % generally work with these top 10% .You hire one awesome guy and he will bring another 3 with him, next 40 % are mix bag and take most of hiring time as they need filtering and classification. Bottom 30% are duds. Target is top 30%.

    • Maaan. Great insights. Deserves being a post rather than comment!

    • Munish Goyal

      Things I observed during my getting hired stunt ..

      0. Where do i search for companies matching my interests and skills and compensation ??
      No comprehensive one-stop shop to do it right. 
      Its like doing google search of early days on an electronic gadget for best price and availability., monster, linkedin. Apart form these none popular ones come to mind first of all. Secondly, others are just ad-hoc. And again you need to keep updated info in all these sites, if you happen to edit and decorate your resume too often.

      Lastly, my exp. hasnt been any fruitful with candidate applying for jobs through these portals. Best results have been  candidate called upon by headhunters/job consultants.

      1. Candidate has to do multiple interviews with multiple number of companies. At the end of day, you do get trained somewhat for interview, but it is so draining with same kind of  questions, both tech. , tell me abt urself, why u want to leave current job, and why u want to join us being the omnipresent. 

      You wont believe, if you happen to do  2(telephonic) + 6 in person rounds of interview, every damn guy asks. So tell me about ur projects, about u .. all same questions.

      Imagine what happens to you, if this repeats with 6-7 companies.

      Why not document the tech. part atleast ? like GMAT score ?

      I know right from college , we are being given a score (GPA). What about professional life ? 

      2. It is very time consuming and lengthy process of getting hired. You are mostly dependent on calls from job consultancies (who further are dependent on the matchmaking at job portals).

      So you have to ‘dress up’ your resume and make it like a fat milky cow. Yeah.. stuff it with keywords as I heard around.

      1/4 th of them never come back after calling. Probably they send your resume to company but  due to reqmt mismatch, ctc expectations (btw even though current ctc alrdy at portal) or so. 

      1/2 of them are actually calling for the same vacancy.

      remaining 1/4 do materialize into getting interviews scheduled up.

      Out of all these, you have to explain another round of details to ALL of them. ctc , ectc, notice, level of exp. in each technology. willing to work in this that city, why leaving current company (oh no not again !!)

      3. Now interviews scheduling is another workflow, it works OK, but still miss-communications, loopholes are there.

      Sometimes interviewer wont call. Sometimes he calls and asks, how many people you already spoke with, to whom you spoke before . (comeon !! its not my job to track 🙁 and tell u).

      NOTE: I am not talking naive, I know in practice, interview is just not only skill matching, but a lot on aptitude and attitude, cultural , professional fitment also. So if it were a process where I need to interview with just one company, I am perfectly happy going through the rigor.

      Major pain point here is going through the rigor of the interview on phone as pointed in # 1. Rest is still manageable.

      4. Well in-person interviews again are a whole-day affair (if you keep clearing the rounds).

      Logistics is a big pain point. Starting from air tickets to cab at airport, overnight accommodation. Sorting all this out is not straightforward. You need to do a lot of chatty communication with the company contact person so that all is on track.
      Anyways but that is logistics in itself, not so much part of the interviewing process. But it should be automated.

      5.  There is no way of feedback mechanism from the company saying why arent you a fit as of now, all they send is a standard regret email if at all. At places where even if you did the final HR round, you may not be  be a HIRE. But it is very confusing.  Atleast the broad feedback should be in place. At one place, I was so sure of getting the offer, but it hung in suspense and they do not even reply back in time. On candidate checking out multiple times is when they actually send any mail. I am talking of a big reputed company. 

      We all understand that it is business and not a school exam to get the result on specified date. They may not be willing to say anythign for now, but comeback after a month saying you matched another opening (incase you were not a total no-HIRE). Whatever such ! If i were runnign a company, I would do the same thing. But candidates’ expectations are different.

      6. Some interviews were quite different (on topics questioned about) than what was announced by telephonic interviewer. That is a total shock. And even the resume doesnt say of any expertise on those fields. Why call in-person and then wastage of time for both. Still company carried out 6 inperson rounds of interview.

      Summarizing it, my main observations are lack of visibility of job openings, lack clarity of JD (what they really looking for), lack clarity of work culture, the compensation part,  lack of real picture properly at one place. (think of page for ipad2 , with all clear specifications and price 🙂 )inefficient interview process. (the repetitive part).

      I strongly believe there could be a need of another job portal to address these issues. 
      1. documentation of skills (certification)
      2. interview process workflow automation
      3. company and job selling page
      4. reference documentation. 

  • Its really a nice one which showing the process of hiring in India.
    in India we have limited seat but have very huge amount of jobless people .
    As you show in the photo. Now the market of India going nicely and we are able to give proper chance to the candidate to show their talent.But this statistic is not for government job.
    We now importance of government job,it means permanent job,so people are ready to do anything for such job.

  • Indus, I am curious to know why you think entrepreneurs may not be good fit as prospective hires for another startup. What were the broad issues which kept you from hiring those entreprenuers? 

    • I think for another startup, the best fit is an entrepreneur who has done it or tried it and is now recapturing his energy before he leaps in couple of years. But, not the ones who are in the process of leaping to the next venture in next few months.

  • Pingback: Made a mistake in Hiring process, shouldn’t have send those online tests! « Parisista()

  • And then employers say why should they pay to recruiters?

    In India, most of the time it is NOT WYSIWYG. So, you have to plan for everything which you don’t see.

    1. Don’t depend on one candidate even if he is the perfect candidate you are looking for. Have a list of choices not to find surprises afterwards.

    2. Hire recruitment agencies (don’t hire too many) even if they do the same what you would be doing.  At least they will manage the complete mess for you. They can make RecruiterBox, Linkedin, Facebook, Naukri, Monster and others actually work for you (in any order).

    3. India has a peculiar problem of having most number of vacant positions with most number of unemployed people. So, don’t post jobs unless you want to hire in bulk and you have agency to go through the millions (not really but yes) of irrelevant applications.

    4. Candidates don’t have much options as of now.

  • Raleigh Hardwick

    Thought-provoking discussion . For what it’s worth if people are looking for a CUT0068-4S , my secretary found a fillable form here