Why can't Indians write a good resume?

BANGALORE — It is a country with the world’s second-largest English-speaking population after the United States. It is a country so proud of its English language skills that it aspires to be the global labor superpower of the 21st century. But if first impressions count, the resume writing skills of many Indians present a bleaker side to this promise.

“To always spread positively within the branch and reduce the grape vine,” said one job candidate in his resume.

“I laugh easily, but do not suffer fools gladly. I expect the same effort from others as I give myself,” wrote another aspirant.

Such gaffes are commonplace in over three quarters of resumes, says a recent study by TeamLease Services, which picked these out from a newly-arrived bunch. TeamLease is a large, Indian staffing company headquartered in Bangalore.

Since the start of the global economic downturn, Indian companies are flooded with resumes. Candidates are frequently updating their CVs on online job websites. The economic recession has reversed the situation for many in India where, until recently, jobs chased candidates.

But stress from a weak job market is now showing up in the resumes. Analyzing resumes of 500 entry- to mid-level job aspirants across different industries in July, TeamLease found that more than 90 percent of them had errors in some form or other.

“If a resume helps open doors at companies, many of these people would not get a toehold,” says Surabhi Mathur-Gandhi, general manager at TeamLease.

For one, many Indians write long, drawn-out resumes. Against the acceptable international one-page, the typical Indian resume for entry-level jobs runs into six or seven pages, says Ravi Shankar K. who heads Weir Minerals India, the local subsidiary of the UK-based pump and valve manufacturer.

After 13 years of work experience in the United States, Shankar says his concise, one-page resume would surprise many Indians.

Often, candidates’ resumes follow a cookie-cutter pattern making it obvious that they got help from the "resume blaster" websites, says Sridhar Ramanujam, who heads a branding and consulting firm BrandComm. He has been receiving a glut of resumes since the start of the economic downturn.

Many candidates shamelessly embellish their resumes. “There is a lot of puffery when listing out academic and work related achievements,” says Ramanujam. He has seen candidates go through two pages merely to describe a workshop they have attended.

To position themselves for the job, many candidates sound bombastic. “Candidates imagine that if they throw in a lot of big words, they will be perceived to have good English and superior skills,” says Ramanujam.

Then there is the cultural difference. Where a succint, no-nonsense tone is the Western standard, Indian resumes tend to suffer from TMI, or the Too Much Information syndrome.

Resumes often give personal information not just of the candidates but their entire family, including father’s vocation, mother’s occupation, how many brothers and sisters in the family and what they are doing. “I have resumes which talk about candidates’ interests in singing or crime novels, their blood type, their passport numbers, their children’s ages,” says Mathur-Gandhi. Then there are some candidates who will attach a declaration with their CVs. “Often, at the end of the CV, a candidate will proclaim, ‘I solemnly declare that all I have stated is true,’ when it is very likely that every sentence he has written is exaggerated,” says Shankar.

Shankar adds that often the only factual piece of information in a resume is the contact information. He has to wade through a hundred resumes to pick one potential interviewee.

CVs are supposed to make candidates stand out. They do, say recruiters in India, but often stand out so starkly for their bad presentation, overt embroidering and major blunders that they can only end up in the garbage can.