Violins at BP

I see BP are the latest oil company to whine about not being able to recruit skilled workers.

A shortage of engineering skills in the UK could hamper growth at BP’s North Sea operations, an executive has said.

In July, BP announced plans to invest £3bn in redeveloping two oil fields in the North Sea, a move that was expected to create hundreds of new jobs.

But Trevor Garlick, head of BP’s North Sea operations, said the company could struggle to fill the available roles.

“Getting hold of the right people is a real issue for us,” Mr Garlick told the Sunday Telegraph.

“We are hiring a lot of people, but we are also an exporter of a couple of hundred people to other regions [in BP]. We are a centre for recruiting elsewhere.”

The rest of the company viewed its North Sea operations as a “training ground”, with talented workers snapped up to fill posts overseas, Mr Garlick said.

If I were being lazy I would refer them here and here and leave it at that.  But I’m a hard-working blogger, so I’ll expand a litte bit.

There is no shortage of engineering skills in the UK, there is only a shortage in the ability of oil companies to recruit people with them.  I had a telephone interview with BP in June last year.  It was for a position which appeared to cobble together two completely separate roles, probably to save money.  I spent half the interview trying to figure out what exactly the combined role entailed, and the other half giving what I think was a pretty good account of myself regarding my experience and abilities.  They never even bothered to get back to me, not even so much as an email thanking me for wasting my time.  Given at the time BP were busy spewing oil all over the Gulf of Mexico, I came away with the conclusion that they were a cowboy outfit I want no part of.  As it happened, I got snapped up by another major oil company (just in case anyone thought I was too useless to pass any interview).

The above experience came after I had applied for positions numerous times on BP’s website, which is as much a recruiting aid as Anders Breivik is an aid to Norwegian summer tourism.  I applied for positions for which I was pretty well qualified – having between 7-10 years experience, which is the window the oil companies aim for – but never got even a sniff of interest.  The same is true of Shell, whose recruitment website consists of a computer which automatically rejects all applicants (I once tried gaming their site by putting together a fake profile which could not possibly be rejected. It was.) and it is also true of ExxonMobil, whose careers website is appalling.  Although to be fair, you don’t hear Exxon whining about not being able to recruit people.  Contrast this with the company which employed me (knowledgeable readers should be able to narrow it down, but please don’t guess in the comments).  I twice applied on their main careers page and twice got an interview within a fortnight.  The first I failed because I said “Africa?  You’ve got to be f*ckin’ joking!”.  The next time, a year later, I said “Africa?  It is my dream to go there!”  And here I am.

Anyway, I didn’t get the job through friends, relatives, or connections.  I got it by going on the company website and applying.  I know of dozens of people who have tried this on BP’s website, and got precisely nowhere.  From what I hear, and I cannot verify this personally, the average career Brit in BP is – like their Shell counterpart – a jumped-up arrogant tosser who has been recruited straight from a top university and told every day that because he is working for BP he must be brilliant and always right about everything.  And all he needs to do to become the next CEO is to shit all over the contractors and stab his colleagues in the back.  Is this true?  I don’t know.  Can I believe it?  Yes I can.  I know this is what far too many of the Shellies are like.  Not all by any means, but far too many.  Almost all the best ones I met had previously been contractors.

It wouldn’t surprise me that the reason BP cannot recruit experienced people is because that would involve one of their number admitting that a grubby contractor is worthy of being spoken to on an equal basis, let alone being accepted.  Far too much recruitment of youngsters by certain oil majors is done on personality instead of competence (whereas the older guys are recruited on length of tooth alone).  If they see you are a super-bright born leader who speaks four languages and played hockey for your country at university level, you’re in.  If you’re a plodder who has found himself in unglamorous, shit locations on shit projects but hung in there and made the best of it, they don’t want to know.  I’m a plodder, who has been in many an unglamorous, shit location on a shit project.  In fact, that’s pretty much all I’ve known.  I’m no high-flyer and I’ll not reach the top in any organisation.  I gob-off too much for that, and am pretty skilled in saying things to people which are wholly inappropriate (in my defence, this is always when faced with blinding incompetence, laziness, dishonesty, or any combination thereof).  But I can dig out blind and get stuff done in pretty much any circumstances, and that – as I am proving now – is of considerable value to an oil company.  My advice to BP?  Stop trying to recruit wankers to be the next CEO.  Find the guy who has been through the contracting mill in a tough location or two, and get him on board.  And then listen to what he tells you.


6 thoughts on “Violins at BP

  1. I once applied for a job at BP. Time passed so eventually I phoned. They said they were sorry but they must have lost the form. Would I like to complete another one? In such circs, would anyone ever say “yes”?

  2. Oh! Thought I was the only one. I applied on their website too. I didn’t even get a ‘no’. I think they should outsource their recruiting.

  3. The other reason they can’t recruit in the UK is they offer crappy packages.

    Not sure what planet they’re on, but offering someone a package (yes including the benefits) that is less, by a lot, than the person is already being paid doesn’t make them seem very serious.

    The ExMo mob don’t have much respect for contractors but at least they offer reasonable packages

  4. Pingback: A habit restored « Billy the Brush

  5. I agree that there is no shortage of workers, oil companies are just so choosy. sometimes they base it on what they see on resumes, not on what they can really do that’s needed for the job. This article should reach those oil companies so they can realize what they’ve been doing.

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