Gulf News uncovers global job racket
DUBAI: From afar it appears as a huge success story out of India. Barely nine years into business, Wisdom Jobs, headquartered in Hyderabad, is now regarded as a one-stop shop for job hunters with 30 million registered users by its own admission, and placement listings from all over the world.
The company’s CEO and founder Ajay Kolla is hailed as a role model for young entrepreneurs. He routinely appears on Indian television channels and delivers talks at public events. Sometime back, leading financial daily, Economic Times, ran an article on him describing how the engineering graduate turned a Dh200,000 start-up into a multi-billion empire.
In 2016, India’s biggest apex trade association, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) put Wisdom Jobs in the country’s top SME 50 Index and gave it a Certificate of Excellence. The same year, a popular tech magazine named it Company of the Year.
Yet when you scratch beneath the surface, the picture that emerges is deeply unsettling.
Wisdom Jobs, which prides itself as the world’s first skill assessment based job-portal, has no real jobs.
Agents impersonating HR heads
The employment opportunities listed on it are either fake or copied from other recruitment portals.
Worse, the phone interviews arranged by them don’t have prospective employers on the other end of the line but call centre agents operating from their office in Cyber Towers in Hyderabad.
In fact, very little about Wisdom Jobs is real — except for the millions of dollars it reaps annually from the well-knit recruitment racket that extends beyond Indian shores, spanning Canada, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore and the company’s favourite hunting ground — the Middle East.
How the scam works
On the dedicated Gulf portal www.wisdomjobsgulf.com, the company has over 80,000 jobs in Dubai alone.
People applying for these positions are directed to a login-screen where they are required to fill in their personal details, upload their CV and also choose their preferred Emirate from a drop-down menu.
No sooner have they done that, they get an email from a ‘career service adviser’ informing them that their CV has been shortlisted by multiple companies.
Should that come as a surprise, candidates are assured that they are dealing with a reputed placement firm that fulfils the recruitment needs of 35,000 ‘top-notch companies’.
For good measure, an overview of the ‘guaranteed’ job — complete with salary and perks — is also emailed.
To clinch the offer, candidate are asked to pay a ‘resume forwarding fees’ of Rs7,600 (Dh400). However, in the days ahead, they are tricked into shelling out more money towards a series of bogus fees and charges.
By the time job seekers breaks out of the vicious cycle, they would have often spend up to Dh6,400.
That’s precisely how much Dubai resident S. Sarthi paid in November 2018 after being deluded into believing that he has landed a job with a Dubai Government entity.
The bulk of the ill-gotten money at Wisdom Jobs, though, comes from the ‘resume forwarding’ fees, a former employee told Gulf News.
“At Dh400 per client, it may not appear much, but for a portal with 30 million registered users,,, well, that’s a lot a lot of money. Remember, we are talking volumes here,” he said on conditions of anonymity.
To allay clients’ fear of losing the money, candidates are emailed a letter titled ‘Why Should You Pay?’. It tells them that the ‘resume forwarding’ fees is being charged for jobs that are not in public domain but are rather exclusive. “They [potential employers] have already gone through your profile in our database and felt that it serves the requirement, they have given 95% relevancy to your profile and are highly interested to interview you (sic) and select you,” states the letter, which then goes on to list a slew of ‘benefits’ of paying, such as 100 per cent ‘guaranteed placement assistance’ and ‘immediate hiring’.
Thousands worldwide fall for the bait daily.
Dubai-based professor Nikhat Shah said she paid Dh441 to Wisdom Jobs in November 2018 after being told that her CV has been shortlisted by 48 different organisations.
“I thought it was a small price as I was offered a Dh22,000 assistant professor’s job at a university in the UAE with family accommodation, travel allowance and several benefits,” she recalled.
Nikhat said after she remitted the money she got a call from a senior career adviser (recruitment Middle East) asking her to expect an interview call.
Sure enough, she didn’t suspect anything amiss when the career adviser rang up a few days later and arranged a conference call with a woman who identified herself as Ms. Emma Cowan, senior human resource manager at the American University of Sharjah (AUS).
Now, AUS does have Ms Emma Cowan on its rolls as senior HR manager, but neither she nor any one at the university ever contacted Nikhat.
As it turns out, the person who conducted the interview was an impostor. Unknown to Nikhat, the bogus interviewer carried out charade for nearly 45 minutes.
“She covered a variety of topics. I was asked about qualitative research, differential learning, classroom engagement and my familiarity with online assessment tools. It was a sham,” said Nikhat.
At the end of the interview, the impostor asked Nikhat to wire another $450 towards ‘certification fees.’ Nikhat was told it would be refunded once she joined.
AUS is now weighing legal action against Wisdom Jobs.
In an email response to Gulf News, an AUS spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Ms. Emma Cowan, senior HR manager, never interviewed Ms Nikhat. We can also confirm that AUS has no connection with any entity known as ‘Wisdom Jobs’. AUS is considering legal action against this entity.”
AUS said: “People who have received an email about a job offer from a third-party impersonating AUS, and who have contacted them for clarification, have been sent an email explaining that they had no part in the job offer.”
But how did Wisdom Jobs get Cowan’s details in the first place?
A former career adviser at the firm told Gulf News they are given a data bank containing the details of HR representatives of hundreds of organisations across various sectors worldwide. “It comes handy to arrange interviews and gain trust,” he said.
Those who pay never hear back. Phone calls elicit no response while emails remain unanswered.