General, Social Media, Work

HR Experience in India – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

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Human Resources in India is still at a very nascent stage as a ‘career opportunity’. It means – most HR personnel I’ve had the opportunity of coming across during my stay in India, are either ‘in HR owing to lack of ample opportunities outside the HR realm’ OR ‘loving HR for the time-being till I get married’ OR ‘HR is a good source of income since bulk placements in BPOs/KPOs are easy’ OR ‘opening a small HR recruitment services firm in my garage (refurbished into an office) didn’t require much investment’ types. Does that mean – all HR persons fall into this category? Definitely not.

Cartoon Courtesy: (for non-commercial usage)

HR services – whether bulk hiring (which is comparatively much lesser in the West) or head-hunting (specialized niche hiring) differ in India from the Western style of customized hiring.

I still remember those days – when about to finish my MSc at Oxford University, I heard from someone – “Hey, you haven’t been to the Oxford University Careers Service offices at Banbury Road? Visit them mate, they’ll help you find a job!” So began my journey and first interaction with HR in the UK. Extremely impressive – I had to make an appointment, a counsellor met me, explained me the different career options I could go for (my educational combo was pecuiliar – BTech in ‘Informatics & Computer Science’ engineering and my Masters study was in ‘Sociology’), checked my CV (which looked like shit at that time), came back with suggestions, instant criticisms and serious advices as well. Finally, we went through mock-questions for interviews, scenario based ones as well (E.g. I was asked at Hay Group interview in London by a Senior Consultant – “You’ve 10 minutes time when we come back. How many hamsters are there in the U.K.?”); and finally, short-listed a few target companies (who were currently hiring) for placements with them. Did I get one? Yes, but not instantly. Didn’t have much money those days (August 2006), and had to purchase a cheap and ill-fitting suit (I resembled Charlie Chaplin back then).

One of the very first ones I had gone – Strategic Decisions Group (based in Surrey in London), rejected me. SDG is a top tier ‘Strategic Management Consulting firm’ and I had interviewed for a ‘Business Analyst’ position. 😦 But the interviewer was kind enough to send me positive feedback via mail. Extremely obliged I felt.

Then interviewed with a top-tier Advertising Agency in London. Got rejected again. Then with Hay Group in London, cleared 5 rounds, but got rejected in the final round (they mentioned in the feedback email – I would be an excellent fit for Analytics related positions, but this current one was too mundane for my type). Then had an interview with a Sports PR Agency – got rejected again (we couldn’t come to a mutual agreement on perks, since London is extremely expensive, and GBP 15,000 annual which I was being offered was too low to start with). Had an interview with a financial firm, got selected and joined them as a ‘Trainee – Marketing Executive’ in the following week.

Since returning to India, the difference in hiring has been a shocking experience. I do not blame anyone for this, and least the HR personnel. For them, each ‘candidate’ is synonymous to ‘juicy meat to a tiger’. Thus, getting positive/negative feedback – well, you can forget about that. Nearly all companies do not even have a – “sending an acknowledgement email as well”. Basic rule of the thumb is – “if you didn’t hear from us, fucking forget it”.

The bigger the company you’re applying to, the rule of the thumb is – the worse the Hiring Manager or HR would be. Though it is extremely pro-economics rule of ‘supply exceeding demand’ for bulk hiring, am amazed to see, even for Senior positions, the same rule applies. And in the worst cases, most of the bigger MNCs outsource recruitment to smaller agencies, wherein the entire process turns from nasty to simply, uber-nasty.

From my experiences in India, a few definitely stand out. Have chosen 1 for each category – “The Good”, “The Bad” & “The Ugly”.

Cartoon Courtesy: (for non-commercial usage)

The Good: One of my best interviewing experiences was with in Bangalore. I interviewed with them for a position related to ‘Email Marketing’ in December 2010. The HR personnel was not only extremely courteous to send an email confirming the interview, but when I did meet the persons involved, the interview took place on time (a rarity in Indian context), and finally, when it was over – I received a customized coffee mug with my name ‘Best of Luck – Subhasish’ printed on it! The mug doesn’t cost much – but the thought and the impression that it left on me – well, was priceless. Result – I still have the mug in my display section, spoke good words to my friends and followers; and yes, have purchased more than 30 items from till now.

The Bad: One of the worst hiring experiences was in September 2010 with IBM (Formerly called ‘International Business Machines, recently renamed to ‘Indian Business Machines’). That was a joke! Anyways, got a call from a recruitment agency in New Delhi for a ‘Program Manager – Community Management’ role for one of IBM’s core software communities in Bangalore. Went for the initial rounds of interview at Manyata Tech Park, met 2 American ladies there, cleared the writing test, and initial rounds. I kept on asking – what about the salary? They replied – at later stages! Finally, had 3 more rounds of interviews with 3 Senior Managers in the US (telecons) and finally, received my offer letter from IBM. Wtf? – was my initial reaction. My take home would be lower than what I was getting then. Wrote an email to the HR saying – “Guys! Is this some kind of joke? I repeatedly kept on asking – What’s the CTC bracket we’re looking at for this position and you guys kept on postponing saying – next round. I appeared for 6 rounds of interview and what the fuck is this? And what is this 1 Lac in GDP?” Senior Manager comes back saying – “Don’t worry! That’s not Gross Domestic Product, but we call it – “Growth Driven Profit” in IBM”. I say – “Dude! If IBM shares fall tomorrow, how on earth will you find my contribution to that and vice versa? That’s plain fraud and cheating! I want this GDP removed and added to my basic. Also such a huge sum in ‘annual incentives’. No way!” HR comes back with email – “We increased 1 Lac more. this is final, take it or leave it“. My reply – “Guys! piss off“.

Was it a good decision I made? Definitely yes. Currently am much better positioned in terms of career options and monetarily.

The Situation Opened by Eyes & Showed –
1. Complete lack of character on HR’s part.
2. Recruitment agency at most times had no clue what is happening between IBM (Bangalore) & candidate.
3. HR not bold enough to quote salary at the very beginning. Would have saved all of our times.
4. “Take it or leave it” policies are gone nowadays. I later met a friend of mine, who worked for IBM for a few months. He reiterated the following – “It’s definitely one of the best places on earth to work if you don’t aspire for a successful career. Cause you would be stuck in your job forever. Managers have least interest in you – as long as you come and go and do your work. And growth – in terms of designation and/or remuneration is negligible through the years. So technically, its career suicide. But a nice place to hang out. It’s a company that you would want on your CV – but never as a ‘career option’.

So technically, I made the right choice.

The Ugly: This comprises of a combination of experience(s) drawn across a number of organizations. A few of the stand-out performances include:

company1: Interviewer: “CV says, you studied in Oxford. which Oxford? – one in the UK?”
Myself: “Sir, are you a moron?”

company2: Waited for 45 minutes for an interview for a Senior position. HR comes out finally and says – “Oh! you’ve been waiting? Many apologies, I forgot about the interview. :(“

company3: for a Fortune Global 500 company – it’s the world’s largest HR services firm (headquartered in Zurich) for their Bangalore offices. Hiring Manager asks – “Let’s talk about your loyalty. If your fiancee wants to get married elsewhere and not settle in India, what will you do?” Myself – “Excuse me? how does that bother you? I receive job offers every month, but have only 1 fiancee. So kindly refrain from asking questions that make you look like an impertinent fool”. I worked for that company for 4 months – and yes, all my team-members quit cause the hiring manager was so crazy!

The moral of the story is – Quintessentially, there’s no one to blame. India maybe a land of opportunities for foreign companies to setup their call centers (which incidentally, Vietnam and China are stealing from India in recent times, with more and more companies going there instead of setting up shops here), but the crux of the matter lies in Human Resources. HR is one of the most significant departments of any successful organization in the West, often running up to hundreds and thousands of members for the Fortune companies.

In the past, as mentioned by Karl Marx – capital is ‘accumulated labour’. Capital decided on the future of bigger organizations in the West (in the pre-War and post-War era). In recent times, this deciding factor has transcended into ‘computers, processing power, memory and proliferation of the Internet’. But the future belongs to those, who have surpassed these all and invested time, money and more importantly, a lot of energy in ‘human capital’ (in contrast to Marx’s capital), and nurtured these human relationships over time. And who will do that? The Human Resources department has to take the entire burden on their shoulders only. Thus, they cannot comprise of people trying to make a living there or waiting for the right career opportunity to come along; but must include dedicated HR professionals – well trained, focused, honest, and sincere in their jobs. Human Resources is a career, NOT a job.

I was recently hiring for a position at my current organization – and though I am not HR personnel in nature, I made it a point to send ‘thank you notes & feedback emails to all the applicants who were unsuccessful’. Doesn’t cost much time, but showing gratitude to someone who has taken the time/energy to apply, which is extremely important. I had sent out, around 200 emails to 200 candidates, and yes, received thank you notes from 50+ applicants saying,‘…besides being completely touched, since I never expected a thank you note since in India the culture is – apply and forget. In the future, I would love to be part of your organization…” (words rephrased here for privacy reasons and make it sound generalized). It’s good to have an exception to the rule, once in a while.

Building lasting relationships with internal and external customers take a long time. And if you’re actively involved in the recruitment industry; I would say – whatever you do, never forget to build ever-lasting relationships with your applicants/candidates! This may include doing very petty jobs as – replying to their queries on time, sending out a few emails, providing an honest feedback once in a while and last, but not the least – sending a thank you or acknowledgement note when an applicant has applied for a job/opening that you have had posted on a job board/website.

A company is worth as much as its human resources; and usually not the other way round.

Disclaimer: These are my personal views and nothing to do with any company/companies mentioned herein or here at. For any suggestion/removal requests, do send me an email to: and it will be complied with ASAP.

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5 thoughts on “HR Experience in India – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”

  1. Subhasish,

    one of the best pieces on Indian HR that I have seen of late! Kudos! As an experienced HR professional and senior leader myself, I completely am in sync with your thoughts!! In fact, going through that phase myself currently, where i have faced such callous handling of my candidature with some so called MNC’s and other major players, its not even funny!!!

    Brilliant write up!


    1. Hi Sanjay – thanks for the comment. Yes, completely agree. Recruitment is a very sacred, specialized, and time-consuming full-time dedicated, honest and sincere occupation in the West. It’s more of a callous – ‘chalta hai types’ in India. Which sometimes is very disheartening even for the most energetic and enterprising of candidates. And the worst part of it is – the HR Managers in the bigger places are the worst of them all. Don’t have anything against them in particular, but they should try and be more humane, and respect the needs of an hour. Many a times, I receive CVs from candidates out of the blue – and try helping them at least – if not in my current organization(s), then try and forward them to my friends in other cities so that they may assist the person. And quintessentially yes, I have made a promise to myself – Till death, shall never work for IBM. At least the feedback which I have received from my friends currently working there, or people with whom I have interacted with in the past – is not only shocking, but extremely disheartening. I still remember what I said to the HR when parting – “Maam, do you remember – you guys approached me for a position – I fucking didn’t.” So if they treat candidates like this, am sure, how they maybe treating people who are applying for positions with them, to start with. 🙂

  2. Hi Subhashish!

    Very nice write-up indeed!

    I am an HR professional myself and have had worse experiences with well known MNCs.

    Its very important for a candidate to study the culture of the organization which is definitely reflected in the interview process. I guess many are blinded by big brands or hefty pay packets. But, it’s important to realize that success isn’t defined by only these criteria!

    (LinkedIn Profile:

    1. Hi Ananya, thanks for the comment. And so very very true. Most people, and mostly 99.99% Indians (I don’t blame them for this though) are completely blinded and infatuated with big brands, and when they get the shock of their lives – it’s like damn… but how did this happen? I have even worse stories which I heard from my friends working in Rel*ance and other groups… most of them were so depressed, used to cry at night…. so pathetic. That’s the reason why – NOW I COMPLETELY BELIEVE IN INDIA – a given company’s POLICIES AND MANAGEMENT is reflected via their interview process. Thus, when interviewing hundreds of candidates now for my current organization – i make sure i send an email to all (each and every 200+ i have processed) with feedback and treat them as humanely as possible. I completely understand the fact that too most organization in India – a candidate for an interview has like ‘worse than dog shit in the UK’ status – but i personally, show as much respect as possible for anyone who has taken time to apply for a position and then come for the interview. Wish Indian corporate sector had some better managers rather than crappy shitheads mostly in the MNCs. 🙂

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