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Ask HN: Faking your resume to acquire projects
72 points by s3arch on May 22, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 71 comments
It has been two months joining a company as a fresher. I was pulled into the project within a month. I am comfortable working as a shadow for the project. Recently I as well as others with 1-2 years of experience were asked to prepare a resume which is to be sent to clients for acquiring few projects. Even though it has been just 2 months, I was asked to showcase myself as a developer of 2 years of experience. I promptly said I cannot do that. They accepted it, but then submitted my resume to the client not only as a developer of 2 years of experience but also with fake projects that I had never worked on. They told me this is how other companies also work and there is nothing wrong in "pumping up" the resume. I again went to the HR and said I can't be a part of this process, as my conscience does not allow me to do that. They were polite and accepted my reasons. But I could see that they are really not happy with what I did. I have just started my career and not sure what will be the consequence of my decision. I am willing to lose this job instead of faking my resume.

Did anyone has been in this situation? How things went by when you refused to do such kind of unethical activities? Did you get punished indirectly? Is it a common practice in all companies?

I'm guessing you're in India? This is such common practice that as a CTO I've been forced to blanket ban working with Indian firms. This is one of the least dishonest things they do, some of the other stuff I could tell stories about is far worse.

You're doing the right thing, but that doesn't mean you won't be punished for it in the short term. Hopefully someone recognizes your integrity in the long term and you are rewarded accordingly but there are no guarantees.

Same deal. My personal favourite is always the difference between the actual technical interview passer, and individual doing the work. I know of many companies that blanket ban India, Ukraine, and Belarus because of this.

I just interviewed a guy from Moldova who was very good on his phone interview and so absolutely terrible in his in-person interview (flat out refusal to do the simplest whiteboard coding question imaginable) that I'm convinced they were two different people.

What is it about these countries that makes people that way? There are plenty of other poor countries where this doesn't happen as much. What about India, Ukraine, and Belarus makes people think it is okay to be dishonest?

It's a cultural thing. These countries have a very different set of ethics that's really hard for westerners to get their head around. Basically, the one who got scammed was stupid for allowing it to happen and the scammer is smart for pulling one over on them.

It leads to an extremely inefficient and low trust business environment. In many cases the idea of a win-win is almost non-existent because if the other side wins too then it means you didn't squeeze them hard enough in negotiations.

Most of South America operates like this also, in fact I find Ukraine to be far more oriented towards western ethical ideals than India or any country I've done business with in South America. Much of Eastern Asia also operates on this level.

My guess is a history of scarcity of resources. When there literally isn't enough to go around, you'll cut in line, lie, cheat, defraud to get ahead.

I remember someone from Brazil once telling me that if you get swindled, society looks at you as a sucker who clearly deserved it, not at the swindler as a bad person.

Good point. Another problem is that there is a saying "The example comes from the top" which in my opinion applies here. In many countries (also ones you listed) the government is corrupt and can't be trusted by the people, so they do the same.

This isn't quite right, since there are many poor or poorer countries where this isn't the case. However it does seem more common in poor developing countries so I don't doubt it's a contributing factor.

It might be partly the other direction, too.

Western countries didn’t magically start out rich.

Supply and demand.

Demand: The vast majority of customers they get are seeking to get a lower price. Many of the customers are in non-technical companies, doing non-technical things, and they are told to acquire a software service company to develop something. They approach it as a bidding process and they go for the lowest bidder since they can't really assess anything else. Larger companies usually select a few long-term vendors and they work with them exclusively. Therein starts the problem.

Supply: Likewise, many of those software services companies will actually go out and try to compete on price. When they do that, they know that most of the customers they sell to have very little technical knowledge (think of banks, retailers, insurance companies, freight companies, telcos, etc.). When they're one of the few (or exclusive) vendors that the work with the client, they're creating a bulk deal for x amount of resources (i.e. a number of people). So they have to provide those people. However, the supply of skilled developers is low, since there are many great product companies within those countries (India, Ukraine, and Belarus) who offer great jobs to the experienced developers. So the fastest and cheapest way to meet the quota is with "freshers" (as they appear to be called in India). So now they're billing for people who have no experience at a very low rate in order to be competitive, they're also paying those developers pennies, and they're patching it up by having the few seniors within the company act as leads. And those seniors are split between 2-3 projects, and on each one of those projects, they have 4-5 juniors below them. This gives them a good "blended rate," but they still can't make a profit higher than 20%. The rate at which they lose talent is fast because the product companies are always stealing their good developers.

Overall, when I ask them why don't they just sell the senior developers at a higher margin and have fewer JR devs, the answer is that they'd never get a project because the competition is undercutting them on the price.

I encourage you to watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofRxxrdQE0c

Lighthearted, but surprisingly insightful. Especially the part about treachery!

(speculation) Is it about countries that changed to poor maybe? I've seen echos of this in post-war Poland as well, but the issue seemed to largely go away with time. Before, being clever/cheating was a common motif in movies (trading diluted alcohol, illegal currency exchanges, tradesmen avoiding doing any actual work, etc.) It seems to be gone now that economy is in a much better state.

I hire freelancers for $xxx-$xxxx contracts in the games industry, and I've set a blanket ignore to proposals from Indian contractors as well for the same reasons.

The other problem is that the person you speak to and agree to do the work with is often not the one who will actually be carrying it out. Generally speculative applications where the quality or focus area of the portfolio doesn't match the job is another problem.

>I hire freelancers for $xxx-$xxxx contracts in the games industry, and I've set a blanket ignore to proposals from Indian contractors as well for the same reasons.

Looks like what you're doing is a very clear cut textbook violation of the law.


>National Origin Discrimination & Work Situations

>The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

To be fair, it's not discrimination if he simply blanket ignores proposals from contractors located in India. It is if he blanket ignores proposals from any contractors who were born in India, but may be located elsewhere.

It's not as clear cut as you are trying to make it out. Perhaps he simply wasn't clear in his wording....

I hired on Upwork for a simple thing (some pdf generation in Rails). It became evident fast the person I hired wasn’t doing the work, and no one was working against the detailed spec I gave them. I eventually marked it as complete just to get them out of my life, as I wasted more time in communication than I saved from not doing the work myself.

Fortunately it's usually incredibly obvious in the first day or two when this happens. You have to cut your losses early in those cases. Before I banned all India based firms I would sometimes hire 3 of them for a small project and then hire the one that actually performed well for whatever bigger project I actually wanted done. But sadly for them it's now easier to just not hire there at all.

> > joining a company as a fresher.

> I'm guessing you're in India?



(India) A fresh graduate looking for his or her first job.

I'm aware of that, which is why I guessed India. :)

>This is one of the least dishonest things they do, some of the other stuff I could tell stories about is far worse.

I would like to know more.

> I'm guessing you're in India?

Yes. No one else uses the phrase "joining a company as a fresher" .

I'm aware of that. Plus the grammar used is pretty unique to Indian English speakers.

I would like to know your other experiences. I'm an Indian who has suffered at the hands of Indian outsourcers and want to know what the common patterns of dishonest behaviour are.

I heard it happens sometimes with intermediates for contractors too. A contractor friend gave the following advice.

Take a copy of your resume with you, the real one and go to your first meeting alone. Get them to talk about their stuff before handling your cv, act interested ask follow up questions and push on it. Then when it comes to your CV act surprised when they talk about stuff you didn't do. Tell them you have your cv as given to the intermediary and compare notes. Tell them you are disappointed with wasting their time but that the job looked really interesting. Most times the company is happy to find out their intermediary is shit and sometimes offers to take you on on trail basis.

You already know it's wrong, as evidenced by your post. I'm not going to be the one to tell you to quit, because I don't know where you work, or who you work for, or how easy it would be for you to replace the check, how many mouths you have to feed, etc. It's enough that you get why its the wrong thing to do. If you had to keep taking pay from this company for awhile I don't think anyone would blame you.

In some industries this is such common practice that it's expected, and requirements are upscaled to account for it.

To the point where my organization issued a RFP asking for "engineers with 15+ years of experience" in something that did not exist five years prior. I asked the obvious question and was told "that's the only way we'll get anyone competent."

I left that job.

This happened to me when I worked at TCS right out of college. I did the same thing as you and brought my case to HR and they didn't seem to care. When the client interviewed me I was very open about my actual skills and told them when something was just not true when they'd reference a lie on my resume that the company fabricated. Nothing negative ever happened to me during my employment there but I immediately started looking for another job.

Interesting. Is that TCS in India, US, or elsewhere? I am still there in the US, also directly out of college, and hadn't heard of that happening here.

Can Indian companies actually just hire competent devs rather than trying to push their devs to misrepresent their experience level, please?

It's really doing a disservice to Indians who are actually competent and giving companies that employ Indians a bad name...it's not good.

Can Western companies actually just hire citizens of thier own nation (or valid H1B immigrants) instead of trying to save a few bucks by sending the money out of the country while blocking their own citizens the opportunity to work (all while enjoying the services, protection, economy, and opportunity their own country provides them) ?

Part of the issue may be brain drain. Really smart hard working ethical developers often leave India.

I don't blame them

It demonstrates a company with a lack of integrity. In my experience such companies end up losing and their poor ethics smear the reputation of people that worked there. It sounds like you have a choice to make.

You might also wish to post (anonymously) to https://workplace.stackexchange.com/

Thanks for referring. Will post there too.

Yes :)

I have been there, even when I was not in India then and not a 'fresher' as well.

I had just completed my Masters program from a well known university and was in the job hunt phase. I was contacted my multiple 'consultancies' that offered to tailor my resume to the needs of 'prestigious' clients and get me the position.

They were planning to show 7 years of work experience - I was just over 5 years out of my undergrad - which included actual 4+ years of experience, a nice break and then a 1 years Masters program.

I could not fathom how they would fake my resume to show the 7 years experience, but they were very confident about it. I was amused at the practice.

I was at the risk of having to leave the country if I could not secure a job over the coming months, and would have student loans to deal with as well. Despite this, I could not digest the idea of having a fake resume that I will have to carry for my entire professional life.

IMO - Do not do this if your moral compass does not allow it. You will be better off in the long run. (:fingers-crossed)

BTW, I am Indian and was in Bay Area when this happened (2014) and the 'consultancy' was also local.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

They did that to me at least once. I found out when the customer asked me for some certification. It was infuriating, because I was the only one not lying: the customer wanted to present me to their clients as their employee, when I was actually a subcontractor, so they didn't even complain to my bosses.

I don't know what I would do in your position. I have almost 25 years of experience and won't lie ever. If I can't get some job, I'd look for another one worse paid.

Quit and look for a more honest company. The kind of company that would lie in this way to get business is the same kind of company that would lie to you about their financial situation or throw you under the bus and lie to a client about your role in some problem. Plus if their behavior eventually does catch up with them you won't want to put the time you do spend there on your real resume, so better to cut your losses now than waste a couple years.

Your story feels very similar to this thread on reddit https://www.reddit.com/r/cscareerquestions/comments/axqkcq/i...

Maybe you can find some answers there ?

The company you joined -- it's BrighterBrain, isn't it? This is not common practice in the USA or Europe, but BrighterBrain (f.k.a. Unbounded Solutions) is one of the few outfits scummy enough to try to get away with it. Ditch those scumbags at your first opportunity. Even if it's not BrighterBrain, you're working for scum.

Find somewhere else to work

If they do it anyway, you probably can't reasonably stop them short of quitting. Quitting likely would be best, but maybe you can't afford to right now.

If it comes up while talking with a client, I would just tell the truth about the specific part they are asking about and mention that there must be an error in the document they were given. That is what I've done when I found that recruiters added lies to my resume in the past. I don't think anyone ever held it against me. I take my own copies of my resume with me, but I'm not sure if that applies in your situation.

I was asked to use very exaggerating adjectives about my abilities on a resume, mainly because I would be able to gain those abilities fairly easy and the “customer” was more focused on buzz words and years of experience than real talent.

It was a large public tender, we were a big team (of mainly unexperienced engineers), we won it and we did a really good job.

It was probably unfair competition to lie on the resume - but I think my employer knew better what they needed, than they did themselves, so we gamed the tender.

> I think my employer knew better what they needed, than they did themselves,

This is a terrifying sentiment.

I don't understand that "you were asked to" do it. Who asked you?

My employer at the time - a large international consulting agency. We were given a list of technologies that we were required to mention on our resumes with the instruction “If you have heard about it, you are experienced, if you have worked with it you are either very experienced or an expert”. It did feel wrong writing that resume but tbh I do not think we were overselling our abilities much - only the experience part.

There's a real disconnect in some cultures between what they say and do. Instead of fostering long term mutually beneficial relationships (as they say they are focused on), it is all about screwing the opponent. There is no shame in doing it. The only shame is in being caught. It's easy to see what holds back certain economic systems with such malfeasance.

Well, in a the same field (IT) it is common for companies to sell computers with pirated Windows, used parts as new, etc. In the small town I live in, know of five companies (two out of business) where this is common practice. I t think it's IT people taking advantage of non-IT people.

Good job. Don't worry too much. There will be no consequences for you in the long run. Honesty also makes you stronger. You will just find a employer who will do things honestly. But do read algorithms and coding questions thoroughly.

Thank you. Thanks for emphasizing on learning algorithms and coding questions.

> again went to the HR and said I can't be a part of this process, as my conscience does not allow me to do that.

Technically, you were not a part of this - some salespeople lied to the client and your company got the contract. You did not partake in this. If you want to only work on contracts that were won 100% ehtically, you probably should open your own company, as, from what I've seen, you won't find much companies (in the "generic software development" market) doing that. Or, more realistically, work for a company that writes software for its own use and not for clients.

> Is it a common practice in all companies?

quite common in indian firms.

I've never seen this outside indian consultancies/bodyshops. But I don't know for sure.

Ive consulted for a few years in the US, never had this happen to me or heard it happening to fellow consultants.

Honestly, who cares? You're not hurting anyone. Unless you feel you won't be paid appropriately, this isn't illegal or even THAT unethical. If anything, you'll learn something new and come out of this with some really good knowledge.

But if you really want to quit over this: listen to your instinct. I wouldn't, but that's me.

Sure you are. You're hurting all the developers who will have to jump through timed test hoops to prove they know how to do things because the prospective employer has been burned by engineers who lied on their resumes. If you're a consulting company you're hurting all the other consulting companies that do business honestly, and have to try to build good working relations with customers that have been burned by dishonesty like this. In other words, you're hurting everyone, and making everything worse.

That is fascinating; I am honestly curious whether these are personal, ethical, or cultural differences (or all of the above).

* On one hand, I originally hail from a country where majority of population would have absolutely agreed with this - it "doesn't hurt anyone", it's fine, everybody does it. It's also, related or not, one of the countries where people will judge you negatively if you pay your taxes ("what are you, a schmuck??"), if you don't haggle, etc. It's a hard country in hard times and you're expected to do whatever it takes for yourself to come ahead.

* On the other hand, I've been living in Canada for 20+ years (not the least because the culture and ethical framework work for me:), and while absolutely definitely "shady stuff happens in unseen corners" and not everybody or every org is honest, on average, I could get a whole chain of workers and management fired if I brought something like this to light. Certainly, the average person in average situation would indicate this is unethical, it directly hurts the people potentially hiring you (as they're literally not getting good as advertised), it indirectly hurts your own company (through reputation etc) and market at large (through inflated requirements and misaligned expectations). It's effectively lying for personal gain. It's wrong. And most people have the luxury of treating it as such. But I also know, as per #1, places where it's just how business is done... :-/

Look at the other comments above yours. Several state that they have blanket hiring bans on firms located in regions where this behavior is prevalent. It has direct harm on employability and it's unethical to the point of making your own job prospects extinct.

> this isn't illegal

It's literally fraud.

it's a lie/deceit, but I'm not convinced it's fraud. fraud is:

> intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage.

Everything is fine until "resulting injury or damage". You'd have trouble proving that a guy who falsely said he wrote parallel FizzBuzz with REST API on a 500-client kubernetes rack caused you any harm.

> upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage

If he gets a job the wages are damage to the employer.

If he gets an interview the time spent interviewing is damage to the employer.

> Honestly, who cares? You're not hurting anyone. Unless you feel you won't be paid appropriately, this isn't illegal or even THAT unethical.

Ugh. Attitudes like this are exactly why the software industry will be stuck with stringent developer interviews with coding questions for foreseeable future.

You are delusional. How is this NOT unethical?

If you do this on a project I am working on I will come find you and I will make you debug JavaScript in IE6.

> this isn't illegal

It's important to take note that if you lie about your educational achievements, you may be breaking the law (depends on the locality).

It's fraud. If you successfully obtain work on the back of a fraudulent resume which the client later discovers to contain false experience, they can generally sue you for the value of whatever damage your lack of experience could have caused. If a $20m contract falls through, then...

This is what gives Indians a bad reputation -- seriously? This is disgusting -- stop telling people this.

So single rain drop believes it is to blame for the flood.

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