Nearshore Americas
Developer Deception

Developer Deception: Software Job Candidates Are Exaggerating their Skills  

First was fake news. Then came doctoring photos to increase likability. Now we have a new phenomenon that could undermine the sanctity of the recruitment of software workers in Latin America: Fake resumes, or more specifically the exaggeration of one’s skills to win a coveted position with a Nearshore software firm.

A number of recruiters have told Nearshore Americas that large numbers of applicants – reaching as high as 20% in some cases – will go way overboard on professing English-speaking competence. Others go heavy on faking their knowledge of programming languages.

“There have been plenty of times when I get a candidate who says on his resume that he speaks ‘fluent’ English but then during a phone interview he just hangs up because he can’t actually have a conversation,”Eduardo Campos, CEO and founder Mexico for Screen IT, a company that helps businesses outsource talent in Mexico, tells Nearshore Americas. He said the issue mainly lies with candidates claiming to speak English fluently.

“There have been plenty of times when I get a candidate who says on his resume that he speaks ‘fluent’ English but then during a phone interview he just hangs up because he can’t actually have a conversation.

“I would say that around 2 out of 10 cases will be like that. But schools and academies here don’t teach well. There isn’t too much effort on providing English at a high level. They learn English in manuals which are too technical and don’t necessarily teach the students how to hold a proper conversation.”

Though the biggest problem for Campos was English-speaking skills being exaggerated on CVs, he added that he has also encountered problems of candidates saying they are experienced in certain programming languages when, in reality, they have little knowledge of how to use them.

Journalist Tim Wilson researched the issue and found that the problem was particularly prevalent in Mexico and Colombia – two popular Nearshoring spots with a lot of talent.

“The public sector will often say they have a certain amount of developers but when you dig deeper, you see that these are people that have basic skills, such as an ability to use WordPress, not Full Stack,” he says.

“Candidates will say on their CVs that they have experience using Javascript – but there is a difference between joining a group of developers and then being an architect.

“There is an issue with problem solving. People may have familiarity with a certain programming language but when it comes down to it, they are unable to solve problems presented to them.

“More and more companies are not just hiring based on resumes but there are likely to now be a set of tests to find out what candidates can actually do.”

He added that English speaking was also a problem and that many students may come out with a supposed B2 level of English – conversational – but when it comes down to it, are unable to speak.

“This is a real struggle over in Colombia. Graduating from a school with a certificate is not the same as dealing with clients faced with complex issues,” he adds.

Colombia in particular is widely regarded as a hotspot for talent, where a growing number of young graduates are entering the market.

Around 13,000 software development students graduate from top universities each year in the Andean nation and between 2001 and 2013, the Colombian talent pool produced over 340,000 IT professionals.

But John Restrepo, Head of Product at Publicize, a PR firm based in Medellín, Colombia, says developers he interviews will often “hide the truth.”

“They don’t necessarily lie but rather hide the truth,” he tells Nearshore Americas.

“They will say they know everything – Javascript, Python, Ruby, HTML – but the reality is they will only specialize in one language. It is very difficult to know all the languages.

“When we do tests, we can see they only know one language. One person I interviewed was able to work very quickly in WordPress. We asked him if he knew Javascript and other language and he said yes. But when we hired him he knew absolutely nothing and was completely lost – including basic things, difference between frontend and backend.

“And this is incredibly common.”

He adds that candidates overstating how well they know English is also something he comes across.

“Nearly all the information about programming online is in English,” he says.

“To read and understand what is in the tutorials, a lot of the time English is needed. They can have a conversation but that is different. Candidates will say they know English because they understand what they read, more or less, but they can never have a conversation.”

Gabriel Martinez, Technical Director at Globant, the Argentine software and IT outsourcing giant, says: “It’s a really common situation. You see it all the time – someone may be good with Java and see Angular is becoming popular and they say they can work with both of them.

“That’s why we do a technical interview and not just rely on CVs.”

Those who spoke with Nearshore Americas have said that it is in part up to the country’s government to help with the situation.

All too often, a government department will exaggerate their country’s talent – in particular how many English speakers there are, which will attract foreign companies but they may end up disappointed.

Wilson says: “Again we have a different messaging from the public sector – governments will say we have this many English speakers. But technical spec over the phone is different to having a basic conversation. This is something they can improve.”

While Campos adds: “People are becoming more eager to learn English – this is a trend I have seen grow in the past ten years. But academies need to do more and I don’t see a lot of effort on behalf of the government to make them better.”

Mathew Di Salvo

Mathew Di Salvo is a contributing writer and editor at Nearshore Americas, based in Colombia.

1 comment

  • It’s of your own doing. If they don’t say they know those things they’ll never get hired. The hiring process is broken and extremely judgemental.

    People want to work… you just don’t give them a chance unless they check all your boxes.