O&G Recruiters Need to Be Swift When Hiring

O&G Recruiters Need to Be Swift When Hiring

Readers who follow Rigzone's "Great Crew Change" series of articles about the impending retirement of Baby Boom generation oil and gas professionals will be well aware of the difficulties upstream-focused companies currently face when it comes to finding the right skills and experience amid a busy time for the oil industry.

A common concern among senior executives of exploration and production firms - both large and small - is that while there are armies of young graduates looking to enter the sector, experienced people are very thin on the ground.

Consequently, competition for talent between oil and gas companies is extremely fierce right now, but one global recruitment firm for the energy industry believes that firms can take a few simple steps to improve their hiring process and get ahead of the herd.

Swift Worldwide Resources has found that a quick recruitment process of a few days – where résumés are responded to straight away, candidates interviewed soon afterwards and a job offer/rejection along with feedback soon after that – leads to hiring successes far more often that a drawn-out hiring process.

This might seem obvious to anyone who has ever been recruited by an oil firm, or any firm for that matter. But you would be surprised at how many companies keep candidates dangling, according to Swift CEO Tobias Read.

After making anecdotal observations that firms who appeared to be speedy when it came to their recruitment process were achieving greater hiring success than those that do not, Read decided to analyze a pool of 6,000 openings worldwide for professional-grade staff across several companies in the upstream oil and gas sector.

An Employee's Market

Swift's research found two illuminating facts. The first was that a maximum chance of hiring success of 42 percent could be achieved in a theoretically optimum hiring scenario – where the résumé is received, candidate interviewed and the job offer made all on day one. The second was that each day's delay in the hiring process reduced the chance of hiring success by a whole percentage point, so that if a company takes 20 days from receiving a résumé to making an offer, the chance of actually achieving a successful hire is just 22 percent.

That even the maximum percentage chance of hiring success, at 42 percent, seems low is certainly a feature of a booming oil and gas sector along with the shallow pool of experienced talent available, which means it's an employee's market.

"It is a supply-driven market at the moment rather than a demand-driven market and it has been for certainly the last two years and I think it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. There's so much committed capex over the next five years that I can't really see a slowdown. At the same time you have a reduction in the number of traditional people coming into the market and, really, a change in the demographics," Read told Rigzone.

"Most of our customers are really finding it hard to fill positions. And when they can't fill a position… what it results in is massive lost opportunity, with potential penalties. They are not able to bring [projects] to completion as quickly as possible, which means ultimately that they can't extract oil from the ground and take revenues from it," added Read.

"There is a staff shortage and we saw some people winning better than others and some that weren't and we wanted to be able to tell them why. So without really any expectation of what the answer would be, we conducted a pretty exhaustive assessment of the data and we wanted it to be data-driven rather than anecdote-driven because our customers love data. If you can present something to them which is built up on fundamental information they really do take notice of it and respond to it."

Swift's data backs up the idea of a 'good employer' brand, according to Read.

"If you or I are sitting there in a reasonably hot market and we are looking for a job and one potential employer responds quickly and gets back to us with nice feedback, invites us in for an interview, gives us an offer quickly, and the offer is the offer we are looking for, we would look very favorably upon that. But if we have another company, no matter what we thought of them previously, that's very slow, that takes a long time to come back and the response they give us is half-hearted and we get an offer three months later, we are going to look at those two choices and we will look at one company in a much more positive light than another," Read pointed out.

"It reflects very significantly on the image of a company. If they can't even be bothered to interview quickly, or give you good feedback or it takes three months, then whether you think of it overtly or subliminally you probably wouldn't want to work for a company like that because if you had a pay rise or a rate review or if there's an issue what says that they are going to respond to that properly?"

Upfront Effort

So what can upstream oil and gas companies do to improve their recruitment process and make sure they get the people they need?

"Probably the most important thing that anyone can do to get ahead here is put a bit of effort in up front," Read said, explaining that his firm is often tasked with very poor briefs from clients about the kind of personnel they want.

For example, a one-line request such as "Go and get us a process engineer" is not good enough, according to Read.

"Actually, they don't want just a process engineer; they want a very specific process engineer who's got a certain number of years' experience and who's worked in certain particular sub-sectors. They know… very specifically what they are looking for, but they just put down a very simple one-liner and then get very frustrated when we aren't able to mind read and find out the specific things that they want," he said.

"If they were only able to put the effort in up front then we wouldn't waste 50 percent of our time and they would get a group of résumés that are very specifically tailored to their needs."

Another key issue is feedback. "If something isn't right [with the recruitment process] then give feedback to allow us to respond," Read pointed out. "Feedback is something that a lot of people don't provide, so they end up frustrated and we end up frustrated."

Read explained that very often recruiters' expectations change after they start receiving résumés and interviewing candidates. Recruitment professionals need to be told if requirements have been shifted to include such things as international experience and a faculty for foreign languages.

"Whatever they are looking for they need to give us feedback," he said.

The main step with recruitment, though, is "to move really quickly" and that includes removing unnecessary steps from the recruitment process.

"What we tend to see in a lot of areas is that HR gets involved and introduces a series of steps and delays. We've identified that, although not universally, quite often where there is an intermediary involved it slows the process down and reduces the hiring success rates," Read pointed out. "The closer we can get to the hiring manager and cut out those bits in the middle, generally the greater hiring success rate we have."

A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at jmainwaring@rigzone.com


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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
Jamie Lord | Oct. 17, 2012
I have been trying to get into the oil and gas industry for over a year now. I am leaving the Royal Air Force with 11 years as an engineering technician with hydraulic, gas turbine, pneumatic systems and structure repair/corrosion treatment experience. When I went to a job fair I was told most companies are actively ex forces seeking to employ ex Forces and yet when I apply I am told I have the perfect skill set but no "experience". How do I get the "experience" that they require if I dont even seem to be getting a thanks but no thanks?

Aaron Pryor | Oct. 17, 2012
To Peter, the other commentator, I think you and I share similar experience. Trust me this will never change. If it has not changed in 28 years then it is not likely to change in the next 3 - 4 years. The cockiness and arrogance of employers make me furious so let it be for as long as we have a decent paying job let the dog barks (they may not get more bones). Remember a few years ago CEO of a major company having disaster in the gulf of mexico and Petronass top dog told BBC that they lacked experienced technical professionals. Yet their HR folks still treat candidates badly. Same as the biggest producer in the world.

Aaron Pryor | Oct. 16, 2012
Over 28 years of employment with 10 different companies tell me that: 1. HR slows down the process and are jealous when engineers make more money than them so they DELIBERATELY offer low salary. 2. Technical department is often overruled by HR. 3. Arrogance of the employer. I worked for [an oil firm] in Qatar and they needed someone desperately in the well services section. I gave the WS section head a CV of someone with tons of experience. His reaply to me was: get the candidate to phone him. A person like that should have been fired.

Peter | Oct. 16, 2012
I also had the same experience... I think there are a lot of stories at the moment about all the great opportunities available. It is true there are positions out there, but the demand is much lower than the offer. Few days ago I applied for a Well Site Supervisor position, the recruiter called me and asked "What kind of job are you looking for?"... most recruiters are just kids with no work experience in the industry. I write in my covering letter and in the CV that I am a permanent resident and they ask "What kind of VISA you have?". This is quite annoying.

Peter | Oct. 16, 2012
Anyone who is looking for employment is familiar with the "black hole" that exists in recruiting practices, where resumes are submitted or applications are filled out, and then they fall into that black hole where the candidates hears absolutely nothing. Not even a "thanks but no thanks". They recieve absolutely no feedback, and are left feeling extremely frustrated. Such a wonderful experience.

Judy | Oct. 15, 2012
Recruiters also need to be aware of immigration rules. Im a skilled oil and gas worker, both technical and commercial. I get approached by recruiters all the time. Yet they do not know the details with regards to recent (2010) changes in immigration policy in the UK where by non- EU workers are dead in the water with regards to filling positions in this region. I am tired of having to explain the re-percussions of these changes to recruiters- aka cannot be hired without the hiring company sponsoring my work visa. Its like Im doing their research for them!

Natalie | Oct. 14, 2012
If external agencies would foster relationships with HR like they do the hiring managers, then a real partnership is formed and everyone can work together to act swiftly and produce successful results. But most 3rd party agencies try to cut HR out of the process. As Anthony stated, there are several reasons HR needs to be involved. HR woud like to fill open positions as quickly as possible as well. Foster relationships that make the process work for everyone! That helps make great impressions on candidates too!

richard | Oct. 13, 2012
The process that companies make skilled workers go through is ridiculous.Companies that force you to to make an online application when their site cant handle all the information or companies that actually beleve that they can hire hire away good workers using a temp agency are dreaming.Mechanics have the ability to keep things running,but not the patience to deal with excessive paperwork or third party employers who dont have a clue of what the job actually is.We didnt go to college for a reason,but reason me ,how is human,in human resources other than for billet purposes.

wayne nealy | Oct. 13, 2012
Wel i sure wish i could find one of the mention recruiters,i cant seem to get past the resumes,sending out about a dozen a day.

Rodney | Oct. 12, 2012
As in anything else. The early bird catches the worm.

Paul Evans | Oct. 12, 2012
I agree with the idea that a recruiter needs more feedback from the client to tailor the list of potential recruits to fit the specific position. HR departments the world over have a tendency to not listen to the needs of the direct dept.head or disipline supervisor in targeting recruits, but rely on giving the most basic of criteria to create a large pool of possibilities (most of which will turn out to be unsuitable). The advertisments placed by the recruiter usually reflect this. What all must realize in addition, is the chain is longer than just between client and recruiter. Recruiters must start treating the resource they are exploiting as human beings and give usefull feedback and advise accordingly to build a pool of known entities. When was the last time you walked into a store and the owner didnt know everything about his product and couldnt recommend something that catches your eye. "Youll only be contacted if you get an interview" no longer cuts it. It is an employees market for now, put your best recruits forward straight away. Paul E

Anthony | Oct. 12, 2012
There are reasons that HR has to interject themselves in the hiring process. Off the top of my head, 1. applicant tracking for the purposes of AAP, OFCCP, etc. Dumping resumes in a hiring managers lap can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal penalties and regulatory scrutiny if it becomes practice. 2. Additionally, you have agencies that arent up front with managers about what the true cost of their services are. A vast majority of managers have no idea what retained vs. contingency happens to be and are confused when they get a $40-$50k invoice for a placement. Most are unaware that there is even a fee associated with the services of an agency and I have seen multiple firms take advantage of that. 3. HR may also have knowledge of candidates that have already met with that manager or other managers for similar positions and werent a good fit. In my past experiences there were always multiple submissions of the same candidate by different agencies. Candidates will take as many bites of the apple as they can especially when times are tough. 4. Sometimes HR has knowledge of internal candidates that have been identified for the position by someone at a higher level in the organization that the hiring manager. We also have knowledge of impending hiring freezes and other circumstances that often require us to hurry up and wait. At the end of the day there is a reason why HR or someone internally has to step in and assure that a process is in place for hiring. When I worked as a recruiter there were few times when the goals of the organization and the agency aligned. The more external recruiters try to go around an organizations process, which typically involves HR or even an internal recruiter, the more you ostracize yourself and your firm.

Mike Wreath ( Recruiter ) | Oct. 11, 2012
Time kills deals !

Kevin Spain | Oct. 11, 2012
I live this daily and have observed this shortage for some time. However, if a company has full-time desiganated staff to the recruiting effort goals can be accomplished. These are times where you have to think outside the box. It beneficial to tap into markets you may not have throughly committed time to; such as Military Veterans, in the next 5 years 1.5 million active duty military members are slated to leave the service. There is a wealth of experence from this market waiting to get into the Oil & Gas Sector. This is just one arena where talent awaits your call.

Hamid Hussain (Reservoir Geologist) | Oct. 11, 2012
I agree with the writer. As a matter of fact if someone puts himself in the candidates shoes then he might find that swift hiring process really encourages the professionals in their decisions,as first impression is the last impression. The more tiring and hectic hiring is the more professionals will hesitate to join that company. As it just reflects the other processes that might a candidate will face after joining that company.

Sam Bhatt | Oct. 10, 2012
Not rocket science but I am not surprised how disjointed some companies hiring processes are when it comes to recruiting and I speak from experience but there is a simple solution.....ensure access to the reporting manager in order that recruiter understands the specifics and as important the environment the candidate will work

David C. Berry | Oct. 10, 2012
Tobias Reed is right on the money. Companies are taking anything up to eight weeks to respond to initial approaches. Sometimes, when they respond quickly, theres a sudden change in tempo, due, I believe, to the changes in the recruiters perceived requirements for the position. A word on HR. Yes, they do seem to frequently get in the way of the hiring process. In addition, once youve supplied a detailed resume, they then ask you to input all this information into their applicant tracking system. If one is applying for a number of suitable positions, this can become quite onerous. It also begs the question, what do the HR Dept. actually do (other than vet resumes)?

Randy Pochel | Oct. 10, 2012
As someone with 20+ years of experience and never before had a problem finding employment, I find myself going on a year now Unemployed. I had my resume redone, reviewed, and filled out hundreds of applications, all to no avail ! There are positions out there, however I have noticed that some of these same positions reappear , week, month, later. Either they did not get a response of qualified candidates or they are just getting a pool of applications. As mentioned in the article potential employees get discouraged not hearing back or knowing they are qualified and getting turned down. I have been contacted by two companies for employment and they wanted to move quickly to hire. I was not able to accept the position due to the financial rewards offered. But I can say I looked very favorably on those companies as opposed to the ones I have never heard back from, ( not that I would turn down a favorable offer from them !) My advice ( for what it is worth ) is keep looking and applying. Do not lose hope, the economy is bad, but it will rebound and you may find yourself deciding which offer to take.


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