For as little as Dh25, staff of some companies pose as prospective employers and conduct sham interviews. (For illustrative purpose) Image Credit: Getty images

Dubai: If you went for a job interview and didn't get through, in all likelihood it was because your interviewer was paid to reject you.

Shocking but true. He was just as bogus as the employment agency you approached. Like the agency you registered with, your interviewer never had a job in the first place.

Last September XPRESS blew the lid off a job racket in the UAE, exposing how some recruitment agencies are fleecing job-seekers by the minute. Five months on, we unearth another facet of the scam - a nexus between recruitment firms and staff of some UAE-based companies.

For as little as Dh25, staff of these companies pose as prospective employers and conduct sham interviews on behalf of recruitment agencies. The racket goes on unabated.

Their Dh25 commission comes from the money you give to the employment agency for registering your CV and processing your application. On a regular day, a phony job interviewer - and there are many in the UAE - conducts 10 such sham interviews on average. That's Dh250 for asking a few dumb questions and playing along with the charade. It doesn't hurt.

A manager at a recruitment agency in Sharjah, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained the modus operandi.

"After job applicants register with us, we charge them between Dh300 and Dh400 to arrange job interviews. Of course, these are bogus. We have tied up with the staff of some companies who meet these job aspirants in their offices and, posing as employers, ask them a few questions. In return for the services we give interviewers Dh25 per applicant. Because the interviews are conducted at the actual offices, no one suspects a thing," he explained.

Not an ideal boast

It's not an idle boast. Ask Joseph A., S. Ali, Kishore R., or Rashmi P. They all sat through job interviews for various positions after paying Dh300 to a recruitment agency. None of them got hired.

"They didn't get any job because there weren't any," said an ex-employee of the recruitment agency which arranged these interviews. According to sources, there are at least three offices in Al Ghusais and one in Al Rigga where these bogus interviews are held.

The questions are routine and hardly job-specific. Not surprising, considering it's the same set of people, mostly mid-level executives impersonating HR staff for some easy money on the side.

Gulam Mustafa describes a job interview session arranged by a placement agency for Dh400. The interview was held at a maintenance firm in Al Rigga for a Dh7,000 job.

"It was bizarre. Six of us were interviewed by one man at the same time and for one position. The interviewer was unprofessional. He kept laughing all the time." Now we know why.

Mariam M. recounts how a recruitment agency confirmed her job as HR manager for a reputed Dubai-based group.

"I was shocked because I was not qualified for that position. For the interview, we were taken in a minivan to an isolated warehouse on the outskirts of Sharjah. We were treated badly. They [the interviewers] said we had to be more broad-minded when it came to dressing if we were looking for the job," recalls Mariam.

"These interviews not only help us make quick money, they also absolve us of the responsibility of finding a real job for a candidate. When job-seekers fail to get past the interview, which we know is a foregone conclusion, we tell them we have done our bit and it's their bad luck if they couldn't land a job," said an ex-employee of another recruitment agency, adding that even the names of the girls at the front offices of these companies are fake. A separate investigation by XPRESS confirmed this.

Of late there has been a deluge of complaints against recruitment agencies in the country.

Dubai Gate, Al Amana, Core Elements, Al Aidy Al Mahirah, Al Waseela, New Future and Foreigners Management top the list. Yet the management of the recruitment agencies XPRESS spoke to deny any wrongdoing. However, they did admit that the earlier XPRESS exposé has hit their business badly. Recruitment agencies place job advertisements for fictitious positions. Unsuspecting job-seekers applying for these non-existent positions are asked to pay for registering their CVs, getting the application processed and interview charges. It's illegal for recruitment firms to charge any money from a job applicant.

Until recently each of these placement agencies used to make Dh25,000 daily. According to the staff of one such firm, following the XPRESS report, their income has been reduced to a bare trickle. A Ministry of Labour official said it won't be long before their taps run completely dry.

XPRESS exposé that made an impact

Last September XPRESS exposed a rampant recruitment racket when a reporter created a dumbed-down CV (which included phrases such as "I am a dim-witted imbecile… I bring about a steady erosion of values and company ethics… and have hastened the doom of many companies") before registering it with several employment agencies for Dh300. The response was shocking. Within hours, he got calls for attractive job offers, with two Sharjah-based firms - Dubai Gate Management Consultancy and Al Aidy Al Mahirah - offering him appointment letters provided he paid them more money. One company, Al Waseela, even had the ridiculous position for an elephant trainer - in their zoo-cum-vet hospital in Canada.

Days numbered

A new ordinance issued by the Ministry of Labour on January 14 will make it virtually impossible for unscrupulous recruitment firms to operate in the UAE, a senior official told XPRESS.

"Recruitment agencies that fail to comply with the new rules by May 1 will be shut down," warned the official.

Besides limiting the rights of setting up a private employment agency to Emiratis only, the ordinance stipulates that to be eligible to apply for a licence, every partner and signatory will have to be an Emirati.

The ordinance includes mechanisms to reduce malpractices and also stipulates guarantees and commitments from agencies. For instance, recruitment agencies have to present a bank security cheque of Dh1 million to peruse its activities in temporary employment, and Dh300,000 for broker activities.

They have to also set aside Dh2,000 for each worker which the Ministry of Labour will use to compensate if they are not paid by their employers. The agency will have to also ensure that employees do not pay any fees in the Emirates or abroad to secure their job.