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I'm a software engineer at a startup. When people apply to the company to work here, their resumes get passed around the engineering room, where we give them a simple yes/no to a phone interview. My company posts all over the standard job sites.

I've noticed a pattern with the resumes. Every batch of resumes has a few from either Indian or Chinese students. They all have these characteristics:

  • Name is so common that google doesn't say anything about it
  • Bachelor's from a university presumably in the applicant's home country
  • About to attain a Masters in (usually) electrical engineering from a local popular university
  • No work experience or work experience where the company is not named
  • Coursework projects usually contain some sort of multithreaded library, database project, software related to automated/solar/concept vehicle, etc
  • Most of our engineers say yes to an interview but they don't end up interviewing with us

Now, most of these could be coincidences explained by cultural patterns, prejudice against unexperienced foreign engineers, the way that these universities advise their students, etc. But they just feel like they're procedurally generated.

Is there an explanation for these similarities beyond the cultural reasons listed? What reason would someone have to make fake resumes, and is there any documented case of this happening?

EDIT: This company is based in the US

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    You say that "they don't end up interviewing with us". Does that mean that they don't respond or that HR doesn't end up calling them for reasons unknown to you, hence your mention of prejudice? – Lilienthal Oct 27 '15 at 15:32
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    I don't know for sure, but I think they don't respond. Our hiring guy doesn't really look over resumes, just sets up an interview if we like the candidate. – popctrl Oct 27 '15 at 15:44
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    @Brandin we rarely end up interviewing the people whose resumes fit this pattern, so I guess our method must be effective in screening them. I guess I'm more interested to see if anyone has documentation or reasoning on why there would be fake resumes, moreso than methods for filtering them out. – popctrl Oct 27 '15 at 17:45
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    Is the question "how to identify" or "why does this happen" or both? – Chris Oct 28 '15 at 7:19
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    I am not clear what the question is. Are you concerned you are getting resumes, not from sad people who inflate their abilities, but from people who don't even exist and therefore don't come in for the interviews you offer them? You've spent plenty of time describing the resumes but essentially nothing on your actual question. What would identifying these as fake mean and how would it help you? – Kate Gregory Oct 28 '15 at 12:06
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It totally depends on the country's dynamics to be honest. China and India are the two most populated countries in the world. So its obvious a lot of people from these countries have migrated to another countries. Countries like United States, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc are full of Chinese and Indians who have migrated at some point.

As a matter of fact, I am an immigrant from India currently working in Canada with a degree from my home country and have attained a masters degree in Canada. My work experience was in a small company which has no web existence. (You can look up my careers profile). Also you can try googling my name and see if you can find the real me. (Its easy but there are a lot of people with my name). And I assure you I am not a bot. :)


Panoptical suggested an important point in his answer that universities have the same format for their resumes which they give to their students. With the lack of outside exposure, it is possible that those students just ended up using those formats.

Chances are that they already got something or are not interested (Maybe they applied blindly and then realized the requirements are not what they want). But chances are less about them being bots. However to make sure, you have only few options like reach them out personally or email them according to your company procedures.

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    We are in the US. You seem to fit into this description, which gives credence to my 'cultural patterns' theory. – popctrl Oct 27 '15 at 16:01
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Disclaimer: While I personally don't have experience with this, I have heard of this occurring with other companies that I've worked with.

One possibility is just what you mentioned above: these are in fact real resumes that were created with poor guidance from their university. You may want to try to reach out to that university's career center (if one exists) to see if you can provide better guidance to resume writing, given of course that you're interested in seeing more resumes from this university.

Another reason for this can be data mining. Some companies actually try to see specifically if any keywords, specific types of job experience, or other buzzwords on a resume help to get a fake applicant past the initial screening to a phone interview. They could then advise real applicants (who would pay them) to create a similar resume and send that off for your review, under the (hopefully) misguided recommendation that that kind of resume would get them a "guaranteed" interview. This is a scam that usually doesn't end well, but can be an annoyance to your HR team when receiving poorly written resumes.

Edit: To sum up (and because of the title change to the question), the best way to tell if the resume is real or fake is really to try to reach out to the person, given that their resume matches what you're looking for.

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    I, for one, hope it's data mining to help us job seekers "crack the code" of places that uses TALEO or other lame services that filter out all good resumes. I had several resumes for jobs that I was more than qualifies for (though I don't think over-qualified) but could never get a call under numerous submissions over a year long period. After over two years of the job being open, I finally received a "Sorry but this position has been filled already" e-mail. Luckily I already had a better paying job by then. – Hannover Fist Oct 27 '15 at 20:40
  • @HannoverFist Let's say you found 10 companies you wanted to apply to, but then suppose you conduct this sort of "data mining" and discover that 3 of them are likely to be using something like TALEO (not sure what that is, but let's assume it's bad). Is it really advantageous for you not to apply to the 3 companies? Just send your CV to all of them. If they don't call, you haven't wasted anything. I.e., I don't see how it's a benefit to filter these companies out. They will be filtered out naturally by the fact that they never call you for the interview. Their loss. – Brandin Oct 29 '15 at 11:24
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    @Brandin - I don't want to filter them out, I want to know what words are needed so my resume gets filtered IN. I've applied to numerous jobs where I was more than qualified but never got a call even though the job was open for over a year. Most use an automated system that seems to filter too many out (or at least me). My theory is that there are stupid keywords which I didn't use in my resume. Luckily, I knew someone who got me an interview for my current job which pays about the same as the one I really wanted doing about the same job. Maybe data mining can figure out the keywords. – Hannover Fist Oct 29 '15 at 16:07
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Have you tried calling them? I noticed this as well and typically what it is are recruiters. They'll say, "Oh Bob Common got a job elsewhere but I can help you!" They typically have common email domains like yahoo or gmail accounts. Try calling any number or putting them into a search engine to see if you get back anything. If you call or email them and you get forward to a different domain or number, then you know you got spammed.

If you posted the job listing on popular sites like Dice, or CareerBuilders, then that is the source of it. Chances are you posted the job somewhere where this recruiters are posting jobs to you.

Another possibility is that they are actual students. At my university, they have a very high population of students from India coming over for a masters in computer science. It could be that the person is trying to stay in the US and one of the requirements is that they have a job. So in that respect it might make sense but it entirely depends on the school and whether that is true.

Edit: Also, try searching their name along with their university. For example, Bob Common Harvard might return something. Most big colleges/universities have recent alumni for their department page. Or they may have published a paper, which would be especially true for Master level students who might have submitted a project or paper. So searching for name plus university/college/school might be a better search string for common names.

  • One problem with googling them and their university name is that these resumes almost always have an expected graduation date of next year, or in next few months. Still, these are good ideas, I'll try them next time these come around. – popctrl Oct 27 '15 at 15:49
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    @popctrl: If they haven't graduated yet, that's even better, because you can use the faculty/student directory. Most universities limit the number of results and level of detail returned to anonymous web visitors, but allow at least a basic verification directory search. – Ben Voigt Oct 27 '15 at 19:08
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Quick tip on screening applicants - you don't have to spend a lot of time on it.

I typically get 100 or so resumes each time I advertise for one opening. If I did what you did - it would waste a lot of people's time. I wouldn't even pass a resume like the one you described around.


Hopefully, in your advert you will have listed minimum requirements, along with bonus attributes.

Step one - if an applicant doesn't meet those minimums and doesn't gave anything else that it is stellar, bin them. You don't need anyone else's input on this. This will take a couple of hours.

Step two - you've probably removed about 75% of applicants. This is where you get one or two others to help filter down to about a dozen candidates. This will take up to an hour.

Step three - phone screen. 5 minutes of basic questions can easily identify overstatement. Another hour.

Step four - you probably now only have about 6 interviews to conduct, which can be conducted in one day.

Remember to keep the same bar set throughout - it's cheaper to readvertise than deal with a bad hire.

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