The following paragraph of text is reproduced from a press release dated 11 December 2000. It announced that the company in question had just been listed 22nd on Fortune magazine’s annual list of “100 Best Companies To Work For In America":

XYZ adds the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America" distinction to its “Most Innovative Company in America" accolade, which it has received from Fortune magazine for the past five years. The magazine also has named XYZ the top company for “Quality of Management" and the second best company for “Employee Talent".

The press release also said:

The Fortune survey is based primarily on feedback from employees, who were randomly selected to fill out a 57-question survey... The remaining... was based on a culture audit and a detailed human resources questionnaire.

The identity of this “XYZ" I will disclose later in this edition of Cubiclenama. But first I want you to do some soul searching.

How impressed are you by the press release? Does it make you want to drop everything you are doing now, pick up your laptop, run to the conference room and fire away a resume, accompanied by a sporadically fictitious covering letter? Perhaps you are already looking for contacts in XYZ on The enterprising among you may have already printed out XYZ’s Wikipedia profile so that you can impress during interviews:

“Good. Finally, do you have any questions to ask us Mr Vadukut?"

“Indeed. I have many. (Casually peeks at Wikipedia printout.) Firstly, how successful was your decision to focus on the telecom segment of your business in 2007 citation needed?"

Or are you, like me, laughing a guttural cynical laugh?

Every few months you suddenly see an advertisement by a company stating that, after a rigorous research exercise conducted by a survey company of virginal virtue, the company is now officially India’s 12th most sought after employer. Or the third most exciting place to work in, or the most preferred destination for MBAs, or top ranker when it comes to “People Equity and Talent Leveraging" in the IT industry.

Such triumph usually leads to two things.

First, many of these companies, believing that this announcement has fundamentally changed their positioning in the labour market, rush to hire from business schools. The company prints extravagant posters, T-shirts, mouse pads, bandanas and other youthful merchandise in order to “connect" with the kids, and communicate the company’s new status. They finally fly down a huge interview panel, to handle the barrage of brainwashed applicants, and wait.

On the day of reckoning, dozens of enthusiastic students rush to the company’s interview rooms, then past it, and up the staircase to the McKinsey and Co. panel upstairs.

This is because I don’t think anyone, except maybe the company itself, takes these rankings seriously.

(In fact, does anyone take any of the hundreds of survey results that come out every day seriously? Do you really care for the safest city, worst airport, saddest people or blandest national foods? As long as these surveys don’t portray India in a negative light, I think they should be fully ignored.)

What reiterates this futility nicely is the other thing that happens after such announcements.

Soon after the results of the survey are announced, news websites and blogs post reports. And then all hell breaks loose.

Disgruntled employees descend in hordes. And leave comments.

“Best company? HA HA HA. It is worst company. There is a manager in Tuticorin in this same company who is purposefully trying to prevent the assistant manager from getting bonus and promotion. It is a violation of human rights. I don’t know this person directly, but his friend told me. Fraud survey! Poor fellow’s name is S. Saravanan. He doesn’t know me."

Supposed employees will go on to explain in detail how the survey is make-believe, and how their company is really a sweatshop run by the Devil himself, where lunch is old socks, salary is paid in tuber vegetables and the restroom is a window.

So given that no one takes these surveys seriously, how do you really, accurately measure up an employer?

Most career advice websites indicate that you should be talking to employees themselves. Anything else, including Googling or surveys, are poor short cuts. Also, someone once told me that the state of a company’s lobby itself could tell plenty. Unwatered plants, trophies more than five years old and any pictures of the proprietors on the wall, I was told, all prescribed immediate escape.

Surely you have some personal short cuts for employer selection. Kindly share them. Email ID below.

Which leaves us with one question. Which was that XYZ company? Enron.

Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at

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