Candidate rich, client poor? – the downstream oil and gas recruitment market

The downstream oil and gas recruitment market

Ryan HillNews

Not that long ago, any recruiter seeking candidates would find that a lot of potentially good people would be reluctant even to talk, never mind proffer their CV/resume.  Clients, on the other hand, were often desperate for all sorts of candidates and would generally engage with recruiters to see if they could help fill vacancies that had frequently been empty for months.


Now, the market has flipped.  There are a lot of candidates, albeit they are not necessarily the ones that clients want, and the clients themselves are seeking far more than just another hopeful CV/resume which may/may not be the elusive one that finally matches their brief.


There is an understandable tendency for UK-based recruiters to believe that the plethora of candidates has resulted from the declining state of the North Sea jobs market. Yes, there are people losing their jobs and therefore seeking new employment away from Aberdeen, but this ‘candidate-rich’ phenomenon is apparent worldwide.  We’re seeing it in North and South America as well as the Middle East.  Moreover, in the downstream market, although there are undoubtedly many upstream personnel and engineers with transferrable skills, just because you have a demonstrable track record in the North Sea doesn’t necessarily mean you can smoothly transition to a refinery role overnight.  The downstream market is every bit as fussy (or quality driven if you prefer) as the upstream market: they don’t want the wrong people in the wrong jobs.


From the downstream clients’ viewpoint, the market is still as challenging as ever.  Skills shortages are not going away any time soon.  Perhaps clients should be more accommodating vis-à-vis those transferrable skills, but that’s not what I’m seeing at the moment.  Instead, our experience is that clients want a different approach.  Rather than just taking CV after CV in the hope that a rare nugget is unearthed, the companies we work with are far more interested in recruiters who can offer comprehensive RPO or a bespoke MSP (managed service programme), either on-site or off, and who are connected to candidates across the globe rather than in one specific location.


The previous overdependence on the old rec-con model is partly why we’ve seen the degradation of a number of recruitment consultancies in Aberdeen over the last few years; a process that is likely to continue. In fact, one of my acquaintances in the Granite City believes that the clients are now the competition, because so many have taken recruitment in-house. Certainly, after 2008 many unemployed recruiters did move in-house, but in my opinion an independent consultancy can provide a better recruitment service via an RPO/MSP agreement than most in-house recruiters. This is principally because companies like ours simply have to develop new services and products in order to continue to have a value to our clients.  Moreover, we must do so from a position of strength rather than weakness, by which I mean we have to ensure that we employ people who understand the changes in the market and want to be ahead of the game – not just spray CVs around.  In that respect, planning ahead is a given in the downstream market, so I’d expect any halfway decent recruitment consultancy to be capable of developing a healthy pipeline of candidates, creating bespoke “Talent Communities” from which to match jobs and candidates well into the future, thus aiding workforce planning and reducing the client’s costs at the same time.


To sum up, independent recruitment consultancies must adapt, devise new, more efficient services and products and see the bigger picture for downstream facilities (e.g. closure in one country/location frequently means opportunity in another), whilst never losing sight of the fact that what our clients ultimately want is the very best talent to match the jobs available. The message is ‘adapt or downsize’ – or as another friend put it, a Darwinian evolution of the recruiter species!


Ryan Hill, Director, Nine Twenty Energy



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