What This Article Covers
- Understanding India
- Negotiating with Indian recruiters.
- Getting the story from an Indian recruiter.
- Communicating with Indian recruiters.
I wanted to start this article by saying that it is difficult to find trustworthy recruiters in general. After years of dealing with recruiters, I would estimate that around one in six are actually worth dealing with. However, after dealing with recruiters for around nine years, I have determined that there is one group of easily identify-able group of recruiters that are far worse as recruiters, both ethically, in their negotiation, and in their communication than the average. This is Indian recruiters. This article is really for independent contractors who are from the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, i.e. the developed world. For those independent contractors that are Indian or from a third world county, you know the score already, and don’t need me to point out things that are obvious to you.
In order to understand Indian recruiters, is important to understand India. I have been to India and to Pakistan, and have done reading on the history of the region. Essentially, India and Pakistan were bronze age societies prior to colonialization by the British. Colonialization was begun by the East India Trading Company (without authorization from the British Government), and was eventually taken over by the British Government. India has an enormous population (either soon to or already larger than China’s), and while the British brought some infrastructure, such as a rail system and postal system, most of the country remained undeveloped long after India won independence from the British. While India’s independence is a source of national pride for Indians,the country actually regressed. While the British were in India for their own advantages, the British were better administrators than the Indians that took over from them (since independence and up to the current day) and were less corrupt. India sits at 95 out of 180 countries on the Worldwide Corruption scale. (the US sits at 24, dropping roughly ten spots during the Bush Administration and not recovering our position a single space during the Obama Administration)
India is marked by extreme income inequality and racial inequality. India has a much large population than it has resources (there have been some attempts at population control, but they have been fiercely fought by the country’s Muslim population). This means that India is one of the most competitive places to grow up in, and makes the people naturally aggressive negotiators. For instance, in Indian universities, the competition is so intense that there are stories of a large number of pages ripped out of textbooks in the Indian university library, which of course prevents the other students from obtaining the answer. Indian ethics center around the family, and then become rapidly weaker outside of that unit. This is the common ethics in third world nations where there is great scarcity. This hopefully provides the proper mindset of Indian immigrants that then come to developed countries.
Negotiating with Indian Recruiters
Indian recruiters take their background in India and apply it to their approaches to recruiting. I am often contacted about contracts, however on almost every occasion, the rates offered by Indian recruiters are lower than the rates I am offered by non-Indian recruiters. This is interesting, because the final client is typically the same types of companies. I even received a lowball offer when the eventual client was a major consulting company (which I refuse to work for), and the major consulting companies charge at the top of the market in their billing rate. This Indian recruiters also waited until deep into the process to tell me that the prime contractor was Accenture.
I have concluded from this that Indian recruiters are simply attempting to take a higher percentage of the rate. This can be partially attributed to greed, but I think also relates to the fact that India has no history of respecting labor rights or labor’s value add to the process. Many Indians are treated terribly by other Indians and unless you are part of the privileged classes it is simply accepted. The US has a conception of the worker being an important component of production, India by in large does not. The US had at one time much stronger unions (now down to roughly 12%). India never had this. Those who would like to paper over this fact will point to Indian’s labor laws, with 50 national laws protecting labor, and more state laws. However, these laws are not well-respected by international labor bodies, and secondly, few laws in India are enforced. The upshot of all of this is that the Indian culture is for the person with the “gold” to be primary, it is considered ethical to get whatever can be taken from labor. Any person negotiating with an Indian recruiter or rates or other contractual details needs to understand this background. Indians in India prefer not to work for Indian companies, but instead prefer to work for US or European multinationals where they can be treated more fairly.
Getting the Full Story from an Indian Recruiter
I never feel as if I am getting the full story with Indian recruiters. I received an email from an Indian recruiter recently about a project in San Diego. I told him my rate and he said “we could talk about the rate,” which translates into “I can’t meet you rate but I will negotiate you down after you have invested time in discussing the role with me.” Once I got on the phone with him, he tells me “You realize this is a contract to hire position?”
I have no idea why I should have realized that fact, as it was never stated in our email communications. Perhaps this recruiter believed that I had extra sensory perception. I went back to double-check the our emails, and as I had originally thought there was no mention of “contract-to-hire” in the emails. I reject contract-to-hire positions as soon as I receive the email, so I would be surprised if it had gotten past me. After reviewing the email, I told him I would not be interested in the role and that he had clearly left this information out of our email communication, waiting to spring the information on me during a call. I told him to either communicate honestly or to stop emailing me. He never responded to the email. What I have learned is that dishonest people can never be reasoned with. Pushing back on them, simply makes them move on to the next target.
Communicating with Indian Recruiters
Indian recruiters have poor communication skills. This is not simply “some recruiters,” it is instead every single one that I have dealt with. This should not be surprising, as some Indians speak several languages, and while India’s official language, or at least the language of commerce and education is English, Indians will always have a second Indian language (there are different estimates of how many languages are commonly spoken in India. Sometimes I am told 13, other times Indians laugh at this estimate and they there are hundreds), however the upshot is that Indians spend far less time speaking English than do people in “real” English speaking countries. This also extends to writing, and it is well-known that Indians do not communicate in English very well, and in fact is one reason that the quality of documentation has fallen so much on IT projects. My view is that India does not have a very strong written culture, and that the focus is much more on verbal communication. As an example, when I worked at i2 Technologies (a company started by an Indian — Sanjiv Sidhu and Ken Sharma, two con men, Sanjiv Sidhu walked out with over $1 billion while i2 eventually cratered and was eventually purchased by JDA). i2 Technologies had a large percentage of Indian employees and the willfully poor communication on the part of Indians, no matter their rank or position was one of company weaknesses that eventually brought i2 down. For instance, an Indian director received an email that was not to their advantage, they would simply not reply to the email. Even if the issue was quite important, the email would sit unanswered. If directly confronted, the response was always that they were “so busy.” A few US born workers tried this stunt, usually pre-sales consultants or product managers who I caught lying to i2 salesmen and were not interested in having a conversation with anyone knowledgeable on the topic. However, the problem was far more prevalent with Indians.
Communication is one of the most important features of being a recruiter, which is why I openly question whether Indians can be effective recruiters outside of India. Why we have recruiters who are not first language speakers in the country in which they are recruiting is a very interesting question. Certainly, Indians this may not apply to Indians that were raised in the US or England, but the vast majority of Indians working in recruiting, and working in these countries in general grew up in India. Therefore, the Indian culture, use of language, etc.. is what applies currently.
I have stopped responding to Indian recruiters due to the reasons listed above. First, the trust is not there because I don’t feel comfortable negotiating with people with third world backgrounds, secondly I never feel as if I am getting a straight story, and thirdly I have never actually run into an Indian recruiter that was any good at the job. This may sound harsh, but if I were to try to work in recruiting in say Russia, and where Russian was my second language and where I did not understand the cultural norms and could not communicate properly with candidates (and where I was also trying to cheat them), I think others would be right in dismissing me as unqualified to do the job. I have wasted plenty of hours talking to Indian recruiters, and even explaining solutions to them, and it has really been a waste of my time. Therefore, my viewpoint has been shaped by real experiences, and remarkably consistent experiences. When I point out ethical and communication issues with Indian recruiters, this is not a small sample, and this does not apply to some of them…it applies to every one that I have worked with. This is why I both recommend to other independent consultants to ignore emails from Indian recruiters, but also for Indians to get out of recruiting, and move into jobs where they have a better fit between the skills they offer and the demands of the job.
Questions or Comments
No doubt some Indians will read this message and become offended. Even Indians who know in their heart that it is true and would never use an Indian recruiter themselves. Comments that protest this article under politically correct ideals will probably not be approved. They are tedious, and no one wants to read them. Articles on this blog are designed to describe reality, they are not designed to please all interest groups that comes into contact with them. However, comments that add something to the conversation will be approved, even if they disagree with the article.
If you have something insightful to add, please comment below as to your experiences. If you would like to send it to us to help us build our database of contracts, you can email the contract to firstname.lastname@example.org.