Carmen Suárez
Stanton Chase

Switching Gears to Private Talent

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 10:53

As IOCs begin sourcing Mexican talent to fill top positions for their nascent operations in the country, they are bound to come up against the challenge of PEMEX’s public sector mindset, says Carmen Suárez, Director at executive search firm Stanton Chase.

After a monopoly lasting just shy of eight decades, PEMEX remains at the epicenter of Mexico’s technical hydrocarbonsrelated petroleum talent pool and is projected to clock 116,601 employees in 2017, according to Mexico’s planned budget for the year. For this reason, Mexican recruitment agencies will have to work hard to identify candidates adaptable enough to make the cultural switch from a statecontrolled company to the private sector. Suárez says her firm’s “retainer” approach to headhunting can assist new companies facing this challenge.

“Our retainer method is based on an extensive initial search,” Suárez says. Unlike contingency recruitment agencies that only charge if their candidate is successful, Stanton Chase’s upfront fee structure means its agents can focus on sourcing the right candidate, rather than rushing to fill the spot and get paid. This will be especially important for the dozens of oil and gas companies entering the market that are looking to dig into PEMEX’s experienced pool of employees for their own operations. Suárez believes this extra focus on the search process will go a long way.

Stanton’s emphasis on the research and background phase also allows the company to tap into what Suárez terms “passive candidates.” Prospective employers must face the paradox of desirable candidates not actively looking for opportunities in other companies because they are focused on being successful in their current positions. In the competitive panorama of oil and gas, and especially in the high-stake deepwater ventures arising from Round 1.4, these are the candidates IOCs will want to reach out to. Stanton Chase allows them to do that. While PEMEX does not lack in technical talent and expertise, Suárez adds, it will take specialized headhunting experts to identify employees with the corporate “chip” demanded by the private sector.

As well as opting for a retainer-based recruitment firm, incoming companies seeking top-tier oil and gas talent could also turn to international oilfield service companies already present in the country as a source of corporate-minded applicants. “Companies like Halliburton, Schlumberger and Baker Hughes already have a strong base in Mexico, with experience providing services to PEMEX. They have qualified technicians and engineers,” Suárez says. This will also mitigate the issue of unavailable, near-retirement age PEMEX candidates who will be disinclined to leave their current positions due to the NOC’s rich pension benefits, she says.

To fill the 212,000 new energy jobs Energy Minister Pedro Joaquín Coldwell projects will spring from the Energy Reform, the search will not be limited to Mexico. Another source for candidates is the pool of Mexican expat oil and gas workers who have left the country due to the decline in production and subsequent layoffs at PEMEX. “A lot of recruiters are talking about bringing back Mexican candidates who left to work in other, more affluent markets,” she says. With presence in 74 cities spanning North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, Stanton Chase is well positioned to lend its international links to companies working to bring native talent back to Mexico. International reach will also play a central role in bringing much needed deepwater expertise to Mexico, Suárez adds, as well as experience with advanced technology that the Mexican market lacks.

Besides prioritizing technical qualifications and cultural adaptability, the new operators in the oil and gas market will place English language aptitude high on their list of desired skills when selecting their future leaders, something that will likely be a stumbling block, Suárez warns. Mexico is seriously lacking in candidates fluent in the global business language.

The need for language skills is a key area where academia and the government will bear the brunt of responsibility and Suárez praises IMP and IPN for increasing efforts to align the needs of private oil and gas companies with students’ training through alliances and new, specialized courses. “In the end, the creation of talent has its roots in the classroom,” Suárez says.