Recruiting in India?

Four Tips in a Crazy Market

Almost all of the global companies we work for have, or are considering, operations in India. So much talent. So many engineers. And global companies can only benefit from having a good understanding of what will give them an edge in a crowded marketplace for talent.

Here are 4 quick tips to finding and recruiting the best Indian talent.

Tip #1: Remember that coding and language skills are different beasts

It is easy to be quickly unimpressed when someone submits a resume with less than perfect grammar and poor punctuation. In the US, it might be tossed immediately with the thinking that sloppy resume = sloppy coding.  However, this may not be the case. The resume that turned you off may be from a darn good candidate who simply needs to polish her English communication skills. (She may speak three to four languages, by the way.)

In India, those with very good English skills were either convent-educated (and those nuns were strict!), grew up in an English-speaking home, and/or had their schooling in English (called “English-medium”) rather than in a regional language. But plenty of people who do not develop strong English skills do develop strong coding skills. You want to hire someone who can hit the ground running—or learn quickly—when it comes to code. Of course, if this engineer will immediately be communicating directly with customers, she may not be the right hire. But communication skills can be taught. Look for technical skills and the ability to learn.

Of course, if this engineer will immediately be communicating directly with customers, she may not be the right hire. But communication skills can be taught. Look for technical skills and the ability to learn.

Tip #2: Tap into homophily (Say what?)

We feel more comfortable with those who are familiar to us. This is called “homophily”: “homo” means “the same” and “phily” means “an affinity for.”

If the person you hope to recruit is coming from, say, a Regional Engineering College a thousand miles away and finds a fellow alum from your company waiting to meet him, you’re already ahead of the game.  A warm greeting in one’s local language with well-known stories from one’s college can welcome the candidate like nothing else.

Whether for a casual introductory coffee or a formal interview, if the person meeting the candidate shares the same hometown or alma mater, the candidate is more likely to be at ease. He will, therefore, perform better in the interview, which lets you make a more informed decision about extending an offer. In addition, the fact that you made the effort to connect the candidate with someone like him will resonate with the candidate and make him more likely to accept your offer over other offers.

Tip #3: A better buddy

Between the hiring and the joining falls the shadow. In India, there is a customary two month notice period between when one is hired and one joins the company, because the selected candidate needs to give her previous employer notification she is leaving. A lot can happen in those two months. For example, she might find another job and not join your company. Discouraging? Irritating? Unethical? Call it what you will, but although it is frowned upon in the West, and also strongly disliked in India, it is not uncommon. However, you are not strictly at the mercy of the hot market in India. You can take action.

ThoughtWorks in India connects each candidate who accepts a position with a carefully chosen buddy. This buddy stays in touch with the candidate, perhaps sending out high-level (and public) information about company updates and projects. The new-hire could even be invited to an upcoming social event. The goal is to increase the sense of alignment and connection with the new company. If the candidate has other offers but feels that sense of connection with your company, you’re set.

If you have a female candidate, you may choose to have another female candidate be her buddy. While this is probably more important to those young women from more traditional families, I do see that in all my cultural training classes in India, nearly all of the women choose to sit next to each other and partner with other women in training exercises. Creating a sense of comfort from the get-go could help the young woman (and her parents) look favorably at your company.

Anita Pinto, a manager in Bangalore who has done a lot of successful recruiting, suggests finding out if the candidate has a birthday or anniversary during the notice period and reaching out. “Engage them,” she says. “It is all about showing you are interested.”

Tip #4: Help keep Mom and Dad in the loop when hiring new grads

The family in India can have more influence over whether the candidate accepts your offer than you know. Fresh out of graduate school, an Indian engineer I deeply admire was thrilled to be offered a job at Goldman Sachs. His parents were distinctly less happy. Neither they nor other family members had heard of the company, so they encouraged him to instead join a well-known Indian service company. It took some doing to convince his family that Goldman Sachs was a better choice for him.

Unless your company is a large multinational, it could easily be that some parents are unfamiliar with it. They might then try to steer their son or daughter away from you to a “branded” company like Infosys or IBM.

Make it easy for your new grad candidate and easy for the parents: Provide the candidate with information she can share with her parents if she wishes on why your company is a good choice for their child. Faced with this issue a few years back, Mindtree, an India-based global IT company, came up with an Indian solution. (Mindtree now has over 17,000 employees in 14 countries, but a decade ago it was smaller and less well-known.) “The Circle of Life” was a wonderfully crafted publication aimed at the parents of the employees. It carried stories on the families of the employees, examples of community-based work employees did, and success stories about new-hires. The sense of pride it gave the parents was immeasurable, and the parents became great advocates of the company.

Recruiting is not only about finding outstanding people who fit your requirements. It’s also about building relationships with candidates, so that you learn more about them, and so they feel a sense of affinity with your company. The way that people build professional relationships can differ dramatically from country to country. When you’re recruiting in India, keep in mind what makes your Indian candidates more comfortable.  Look past the minor language issues to see deeply into technical expertise. Assign a “buddy” to each candidate during the recruiting process. Create material that a candidate can share with her family, so they, too, are supportive of your company.

Now you’re set to find the prized engineering talent that India is famous for.


Disclaimer: Looking forward to your thought-provoking and constructive comments. Play nice. Comments are (quickly) moderated for the sanity of all.

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