Changing your approach: How to know when your team needs a recruiting partner


Trying a varied approach to staffing by using a recruiting partner can be a significant help to companies struggling to find technical talent in the energy sector.

The work is stacking up and you’re shorthanded. The team that you have worked so hard to build and cultivate is growing frustrated with the increased workload or additional hours they are having to put in. You’re worried that if you don’t get someone hired, and hired soon, you might risk losing a good employee which would mean more hiring and the cycle continues. If you are lucky enough to be in a company with a dedicated recruiting function, you reach out with a job description and sort through what comes in. Sometimes the resumes you see are on point, sometimes they are an amalgamation of buzzwords that have no relevance at all. If you are responsible for reviewing all of the resumes you receive, you can spend hours sifting through the noise trying to find a good option, scheduling phone interviews, and in-person interviews that may or may not pan out. All the while, the “normal” work of your day-to-day operations doesn’t go away, it just builds. You try to pick up the slack to preserve your team, so you end up burning the candle from both ends. You’re stuck.


You’re also not alone. In the fuels sector, just under 77% of employers reported difficulty hiring qualified workers in 2018 according to The 2019 U.S. Energy & Employment Report. Across the sector, the key reasons for the reported difficulties were lack of experience, training or technical skills, location challenges, and insufficient non-technical skills. These challenges often coincide with having either an HR department that doesn’t understand the technical nuances you are looking for, or no HR department at all, creating a recipe for empty seats. The bottom line? If you have a non-existent of dysfunctional recruiting and hiring process, it is time to get help. Rethinking how your company handles staffing and moving away from a more traditional, in-house only approach can have a big impact. Ian Cavanaugh, the head of modernization and transformation at BP agrees, stating that without getting this human element right, “we’re in trouble” according to a recent Journal of Petroleum Technology article. Having a recruiting approach that is based on agility and flexibility allows the company to make quicker hiring decisions which helps them to attract more new talent, especially Millennials that “want to work at companies that move fast and are willing to kill of the status quo best summarized with the phrase We’ve always done it that way.”” Utilizing technologies like ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and LinkedIn are only as effective as the man-power and discretion available to discern the right skill sets for the high volumes of resumes that are received. It is a simple case of more is not always better. Bringing a hiring partner to the table to help with that process, serving as gatekeepers and gatherers of qualified individuals can be a key element in a modern approach to talent acquisition, finding the right talent in lieu of any talent, mitigating burnout for existing teams, and saving hiring managers time and energy.


Hiring staffing partners should be as deliberate as selecting a member of your team because, effectively, they are team members themselves. Making well informed decisions to partner with a company or companies that align with your culture, ethics, and overall growth goals is crucial. There are a few approaches to hiring a recruiting firm, so picking the one the best suits your needs is important. Here is a breakdown of the different styles of recruiting agencies that are typically seen in the energy space.


  • Client-centric – Commonly referred to as traditional “headhunters” these model consists of having a predetermined fee structure with an agency that is brought in for specific recruiting assignments when needed. Oftentimes, these are utilized for tough to find roles, multiple hires like you find with project staffing, or for staffing remote or challenging locations. In these cases, the recruiting firms really acts as an out-sourced branch of your HR, working with you as a partner to really understand what you are looking for and then going to find it on your behalf.

  • Candidate marketing – Recruiters that market candidates usually do so by sending a blinded resume or inquiry with a summary of candidates qualifications to a hiring manager directly on behalf of the candidate. Typically, once a resume is reviewed, the recruiter will ask for a fee agreement prior to revealing the candidate’s information, coordinating, and interview or before hiring. This tends to put employers in a tough, ransom-like situation. It also doesn’t allow the hiring manager to understand if there are any contractual issues (if they work for a competitor for example) and can result in losing out on a good hire if an agreement cannot be reached on the fee for the recruiter in the process.

  • Candidate marketing and client-centric – This is a hybrid option that is usually comprised of a combination of the candidate marketing element as well as working on searches at the request of client companies. Many larger recruiting firms utilize this hybrid model as it opens two revenue streams for their company. Oftentimes, the will have a pre-negotiated contract with a client, then watch the client’s job postings and send anonymous (sometimes called blinded) candidate resumes to their contacts in order to obtain permission to work on the role while they wait for the client to give them their next assignment. In this scenario, you still sometimes run into the hostage situations explained above, or worse, get into a disagreement if a candidate has been presented by a recruiter and also contacted by an internal source. It can create bad blood and unnecessarily stressful situations for no good reason other than there just being too many cooks in the kitchen.

Within the energy sector, it isn’t uncommon for companies to utilize a variety of different recruiting firms and, truth be told, they should. If you don’t have to pay a placement fee until you have made your decision on a candidate, it only makes sense to have a couple of groups out there looking for people on your behalf. That said, casting a wider net is not always better. Working with multiple recruiters can be just as tricky to handle as it means more resumes to review, follow up calls from candidate marketers to check status, and coordination for interviews, so be cognizant of that when selecting the mix of recruiting agencies you want to utilize. Some additional key elements to consider when selecting the firms you want to work with are:

  • Expertise - The energy sector is a broad and incredibly varied industry with a huge number of positions. Be sure to pick a staffing partner that understand where your company fits into the greater picture of the industry. Just because a recruiting company says that it does “oil and gas” doesn’t mean that they have the depth of knowledge necessary to find you the right people. For example, if you are a midstream company looking for help with a facilities engineering role, you want a recruiting partner that can differentiate between upstream facilities experience and midstream. You wouldn’t hire an EPC firm that has only ever assisted with wellpad design and construction to build out your multi-train cryo plant. You get the idea. Interview your recruiting firms to make sure that they have the technical bandwidth and beyond-the-keyword comprehension to provide you with candidates that are actually suited to what you are looking for, otherwise you will end up sifting through junk resumes all over again.

  • Workflow - Remember that recruiting agencies work for you. If they don’t ask what your preference is for the workflow during the recruiting process, do yourself a favor and bring it up. You are busy with your day-to-day operations and need to set boundaries with your preferred agencies on communications. Do you want to see resumes in small groups, one at a time, only on Fridays? Would you like them to CC an HR contact? Would you prefer the search to be confidential so the whole world doesn’t know you are looking for a specific position? These are all things that a good recruiting partner agency should ask before starting on a search, but if they don’t, lay out the ground rules for working together to save yourself some time and headache.

  • Relationship - Building a long-term relationship with a handful of recruiting firms should be a goal. Doing so builds a valuable sense of trust. That trust allows the firm to deeply understand your company, mission, codes of ethics, and culture so that they can be a champion for your organization when talking to candidates during the search and in the greater community. A good recruiting agency will be an ambassador for your company and help you to hire talented individuals that will also become ambassadors. A mutually trusted and valued relationship develops when your recruiting firms are genuinely interested in procuring good people to help your company continue to be successful. It should be a team sport with shared goals and outcomes.

Hopefully, this will help you to understand some of the options and approaches that are available to help you with your hiring challenges. At Iridium, we are client-centric recruiters that take pride in having strong relationships with our clients and being able to help with technical (corporate to field level) roles. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you through any recruiting or staffing challenges that you might have, just give us a call. We are here to help.

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