Why the Looooong Resumes from India

by Krishna on January 15, 2009

Ranjith, a former colleague, on his blog Jack of All Trades, has this explanation for the typically long resumes of software professionals from India, in reply to a post by James McGovern:

India is a land of 1 Billion people. […] Hence all our day to day activities have become voluminous. […] Work places are not different either. […] You hardly can own anything, especially if it’s a maintenance project. […] This struggle is many fold higher than what it takes to prove yourself in an American company. And over a period you develop a cloud of insecurity. […]

Therefore when we step out of the boat at JFK, we check out this huge baggage of insecurity along with 60 kg of Masala, Pickles and Utensils our moms have packed for us. We haul it around for a long time until we have proven ourselves in our American work place. Even still, some of those old scars will rub into you rarely, just rarely.

Needless to say this insecurity reflects on our resume. So we tend to be verbal; and try to make a point how important our role was in that project.

Ranjith forgot Occam’s razor. The simplest reason is: Indians have long resumes because they simply don’t know any better, i.e., they have not seen resumes prepared by the typical American programmer. In fact, these resumes (while in India) also have other kinds of personal details, such as the person’s date of birth, passport number, names of parents and so on, which people quickly learn to discard after arriving in the United States. Most people who write their own resumes have no clue what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for. Most Indian immigrants who come to US use a friend’s resume as a template and just put in all the information that may be appealing to someone reading it. When they complete a project, they simply add the details of the new project to the existing resume, very rarely deleting old projects. From a job search engine standpoint, this may actually be useful in getting more resume views.ancestry

But Ranjith is essentially correct about the Indian psyche. India is huge, crowded and filled with people struggling to make sense of their lives. It is densely populated with thrice the US population in one-third of the area. The voice of the little person matters little. In addition, India’s socialist legacy, continued corruption and crumbling infrastructure place enormous hurdles in front of the individual trying to make a difference. The typical Indian attitude towards the run of affairs is a toxic mix of apathy, fatalism, cynicism and insecurity.

Of the Indians who come to work as software professionals in the United States, an overwhelming majority of them are male, unmarried, and in their 20’s. But most are entirely different from the same American-born cohort. These immigrants have a false understanding of American culture that comes from movies (Hollywood & Bollywood) and the anti-American tirades of the Indian nationalists and the Left parties. It takes a while for them to understand and get acclimatized to the American way.

Compounding the problem, most new Indians tend to cluster together and form communities. This is not unique to Indians. People of every country immigrating to the United States try to seek out and live near each other (see the map and article here). This is done partly out of insecurity, but also for religious and cultural reasons. In any case, this parochialism slows down their assimilation into the greater American society. In fact, they may never be fully acculturated for many reasons (especially language and accent barriers). Usually, only the migrants’ children *who are born here) manage to make the transition properly, which creates some friction with the older generation.

In the meantime, it is a struggle for the fresh immigrants to unlearn two or more decades of behavior (conscious and unconscious) and adjust to an entirely different environment at work and elsewhere. For some of them, certain elements may be very difficult to change, especially those related to religious practices, or even food habits. Once again, every immigrant community suffers from this. With Indians, the problem earns more contempt than concern because Indian immigrants are usually educated graduates earning well above the average American salary. So like the millionaire authoress who is now “forced” to iron her own shirts and drive a car, an Indian immigrant complaining about homesickness or lack of local Indian restaurants is a glutton for being mocked mercilessly.

For a funny take on Indian immigrants, you cannot beat Russell Peter’s standup routine:

{ 4 comments }

ranjith January 16, 2009 at 4:39 am

You nailed it without sounding like a cliche.

However its hard to believe why Indians don’t know even though great resources like joelonsoftware.com is available.

Kalpesh January 19, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Krishna,

Your post goes into 2 completely different directions. Looks like, you are trying to make a connection between the needle & the moon?

I can tell you the reason for long resumes (although I don't like it myself).

People on some visa (H1B to be specific) have to work with big service providers (infy/wipro/tcs & son) OR work with mid/small sized companies who provide sub-contractoing (read leeches).

And, they have to deal with a recruiting industry (people who dont know the diff between java & javascript). And, funnily the recruiting people are small time consulting companies who would open your resume, press ctrl+F & search for the keywords the position is asking for.

If you don't know how to put proper keywords OR you don't know how to fake it – you are stuck.

A real example: I have worked with .net webservices in the past & I sent my resume for a position which required that knowledge. It is stupid that I had put "web-services" in my resume. I told the recruiter that I have x years of working experience & I have worked with webservices. To which, she said – I can't find it on your resume. I had to show her that I had put "web-services" (which is not how recruiters will search). Get the idea?

Regarding feeling homesick, I partially agree that kids are spoiled in India with ready mom-cooked food & ironed shirt. Life is more than food & clothing. I think the interaction part of it is what makes people homesick. People want to save as much as possible. They want to be in a familiar circle of people. US is a big country. You wouldn't visit a dearest of your friend/family every other day (As you would in India)

And coming back to resume, the recruiting industry sucks big time (including desi recruiters/managers). I have sent my resume to places where I think I can contribute & have heard from people (those who dont know java/javascript) that I don't have that skills/experience. WTF?

The reason for people to put every stupid thing in resume is similar to people putting all the outgoing links so that google can catch it & show it at the top.

Let me tell you, the industry is flooded with people who don't know real thing (but they know how to put it on a resume to get the resume selected for an interview). And there are other people, who know good things (but don't put every stupid details on the resume)

If I were to put every small thing I worked on, it will become a dictionary.

Kalpesh January 19, 2009 at 1:40 pm

And regarding the comment by Joel on putting comma & space after it in a sentence, he is right.

But, the world doesn't use English as a native language. Try seeing some questions on mailing list posted by people from other countries.

You might laugh at it. But they admit that English is not their language & apologize for it

One should not try to proof-read resumes. There is an industry of editors (books/newspapers) which does this job better.

It is better to look at the content or how much stuff a person knows that he/she claims to know.

Thankfully, there are editors which highlight spelling/grammatical mistakes.

Krish January 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Good comments, Kalpesh. I suppose one reason my post went in 2 directions is that in the first half, I argued that Ranjith’s reason for long resumes was too elaborate. But then I went on to agreeing with him about some of the insecurities that Indian have.

Although I referred to it in passing, your reason is even simpler and more direct – people do it because many recruiters have no clue of what they are doing.

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