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CV and us
Name: Aishwarya Rai (please call me Bachchan, hee, hee, hee)
Date of birth: November 1 (I don’t remember the year, hee, hee, hee)
Height: 5’7 (but now I’m nine feet tall, hee, hee, hee)
Weight: Your guess is as bad as mine (hee, hee, hee)
Claim to fame: Bachchan bahu and India’s second most famous face (after my sasurji, hee, hee, hee)
References: Not Salman and Viveik (hee, hee, hee)

... and it can run into 35 pages.

For quite some time now, Manmohan Singh’s CV has been doing the rounds of email inboxes. The subject line of the email reads “Proud to be an Indian”. Singh is not responsible. The body of the mail, a detailed account of Singh’s achievements, mainly educational, seems copied from the Prime Minister’s official website. It is eight pages long.

Erstwhile President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s list of achievements is another widely-circulated email, one that you will find in your mailbox every three months. It is nearly as long.

Manmohan Singh’s CV is obsessively stacked with mind-boggling details. Under the entry ‘Prizes and Awards’, which starts at year 2000 (when he won the Annasaheb Chirmule Award by the W.L.G. alias Annasaheb Chirmule Trust set up by the United Western Bank Limited, Satara, Maharashtra) and goes back to 1952, are listed 25 awards and prizes, and it’s only page 3. It’s a wonder why no prize has been recorded after 2000. Is that when politics really claimed him'

But this is the traditional Indian CV. Length is its real strength. Singh’s CV is considered good reading material since Indians are achievement-crazy. Except the number of Indian entries into the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s the CV that bears it out best.

Name: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (call me Mahi)
Date of birth: July 7 — a day before Dada (Sourav Ganguly) and Dadu (Jyoti Basu); so I am half-Bengali
Claim to fame: My tresses — more cool than my keeping and more consistent than my batting
Achievements: Being hugged by a Bengali girl outside the Garden of Eden; sporting a different hair colour every season; selling Mysore sandal soap
Reference: Not Syed Kirmani

Psychologist Moharmala Chatterjee tries to explain the impulse behind the strong attachment with CVs: “Some people may be obsessed with their achievements, but in most cases it is the environment and the attitude of the people around them that fuels it further.” As a result, employers, consultants and HR managers are a harassed lot.

The obsession with CVs manifests itself through very long documents. “Every day we come across at least two or three CVs that have extremely weird data, which sometimes includes details pertaining to a candidate’s personal life,” smiles Debadipto Siddhanta, customer relationship delivery associate, Ma Foi Management Consultants.

Family background, spouse’s work profile and sometimes even the school the job aspirant’s child goes to — all this and more make their way into CVs. Extra-curricular activities can extend even to the gym. “I came across a CV that had details about the fitness regimen of the candidate. The message he wanted to put across was that he was so physically fit that he could withstand long hours at work. It was hilarious,” says Sameer Mathur, senior executive at IBM.

Perhaps it has to do with the psyche of a country that has only recently realised that it has progressed from the underdeveloped status to developing. Less is still not more in India. Not yet.

The list of qualities attributed to him/herself by the candidate can be long, sombre — and pompous. This is from a CV, available online, of a person who wants to go abroad. Under personal qualities, he lists: “Strong interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills; Good personality; Always in quest of knowledge; Hardworking; Very cautious; Good team spirit; Good planning skills; Ambitious.” All in one person.

Name: Lalu Prasad (don’t dare call me Yadav)
Date of birth: Woh ka hota hai, ji'
Height: Hum kisise kum nahin
Style statement: Ear hair
Claim to fame: Father of nine children, husband of former chief minister of Bihar...
Achievements: B-school guest lecturer, raja of the railways

The CV of an IAS officer on a state government website is seven pages long — an IAS officer is almost as good as a Prime Minister. It starts off with “While studying at university I was hardworking, adaptable and resourceful. The course required me to be versatile.” The projects that this 38-year-old has masterminded follow in dense columns of print.

Jignesh Parekh, business development head at Hurix Technologies, a software company that handles overseas recruitment, feels that Indians have the tendency to harp too much on their achievements and skills, which often finds expression in their CVs.

Freshers are particularly prone to sending long CVs, but human resources experts claim that many senior-level candidates are guilty too. “Many candidates have such long CVs that they can visit a book-binding store before they hand it over,” laughs Parekh.

Siddhanta of Ma Foi says he once received a CV that was a staggering 35 pages long. “The CV had the most unnecessary details possible — his achievements in school included,” he says.

The longest CV that Sewli Chatterjee of naukri.com can recall had about 25 pages. “The CV had everything that was not pertinent — starting from the candidate’s parents’ background to information pertaining to his school-going child,” she says.

The tendency to be verbose as far as one’s CV is concerned can be due to two reasons, says psychologist Nilanjana Sanyal. “On the one hand, it can be a person who suffers from a basic sense of insecurity and low self-esteem. He therefore feels the need to gloat about his achievements, however insignificant,” she says.

And the person who feels that way tends to go on and on about his achievements at the interview, or at a presentation. Where 10 slides would be enough, he could use 20, just to stress it some more, for saying it once is not enough.

“On the other hand, he can be a ‘narcissist’, someone who is extremely self-oriented and believes that all his achievements are important enough to be listed on his CV,” Sanyal adds. Many men (and women) take themselves that seriously.

The CV is, therefore, taken that seriously too. So seriously that there are attempts at innovative forms. Using colourful fonts in a CV is not uncommon. “I have received many such CVs, including one which was shaped like a rosogolla bhaar and another that had my name imaginatively put in a blurb,” says Anurag Hira, executive creative director, Bates David Enterprise.

Innovative CVs may be acceptable in advertising agencies, but are not looked upon favourably in most other professions in the dull world out there. They would look like wedding invitation cards. But then in India, in arranged marriages, it is quite usual for the bride’s and groom’s parents to “exchange CVs” of their wards.

The elaborate CV doesn’t necessarily work. “Seeing a long CV generally gives the impression that if the person cannot be precise with respect to framing his own CV, chances of him being accurate and precise with his work are slim,” says Debankur Majumdar, HR Manager, INOX multiplexes.

You may wonder why Indians alone. Don’t people all over the world market themselves, or campaign for others'

They do, but not through the CV. We ran a check for George Bush and this is what we came up with: “I ran for President in 2000. My campaign was destined to be a miserable failure until I used a whispering campaign of lies in the South Carolina Presidential Primary organised by my chief political strategist, Karl Rove, to destroy genuine war hero and fellow Republican John McCain, claiming he had fathered an illegitimate negro child, was emotionally unstable due to his torture as a POW in Vietnam and a possible brainwashed Manchurian Candidate.” The website: www.monkeydyne.com.

We hope that the CVs of N.R. Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji are not doing the rounds online.

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