Top Tips: Applying for Your First Graduate Job in European Oil, Gas

Top Tips: Applying for Your First Graduate Job in European Oil, Gas
Rigzone talks to graduate recruiters at BP and OMV about their tips for university students applying for a graduate job in oil and gas.

Times are tough for young people about to graduate from universities across the European Union. In 2014, the European Commission released figures that showed there were almost 5.4 million EU citizens under 25 years old who were unemployed – equating to some 22.8 percent of all the region's young adults.

Countries in southern Europe, such as Greece and Spain, appear to be suffering the worst with more than one-in-two young adults currently unemployed.

During the past few years, one industry that has sought out gifted young people with technical skills was the oil and gas sector as it aimed to stem the staff shortages it began to experience amid the Great Crew Change. However, the recent sharp decline in the oil price means that finding a job in oil and gas is going to be a whole lot tougher for young graduates with no prior experience of the industry.

Two companies that have developed and maintained strong graduate recruitment programs in recent years are supermajor BP plc and Austria's biggest oil business OMV Group. Here, Rigzone talks to the two firms about how university students can best prepare their applications in order to get noticed by the industry's graduate recruiters.

Both BP and OMV usually require that students applying for entry to their graduate recruitment programs fill out online application forms that can be found on the companies' respective websites. These application forms involve a set of questions about the candidate's academic background, extra-curricular activities, work experience and the candidate's motivations for wanting to work at the company in question.

"We open for applications around mid-September, and the closing dates for applications are: Nov. 24 for Trading; Dec. 15 for all other graduate roles; and Jan. 26 for Interns. However, we may close these applications earlier if we have a strong candidate pipeline, so we would encourage all candidates to apply early," Suzy Style, BP's Head of UK Graduate Recruitment, told Rigzone.

Keep Your Details Brief and to the Point

A spokesman for OMV said that although the company usually prefers students to use the application form on its Web site, it will accept CVs (résumés) handed to its recruiters by students at campus recruiting fairs or at other recruiting events.

OMV said that CVs should be no more than two sides of paper.

"Try to keep it informative but quite lean. We are realistic that a graduate isn’t going to have a wealth of experience, so be open and honest about your achievments, qualifications and interests. It should ideally detail, from the top down, your qualifications, synopsis and profile of you as a person (no more than one paragraph), professional experience (internships, part time jobs) and then a little about yourself personally," OMV's spokesman said.

Although BP does not accept CVs itself, Style also recommends that students sending them to other oil and gas recruiters should keep them brief: "Two or three pages, ideally."

BP Launches 2015 Student Insight Initiatives
BP announced in early January that applications are open to undergraduates for a range of student insight initiatives that will be held at BP sites across the UK, from Aberdeen to London's Canary Wharf. These activities are aimed at providing students with experience of working at BP and in the working world in general. The activities include:

Discovery Days: Discovery Days will provide 125 undergraduates in their first two years at university with the chance to understand BP's business and a better understanding of how their degree subject could be used in a working environment. The Discovery Days cover a multitude of careers from exploration for oil and gas through to trading energy. Undergraduates will meet recent graduates, hear about the challenges facing the business, tour BP's operations and take part in an interview/application skills workshop.

Shadow an Intern: In August, BP will run "shadow an intern" days in which a first or second-year student will spend a full day with a current intern in order to better understand what an internship entails, gain insight to roles at BP and meet and ask questions to current interns, graduates and BP employees. Up to 80 students will have the opportunity to take part in these days during 2015.

Widening Participation Programme: The Widening Participation Programme is a week-long event comprising skills workshops (such as CV writing and interview technique), shadowing current BP employees and a visit to a BP operating site. The program, open to all undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students, allows students to find out how their STEM knowledge can apply in a company such as BP. The program takes place in mid-June at BP's Greater London offices.

Don't Let Lack of Experience Put You Off

Students with no direct work experience in oil and gas are very welcome to apply for a graduate position with the BP, according to Style.

"Just because you don’t have experience in the oil and gas sector, it shouldn't put you off applying. Whilst we recruit a lot of our graduates from our summer internship program, there is a huge variety of roles on offer at BP, not just within engineering. We need graduates to work in HR, legal, accounting, trading, and numerous other disciplines besides," she said.

A keenness to work at BP and evidence that you have been industrious at university will help.

"As long as you have done your research on the company, are able to demonstrate an interest in the oil and gas industry and a willingness to learn more, and have highlighted any extracurricular activities you have been involved in (clubs, societies, being in a sports team, or playing an instrument, for example) and have some level of work experience, your application will be considered. This work experience can be anything from working in a student union bar to voluntary work."

OMV aso told Rigzone that it will consider students who do not have qualifications directly applicable to oil and gas.

"Of course in certain disciplines, if we want a junior geologist we are not going to hire a business graduate without any expertise in this field, but for broader areas such as HR, sales and marketing, project management, etc., we would look at a broad range of qualifications," OMV's spokesman said.

Use University Activities to Demonstrate Your Qualities

Student life affords candidates with plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that they are not just good academically, but that they have other attributes as well.

"At BP, we look for graduates who can demonstrate a host of qualities including initiative, ambition, communication skills, good team-work, as well as a range of technical skills and qualifications," Style said.

"For the 'softer' skills, there are many things besides work experience and academic achievement that help communicate these to a potential employer. For example, being president of a society or captain of a sports team whilst at university shows your ability to lead a team.

"If you have helped to organize an event, undertaken any voluntary or charity work, or even had a summer job, then tell us about it. A lot of applicants will have outstanding academic credentials, and while we appreciate your work experience might be limited at this stage, your hobbies and achievements are an important way of showing us you have the skills and qualities we are looking for.

OMV added that experience of traveling and working overseas is "always interesting to see" and that it illustrates to the company that the candidate "is open minded and culturally aware" – values that it said it seeks in its employees as it is a large, multinational company.

The Ability to Work in a Team

Students should be wary of appearing too aspirational at the application stage. BP and OMV want ambitious candidates but first and foremost they need candidates who can fit into their respective work cultures.

"It is important to have ambition and the desire to succeed in your role, but just as important is your willingness and ability to work well as part of a team, as well as having the right skills for your role," Style said.

"Obviously, work experience or an internship at BP or a similar organization shows a demonstrated aspiration to work in oil and gas, but the main thing to remember is to always be able to provide examples which illustrate the skills you list on your application."

OMV said: "Some applicants tend to go a little over the top which can come across too strong. Too keen. The best way to present yourself is to be honest.

"This is an opportunity to tell us about you. There is nobody else like you, so explain why you are so unique, so interesting. Being honest does this in a professional manner. We don't expect people at such stages in their career to be completely polished or the perfect candidate, but they can explain to us what makes them tick, what they want to achieve and their motivations."

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


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