Dealing with Consultants/Recruiters in India


Having gone through the job search process in India, I’d like to share some of my observations on recruiters or consultants in India – people who specialize in placing IT candidates in appropriate companies.

Consultants are probably the second best means of finding a job, the first being your contacts. And since companies are increasingly relying on consultants for their recruitment work, it helps to understand the role of consultants. There are many ways that you can come in touch with consultants: a newspaper ad, a friend, etc. But, the best way to get in touch with them is by simply putting your C.V. on one of the popular job portals.

Consultants will quickly scan your C.V., and if they have a match with one of their clients (companies looking to hire), they will send you an e-mail asking if you’re interested, along with other details. These emails are sent out to a large group of people – to anyone whose C.V. matches a certain base criteria. So, if you respond, you won’t always get a response back. This is especially true if there’s heavy interest in that particular opening, and the rest of the field is competitive. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a few responses – persistence is critical to your job search.

The content of the emails sent out by consultants is generally the same: they will introduce themselves along with their client – the company looking to hire – and the skill set they’re looking for. Then they will ask you to respond with an updated C.V., and for other details like your CTC (current total compensation – if you’re currently working, how much you make considering all things, like bonuses, stock options, etc), your expected CTC (how much you expect to make in your next job), notice period (how many weeks worth of notice time do you have to give to your current company if you want to resign), and possibly some other things.

You should be especially careful when stating your expected CTC, because if you state a number that is much higher than the going market rates, you may not get a response back from the consultant. If someone with your skillset is generally being paid around 5 lakhs per annum, it would be quite unreasonable to put your expected CTC as 10 lakhs per annum. And since most offers are negotiable – it would be wise to first put yourself in a situation where you get an interview, do well, receive an offer, and then negotiate the offer that you think you deserve, within reason of course.

If the consultant receives a response from you, and thinks you’re well qualified for the open positions that his client has, then he will give you a call. The consultant will usually ask you to re-confirm some details, like your CTC and expected CTC. Often, they will ask you if your expected CTC is negotiable. It’s a good idea to always say yes, even if you don’t think you’re willing to work for less than the amount you stated. Because if you say no, then you’re taking the risk that the company will simply not want to interview you. But if you go for the interview, do well, and think that the company really wants to hire you – then you have definitely put yourself in a position where you can get the salary that you want.

When they call, consultants will usually ask for some other details, and if satisfied, they’ll ask for your availability for an interview. Since consultants are basically middle men, they will have to confirm with their client in order to set up an interview, and then get back with you later to confirm on your side. If the consultant wants you to attend a walk-in interview, it would be a good idea to ask the consultant if you can set up a non- walk in interview, to avoid the hassles associated with a walk-in interview.

Having given some of the details of interacting with consultants, it’s important to understand their motives more clearly. Consultants are paid only when you get the job – and they’re paid a significant amount (generally the equivalent of your 1st months salary – and sometimes even more) for what usually is a very small amount of work on their part. To be fair, good consultants may do some additional screening of their own, or add some other service, before letting you attend an interview with one of their clients.

But most consultants in the IT industry don’t provide any additional screening – and their only goal is to get as many people to interview with a company as quickly as possible. They figure that at least some of the people they send for the interview will get the job, and they will then get their commission. So, they try to send whoever they can for an interview to increase their odds of getting a commission.

So how does all this affect you as a job seeker? Well, there are a number of things. Because some companies have very strict requirements in regards to the number of years of experience that they require, some unethical consultants may go as far as to tell the company that you have more experience than you actually have, or may even claim that you have skills that you do not. This is done in order to get as many people to show up for the interview, so that their odds of getting a commission increase (or that’s what they think, at least).

All of this will probably be done without you knowing it. This puts you in a bad position when you show up for the interview. At that time, the human resources people who work at the hiring company may take a closer look at your C.V. and determine that you don’t meet their hiring criteria and send you home without an interview. Or, they may conduct the interview, and proceed to ask you questions about the skill set that the consultant claimed you have, thereby exposing the fact that you are not really eligible.

Don’t assume that the human resources people (at the company that’s hiring) will take a closer look at your C.V. before you arrive for the interview, because they often don’t. So, how do you avoid such a situation? The key is to know the exact job description (J.D. is the common abbreviation), and the requirements that go along with it. Usually consultants, in their emails they send out to potential candidates, mention the J.D. quite briefly. But if you know that you don’t really match even that brief J.D., then you probably are not eligible to interview – although sometimes exceptions are made for people with impressive resumes. So, in that situation, you probably don’t want to even bother responding to the consultant’s mass mail in the first place, unless you think your resume is amazing.

If you do find yourself eligible (by way of a consultant) to interview for a job whose J.D. is even slightly different from your own skill set, you should be careful. Your eligibility may be the result of the consultant doing some hanky-panky. In this scenario, you probably want to contact the human resources people at the hiring company directly, and confirm with them that you are eligible to interview. You can try asking the consultant for the phone number or email address of the human resources representative at the hiring company. But some consultants will not give you this information. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that the human resources person at the hiring company requested the consultant not to give out their contact information (to avoid having countless candidates contact them). The second reason is that the consultant may be trying to protect his own business, which is essentially based on his contacts, and thus does not want to give out his client’s contact information. So, if you are unable to extract that information from a consultant, then you could press the consultant a bit more, and ask him exactly what is the J.D., and do you really fit that profile? It’s up to you to determine if what he tells you is the truth.

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