And your knob size, sir?

I’ve written about the absolute state of oil and gas recruiters based in the Middle East before. The other day I got this email:

Intertek Global International LLC is the leading Technical Staffing Services in Qatar that provides consultants to one of our biggest oil and gas clients based in Qatar. I went through your CV in an oil & gas online candidates portal and would like to ask few questions for us to determine if we can possibly propose your profile for an assignment with our client.

I expect there’s a GDPR violation going on right there.

They send me an email on a Wednesday with the deadline for application the Thursday for a job which starts on Monday. Sounds like a pro outfit.

If interested, please respond to this email along with a copy of your updated CV w/ ID photo/picture with full details of job description, in Microsoft word format along with the following details. Kindly fill out the attached forms and send it back to me.

Here’s one of the forms:

I don’t know whether this is indicative of standards in the oil industry or standards in the HR profession, or possibly both.

A few weeks back in one of my HR lectures I queried the practice of companies asking candidates to state their expected salary early on in the recruitment process. I was told this is standard everywhere now. As far as I’m concerned, it shows their HR or finance department to be either incompetent or untrustworthy. Companies should know the market rate for any given position as well as what package their financial model can support. Candidates on the other hand are often pitching in the dark, particularly if they are interviewing for a job in a different industry, city, or country. What companies think they’re doing is weeding out people who will demand too high a salary early on, whereas what they’re actually doing is weeding out potentially suitable candidates who don’t know the market rate but don’t want to undersell themselves. What some companies are doing – and I have experience of this – is using the asymmetry of information to get what they see as a bargain, whereby a candidate undersells himself relative to their market rate. This is so mind-bogglingly stupid on the part of the management it’s hard to find words to describe it, but it does happen, even in major corporations.

It also brings into play a contradiction which I’m sure affects all MBA courses. Are we being taught to play the HR game in order to land a job, or to be able to set up a competent HR department in our future careers? As this example shows, the two are not necessarily the same.

Share

27 thoughts on “And your knob size, sir?

  1. I have been employed by the same company for 23 years, so didn’t really know the job market that well.

    Having recently looked at some job postings I noticed that very few now actually mention salary (Certainly for permanent positions – not so much for contractor or fixed contract positions).

    This would explain it. I always believed you saw a job, saw the salary (or at least a salary range) and the benefits and then decided whether to apply.

    Why would anyone apply for a job not knowing what the salary was? Why go through the hassle of an interview only to find out the salary on offer is no where near expectation.

    It would make a job interview worse than dealing with a used car salesman. At least buying a car you have the starting point to negotiate from.
    You wouldn’t go to a car dealership that didn’t have prices on any of the cars.

  2. 60 hour weeks, for an onshore position? No ta…

    Then again, is there a lot to do in Qatar when not working? I don’t seem to recall much when I was sent there temporarily about 20 years ago (Qatargas was the client IIRC)…

  3. > Why would anyone apply for a job not knowing what the salary was?

    Well quite. I’ve managed to stem the recent tide of unsolicited communications from recruiters on LinkedIn by saying:

    “..and you appear to have omitted the salary range from your description; it would take around £### to move me from my current job at the moment.”

    They tend to go quiet after that.

  4. I’d love to see that Word document with the salary history completed. I’m nosey like that.

  5. As a C-level executive recruiter in the U.S., I typically send a note to potential candidates via Linked In with just enough to pique their interest and when I pitch the job verbally, I give them the salary range, bonus range and if there will be any options or equity. If they say the range is a fit for their expectations, I ask them their salary history in the first phone interview.
    This helps me confirm that they haven’t been so far over the salary range in the past that we can’t get them to say yes to an offer, but also if their salary history is extremely low but their job title still fits, it typically reflects that their skill-set will not be strong enough for the job.

  6. There’s the opposite extreme: government jobs where the exact salary is specified down to the nearest currency unit, because the job is e.g. Band 3B, and everyone at that level must earn £€$32,768 exactly, regardless of what the market expects.

    As regards the Qatar job, it sounds like they’re using a form which might work on unskilled roughnecks from third world countries; but which wouldn’t work on anyone higher or western.

  7. As regards the Qatar job, it sounds like they’re using a form which might work on unskilled roughnecks from third world countries; but which wouldn’t work on anyone higher or western.

    That’s exactly what they’re doing. They’ve passed all the recruitment to Indians who have no idea how to recruit white-collar westerners.

  8. I queried the practice of companies asking candidates to state their expected salary early on in the recruitment process. I was told this is standard everywhere now.

    That is not a valid answer to a question asked in an academic context. They might as well say: “Cos God wills it.”

    Did you push further?

  9. I typically send a note to potential candidates via Linked In with just enough to pique their interest and when I pitch the job verbally, I give them the salary range, bonus range and if there will be any options or equity.

    Yup, that’s how you do it. Give a range dependent on experience and other factors, etc.

  10. The last recruiter I actually responded to (for a “Director of ABC” job title) sent my CV to their client. A few days later I got an autogenerated email from noreply.hr@xyz.com inviting me to set up an account and submit my CV and application for the job.

    Needless to say I just loved the personal touch, additionally decided I didn’t want to work for a company that enforces bureaucratic duplication of work, and therefore ignored it.

  11. Tim: “They’ve passed all the recruitment to Indians who have no idea how to recruit white-collar westerners.”

    Tim, you know exactly how that came to pass — the employer went low bid on the recruiting contractor. Apparently, it was Oscar Wilde who commented on Englishmen — ‘They know the price of everything and the value of nothing’. Seemingly, old Oscar never met Middle Easterners!

    The Middle Eastern focus on price is to some extent understandable — they have money, and lots of people trying to rip them off. But ignoring hard-to-assess value creates other problems for them. There was one case with Kuwait Oil Company when the successful (low-bidder, of course) contractor submitted his first Change Order … the same day the contract was signed! Price is easy, value is difficult.

  12. I just write, “market rate” whenever I’m faced with questions about past or expected pay on impersonal forms. If it’s not free form text, I enter “$1”.

    The latter approach recently resulted in a call from the c-level hiring manager of one company who had seen my CV and thought they might have an alternate role for me. It’s worth a punt sometimes.

  13. “It also brings into play a contradiction which I’m sure affects all MBA courses. Are we being taught to play the HR game in order to land a job, or to be able to set up a competent HR department in our future careers? ”

    I do recommend the book Leadership BS for some answers on this.

  14. ” What some companies are doing – and I have experience of this – is using the asymmetry of information to get what they see as a bargain, whereby a candidate undersells himself relative to their market rate.”

    This is common, utterly predictable and also profoundly stupid. You set out the relationship with your employee’s by chiseling them from the start. That will tell them exactly how to reciprocate in future dealings.

    When recruiting, we don’t talk salary until the offer stage. We pay what that person is worth to us, not based on any salary bands or any other nonsense.

  15. clem

    “Why would anyone apply for a job not knowing what the salary was? ”

    The most successful person I know, who is now a CEO of a fairly large operation, when to hundreds of interviews for jobs he did not want.

    The network and relationships he developed from that propelled him up at an indecent speed.

  16. ” What some companies are doing – and I have experience of this – is using the asymmetry of information to get what they see as a bargain, whereby a candidate undersells himself relative to their market rate.”

    This is common, utterly predictable and also profoundly stupid. You set out the relationship with your employee’s by chiseling them from the start. That will tell them exactly how to reciprocate in future dealings.

    It’s surprisingly common for non-Swiss being hired into Switzerland. Happened to me on my first job. When I called them on it, they doubled down and gave me goalpost-moving BS excuses. Since I was already thinking about quitting at the first opportunity a market-rate paying job came up, the decision was easy.

    People ALWAYS find out if they’re being underpaid, despite pretentions of salary confidentiality. And if management won’t rectify it, you’ve got to be prepared to move on. It’s my main bit of advice I give to people asking me about moving here.

  17. It’s surprisingly common for non-Swiss being hired into Switzerland.

    I’ve heard Swiss stay working in the same company for years partly because employers demand to know what they were paid before and refuse to give them a raise on principle. I imagine this can only work in industries with a surplus of candidates.

    Now I mention it, an awful lot of HR practices are set up assuming a surplus of candidates. What happens when they actually need to chase someone with rare skills I don’t know.

  18. The most successful person I know, who is now a CEO of a fairly large operation, when to hundreds of interviews for jobs he did not want.

    The network and relationships he developed from that propelled him up at an indecent speed.

    That’s a bloody good idea. Thanks!

  19. An admiring 11/10 Tim, for a very clever headline. More apt, on reflection, than it seems on first reading.

  20. “…in Microsoft word format”

    Qatar client insisting applicants must have bought MS Office? Bought a Toyota car & Sony TV too?

    Any credible firm wanting their standard forms completed should provide a complete-this.pdf and ask for .pdf CVs

  21. Tim Newman

    “Now I mention it, an awful lot of HR practices are set up assuming a surplus of candidates.”

    Yes, it is a basic premise of most HR that they are in a commodity business, and much of the process is built around ‘normalising’ a group of candidates into whatever checkbox system they have.

    The Human part gets completely lost in this, and given the largely female workforce, it becomes almost entirely about the process.

    For a different, and very effective view, I’d recommend having a read of this;

    https://www.amazon.com/Powerful-Building-Culture-Freedom-Responsibility/dp/1939714095

  22. Yes, it is a basic premise of most HR that they are in a commodity business, and much of the process is built around ‘normalising’ a group of candidates into whatever checkbox system they have.

    The Human part gets completely lost in this, and given the largely female workforce, it becomes almost entirely about the process.

    An excellent observation, sir!

  23. Interesting and timely post, Tim.

    I’ve just started a new post after redundancy- still doing commercial marine, still cosy with Oil companies- and my observations are this:

    1/ no one advertises salary anymore. Its bloody stupid for the reasons that clem gives above.
    2/ everyone asks for salary details. I refused on forms, and when they asked in person, I took that as an opportunity to explore what they were willing to pay.
    3/ recruitment is an industry that needs a kick up the arse. Its driven by the kind d of information asymmetry that the internet has destroyed elsewhere. Its built around poorly paid, dim ‘professionals’ collecting as many CVs as possible for jobs they don’t have, and, when one comes in, invariably the candidate has found a job themselves. For this service a commission of 20% is charged. A recruiters license for Linked in is around 5k for 6 months, and from that you can actually see who knows who and the kind of person they are. Do the maths, and you will see if you are looking for anyone above a graduate, DIY is a better approach than paying a recruiter.
    4/ for the candidate, the best thing to do is to find something interesting to do whilst you gently let it be known you are available for work through your network. The opportunities will find you and you can take a bit of time off to write that book, record an album, learn to ballroom dance or do a bit of consultancy.

  24. What John square says is spot on. My recent move has to been without recruiter assistance. Few are actually in the relationship game, most are intensely transactional.

    And on salary. If it’s senior enough and important enough HR are only there to make it happen legally at the end, and they know it which is they might treat you decently.

  25. Tim, are you sure that this email wasn’t just a phishing scam to harvest peoples’ personal details?

Comments are closed.