The Asian Age
Chiranjit Banerjee
Mumbai, September 9, 2005

Till the early nineties, there were not more than a thousand recruiting firms in India and most of them concentrated on senior-level recruitments. Then came the IT boom which brought with it thousands of "mom and pop shop" type of recruiters as these companies tended to be very vendor dependent. According to industry veterans, the recruiting business is now worth close to rupees twelve hundred crores with "offline" recruiting (where consultants never get to meet the candidates they propose due to their over dependence on internet mining) rapidly making strides in the IT and ITeS sectors. The old generation firms consider this model of staffing rather low-brow and have chosen not to venture into this area which has yielded ground to a whole new generation of shady, unreliable and generally unorganized recruiters who rarely vouch for the credentials of candidates. This phenomenon is particularly visible in Bangalore and Hyderabad where street-smart recruiting companies take advantage of the offline model to claim candidates as their own as the under-invested off-line vendors don’t really "own" the candidates. Resultantly, the recruiting business in the technology sector is awash with allegations and counter allegations between employers and consultants. To blame really are the hiring companies, who have encouraged such non-serious consultants in the first place, presumably to keep pace with the frenetic hiring in the industry where the old world format of a series of physical interviews does not work due to time constraints. In the process, the entire recruiting industry has come in for some flak when the culprits are really the new generation firms set up by untested individuals without any track record of managerial aptitude. For the industry to rise form this quagmire, an element of self-regulation is urgently called for. Alternatively, major recruiters ought to force their staffing vendors to comply with a set of best and ethical practices that they would themselves.

On a visit to the websites of several recruiting firms, I noticed that only some of the MNC players comply with ethical practices like "off limits’ from their client companies ie no contact with employees of their clients and no "parallel processing", i.e the same candidate is not proposed simultaneously to several clients. But frankly, a lot more can be done in this sphere as well as in terms of quality filters. This is after all a service intensive business. There seems to be no response guarantee to candidates i.e an email or telephonic response within a committed time frame even if the candidate is not short listed. Likewise, clients could be guaranteed that proposed candidates for certain levels have been met and screened. LONE RANGER Among the websites I visited, only one spoke of evolved ethical standards like compliance with the Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) Act, which among other best practices, ensures that key people are screened out in terms of integrity and reputation. This recruiting firm, PeoplePlus Consulting, appeared to be alive to international best practices that most Indian recruiters are not even aware of. The firm also appears to document the expression of interest of candidates prior to proposing them to clients rather than "cut, paste and mail" CVs of candidates who are neither screened nor met by the majority of off-line recruiters. If this firm does indeed practice what it says, ethical companies should be lining up to do business with this firm.