Sixteen years ago, when Akhtar Ansari was starting off on his career as a salesman, navigating the career landscape involved steering through some difficult terrain. It was not easy, reminisces the now general manager of Fresh Trop Fruits Ltd. “The only way you could know of a vacancy was when your friends told you about openings in their companies. Or, you could gatecrash: You walked in cold and asked people if there were jobs available.” Today, he says, things have changed radically. “I was working in Kolkata and had uploaded my resumé on a number of job portals. One day, a representative from the job portal Quetzal (www.quetzal.in) contacted me and asked if I would be interested in this position at Fresh Trop. She gave me details of the position and the company and asked if I wanted her to follow it up. Soon, she had organized a telephonic interview with the company’s board of directors,” he says.
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Sandeep Swaminathan, a 24-year-old software engineer with iGATE Technologies, had just completed his MCA (master’s in computer application) and was waiting for his job placement to come through when he decided to try out Interview Street, a site he found while browsing through Twitter. Interview Street (www.interviewstreet.com), which specifically targets engineering and computer science graduates, allows people to rehearse for job interviews by setting up mock telephonic interviews between applicants and industry experts. Swaminathan was very impressed with the experience. “My interview lasted an hour-and-a-half and I was able to refresh a lot of concepts as a result. The best part was that at the end of the session, I was given a review and told what my strong points were and where I needed to improve,” he says.
After the success of popular job listing portals such as Naukri.com and Monster.com, a number of new entrants have begun mushrooming across Indian cyberspace with the promise of giving their clients much more than mere job listings. Two such portals, Quetzal and Interview Street, for instance, offer additional career-related services, including job listings, resumé building, interview rehearsals and even a network of contacts.
And thanks to the very nature of the Internet, factors such as geographical location are no longer a limiting factor when it comes to applying for a job. “Earlier, where you were based was an important factor in deciding which jobs you could or could not apply for. People would hesitate to apply for jobs outside their cities because it would often mean travelling at their own cost for interviews. Now a person sitting in Bangalore can apply in Delhi without worrying about travelling for interviews,” says Devashish Chakravarty, head of the Quetzal group.
These new firms capitalize on easy availability of technologies and services that make the job-hunting process easier for candidates, and which were previously too expensive or largely unavailable to start-ups. Interview Street, for example, uses the Sabsebolo (www.sabsebolo.com) online conferencing service to connect job applicants and field experts. As a result, it’s able to offer its services for as little as Rs350 an interview. Vibranturre, another site that specializes in resumé building, conducts mock interviews using only online resources. “Almost the entire process happens online. Our clients come to know about Vibranturre online, contact us through email and even pay us through online payment gateways. Any direct communication is also conducted through services such as Skype or Google Talk,” says Prince Peter, head, Vibranturre. The firm charges according to how experienced a candidate is. It charges Rs5,000 for preparing an entry-level resumé and up to Rs25,000 for someone at the CXO level.
Even established job portals have introduced a number of similar services on their pages. Shine.com, a job portal from HT Media Ltd (which also publishes Mint), for instance, charges Rs699 (for freshers), Rs1,799 (for mid-career level people, four-nine years’ experience) and Rs2,499 (for senior levels, more than 10 years’ experience). The portal charges Rs599 for its Resume Booster, wherein the CV is sent to 1,000 consultants/companies for reference and openings.
Meanwhile, at India’s most popular online job portal, Naukri.com, posting a resumé on the site is free. The company makes its money by charging firms for access to its database. These vary on the service needs of the company. Most companies tend to buy a combination of services, which include job postings, response management, resumé database access and branding solutions. Therefore, the pricing is decided accordingly, depending on the duration and quantity of job postings required by a recruiter. A single job posting on Naukri may cost around Rs1,500 and a one-month resumé database access costs around Rs20,000.
Many online firms also target prospective employers, offering services such as background verification of applicants to weed out candidates who falsify information and credentials. One of the Quetzal firms, Quetzal Verify, specializes in this area and is fast building a network of clients that includes firms such as Bharati Airtel and Federal Express. “For a basic reference check, we charge around Rs300. But if we are called on to do an end-to-end check, including educational qualifications and past references, that can cost up to around $100 (around Rs4,600),” says Vineeta Singh, head of Quetzal Verify.
“In just a few months since we started, we have found that as many as 30-40% of people had fudged data,” says Rajasekhar Reddy, chief operating officer of human resources solutions firm Global Innovsource, a part of the Global group of companies.
In addition, firms also use professional networking sites as a place for start-ups to scout potential business partners. Tarun Matta, who runs the portal MBA Jobs (www.iimjobs.com), recalls that he used to trawl the social networking site Linked- In to search for possible partners when he was working in business development at his previous job.
And, as Internet usage becomes increasingly widespread in India, the potential for the growth of such sites is also promising. According to a 2008 report by online market research firm Juxtconsult, which estimates that India has around 49 million Internet users, “job search” is the second most popular activity in the Indian cyberspace (email being the first). “It is no coincidence that Naukri is India’s most successful online story. It only shows how popular career-related activities are on the Net today,” says Chakravarty. Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder of Interview Street, agrees and says that the only way career-related sites can go is up.
But the biggest winner here is the end user. The innovations have made getting jobs and furthering careers much easier, and judicious use of the Internet can really help the average Net user get ahead in the professional game. Think about it the next time someone dismisses the Internet as a productivity-killing waste of time.