Job applications in India always include a cover letter and a CV. They follow international standards in structure and content, with some minor Indian peculiarities. For your initial application you do not need to include certificates or references, although they should be mentioned. As with everywhere in the world, your application should be as concise as possible, pointing out why you are specifically qualified for the job.
A cover letter in India should briefly explain why you are interested in the job and what qualifies you to do it. It should include some information about your future plans. That will help your prospective employer judge whether you are a good addition to the team.
Although they are a vital part of your application, cover letters in India should never exceed one page. Within that page, there should be only three to four paragraphs. Since mutual respect plays an important role in Indian work environments you should keep the style of your cover letter very formal and polite.
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Your CV provides an overview of your qualifications and work experiences and should not be longer than two pages. In contrast to international CVs you should include as much information as possible. Detailed CVs are the norm in India.
Your CV should start with your personal details, including your name, address, telephone/fax number, nationality, civil status and date of birth. This is followed by information on your education and work experience. Always organize information in reverse chronological order. Use bullets points and highlight important information. The use of active verbs and catchwords is very common in India and will improve your chances of being selected.
To round out your application include any relevant non-work-related activities. Active participation in social organisations, for example, highlights your people skills. Including your hobbies and interests allows your prospective employer to get a personal picture of you and will make it easier for him to decide whether you fit into the company.
Always keep in mind that a CV gives you a lot of freedom to choose which information you want to include. It should therefore be tailored for each job you apply for. Too many irrelevant details are as bad as too little information on your professional career.
Job interviews in India
If you make it onto the short-list, the next step of your application will be a personal interview. Major companies are likely to conduct an entire interview series trying to get to know the applicant better. As for any job interview worldwide, try to be natural and honest.
Your first contact to your prospective boss is likely to be a telephone interview. This initial interview simply helps you to get to know each other. Being honest about your expectations will help to find out if a future cooperation is possible. Topics of the interview will include why you want to work in India, your future career plans, your work experience and your personal strengths.
Following the first interview there will be email contact and eventually a meeting with either your prospective boss or a human resources representative. If you haven’t done sufficient research on the company and the job yet, this is the time to do it! The more you know about the company background and the job challenges, the better prepared you will be for possible questions in the interview.
Make sure that you arrive punctually to the interview! Plan in some extra time just to get there - traffic chaos and bad directions can easily add one or two hours to your trip. Although Indians tend to be flexible about meeting times, it is considered rude for an applicant to be late for an interview and your prospective employer might count tardiness against you..
Since India's work environment is rather strict and formal you should adapt your choice of clothing accordingly. Women especially should wear conservative clothes. Women should not shake hands with men, either, since Indians are not used to that.
You may face questions about your private life and personal information. For example, it is common for Indian employers to ask for your spouse's income. As foreigner, you do not have to answer these questions if they make you uncomfortable. Just offer a polite excuse for not replying.
Often, your prospective employer will also tell you that your salary is not negotiable. This is not true, however. Indian employers actually expect you to negotiate for a better salary. If you do not negotiate, they will be more than happy to pay you less!
After your interviews you will usually receive a company application form. You have to provide information about your professional background again, and like before, you may have to answer more personal questions. This document, however, is only for the companies’ record.
After your application process, expect a couple of weeks´ waiting period. In India you will hardly ever get an immediate response. Even if you feel quite confident about getting the job it can still take the HR department up to 2 months to respond.