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Drills, thrills and candidates: portrait of an oil and gas recruiter

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Oilfield Technology,

The oil and gas industry is part of a long family tradition for Petroplan's drilling consultant Jon Murray, whose persistence in pursuing his dream role has paid off, despite a number of unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Jon Murray started out as a car mechanic. But even at this early stage in his career, his ultimate aim was to work offshore in oil and gas. This desire was borne from a long family tradition: his dad worked offshore as a Derrickman, and his grandpa was a Driller.

“I left my car mechanic job in 2006 to work with Weatherford in the completions department, after applying on the recommendation of a friend,” Jon recalls. “This was my first step into oil and gas. As this particular position was onshore only, I soon moved on to Halliburton as an Assistant Cement Engineer, which got me my start offshore. However, it was the drilling side of the industry that I was really interested in, so during this period I was chasing any opportunity I could find that would allow me to make that transition.”

For Jon, pursuing his drilling dream meant speaking regularly with members of the various teams on the rig, helping out after his shift was finished and non-stop persistence with agencies and companies. Eventually, this paid off when he was offered a position on the drilling side of things with Diamond Offshore.

“Even back then the industry was very competitive. It took a lot of work and effort not just to get offshore, but to take that first step into drilling!”

A career with a twist

While he was working with Diamond Offshore in the Falklands, a family issue arose that meant Jon needed to return home. The company was very accommodating, offering him the opportunity to transfer back to a North Sea rig. However, the logistics meant that this wouldn’t have been feasible, so Jon returned to an onshore role as a valve technician. Yet he could not resist the pull of a fresh challenge.

“Given that working offshore was no longer an option for me, a career in oil and gas recruitment was tempting, as I’d come into contact with recruiters on numerous occasions and it was a role that had certainly interested me,” Jon continues. “But because I didn’t have a university or recruitment background, I’d assumed it was off-limits. Nevertheless, I’m a firm believer that nothing gets handed to you on a plate in life, and that you have to work hard for what you want – it all comes down to how badly you want it.”

Determined not to let a lack of recruitment experience be a barrier, Jon tried everything possible to get his ‘foot in the door’. But as with his earlier move into drilling, he met initially with constant knock-backs and rejections.

“I went round, door to door, to every agency that would see me, attended interviews, and simply kept going until I finally got a start with an oil and gas agency based in Aberdeen. I stayed there for nearly two years before moving to London to work internally with Saudi Aramco in a contract position. This gave me the opportunity to work with one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, as well as gain experience working internally. I then moved back up to Aberdeen and took a short-term position with an Aberdeen agency, before starting with Petroplan, and have been here ever since!”


As a global recruiter for the oil and gas and energy industry, Petroplan’s strategic approach to recruitment fits well with Jon’s career goals. “We have specialist teams serving specific segments of the market (e.g. drilling) and those teams are led by consultants with extensive experience in those areas. This makes for far more effective recruitment, for both clients and candidates alike.”

He also cites his own familiarity with drilling and offshore as a major factor in his success as a recruiter. He says that candidates are more prepared to listen to him as he has first-hand experience of the issues they face, with this industry knowledge also proving invaluable when evaluating whether a candidate is right candidate for a particular position.

“I am well-versed in the level of experience a position requires, and the skills, expertise and knowledge needed to fill that role. More importantly, however, it gives me credibility from the client and candidate’s point of view. People are more likely to engage with you, respect your opinion and take the time to discuss their own experience.”

Spirit of community

Oil and gas recruitment is an extremely competitive and challenging industry. At the same time, it has the potential to be very lucrative. “If you’re good at it, and willing to put in the work and effort, you can do very well for yourself,” says Jon.

“However, there’s also the human element. There may be thousands of workers in the offshore sector, yet it is still in many ways a relatively small community. I generally find I have some personal connection to the candidates I am speaking to from my offshore days, even if it’s a case of having been on one of the rigs they’ve been on or knowing someone who knew someone who worked on this project, or for that company etc. It always instantly changes the dynamics of the call, and loosens things up, and removes the element of ‘oh, it’s just another recruiter calling’.”

For Jon, the approach has really paid off, with Petroplan securing a number of major clients recently, including an exclusive global agreement with a large drilling contractor – a massive success for the company. Another big motivator for Jon, is the difference he is able to make to people’s lives.

“It’s very satisfying to be able to match talented candidates to great opportunities, and to see this come to fruition. Without wanting to sound too cheesy, you can literally change someone’s life. There’s also the fact that, coming from a drilling background, I still have a very keen interest in the industry. Recruitment allows me to remain involved, albeit in a different role.”

Appetite for adventure

Jon believes that the success the specialist drilling division has achieved thus far is only the start.

“We expect to get a lot, lot busier over the next 12 months as we continue to win new clients and build the team. The goal is to grow the drilling team, increase our client base, and for Petroplan to be recognised and to make our mark in drilling recruitment not only in Aberdeen but globally. So there are busy and exciting times ahead of us.”

And when the rigours of working in a sector as challenging and dynamic as oil and gas recruitment are not enough, Jon has found yet another way to satiate his appetite for adventure. “One of my favourite new hobbies is sky-diving, and I’m currently looking to get a sky-diving license. To relax however, I also enjoy playing gigs with my band.”

Adapted by David Bizley

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