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  • Richard Hall

Is Now The Time? - From Oil Major to Small Business

Should a small/medium sized company hire a candidate from an oil & gas major? If so, how do you ensure their success?

Now can be a great time to pick up some exceptional talent. I highly recommend interviewing candidates from the oil & gas industry that may have left one of the majors. Their talent and training may be exactly what you need. However, before you take the plunge, here are some things you should do to ensure their success.


This is arguably the most difficult area for new employees to grasp. Coming from a large corporation with established processes to a new, smaller, and chaotic environment can be very difficult. They can become frustrated when processes are not in place and people say, “that’s the way it is”. Encourage them to help establish processes the right way as a tactic to help and channel their frustration.

With most companies, the real culture may be much different than what was described during the interview process. Encourage the new employee to ask questions and get to know others before forming opinions. They could be a key employee in helping you establish a new culture, but they need to understand the existing one before making changes.


Be transparent about the company, employees, issues, and why someone like them could help. Don’t oversell things like “family-oriented culture”, work/life balance, and advancement opportunities if they are not truly competitive advantages. There’s nothing worse than a candidate coming on board to find out things are not as they were sold.

Understand their skills and training completely. Many people from larger companies have a depth of knowledge but not as much breadth as you would expect. Just because they may have been in sales for an oil major doesn’t mean they know how to create a sales process from scratch, run a sales department, or have any idea about marketing. Outsource aspects of interviewing if you are not sure.

Get the compensation discussion out of the way early. See below for more suggestions.


It is hard for a smaller company to compete with all the compensation and benefits that an oil major provides. Many candidates rank compensation near the top but not always. Things like personal and professional growth, stability, and culture are equally as important. Some things to think about:

- Do not overpay – unless you feel they are a unicorn, expect to pay a premium but do not overpay from what you can afford. There are many non-compensation benefits that help balance out the total package.

- Do not underpay – the person may accept the offer due to immediate personal circumstances but will leave once things turn around. Save your money.

- Title – for those looking to advance, a more senior title can easily compete with a reduction in total compensation. Just make sure the candidate is qualified for the new title or you will have different problems later.


If hiring for a leadership role, ask them tough questions to ensure you fully understand their approach. Many

majors subscribe to top-down authority

where title is power. You may want a more team-focused leader. Do they know what that means, and can they work in that environment? Ask them about developing team members, working in a high performing environment, dealing with employees and peers, etc. Ask them who is their favorite leader of all time. That can help understand their perspective.


If you are looking for them to bring a spark of creativity and innovation, be careful. Larger companies change slowly and approve innovation even slower. They typically have access to larger budgets to bring newer products to the market, potentially much larger than yours. Ask them about their process and see if they can think outside the box. Can they get creative when funding is an issue?

Ways to Ensure Success

Now that you’ve hired the candidate, how do you ensure they are going to be successful and stay longer term? Here are a few suggestions for you to follow:

- Onboarding – if onboarding is a dysfunctional process, tell them upfront to set the right expectation. If it takes 2-3 days to get their email setup, or laptop configured, that’s okay. Just tell them. Otherwise, they may feel they are not as important after all. Reminder that it can take a long time with some big corporations or it can be done and over in the first 2 hours.

- Buddy system - I know it sounds archaic but a good "buddy" really is important in this circumstance. Coming from a large company to a smaller one where things are less structured can be very frustrating. It can be equally as difficult to learn the culture, the people, and the internal contacts (who to ask for what). Many times, new employees are afraid to ask their boss many questions that arise through the process. Identify someone for them that has been around for a while that doesn’t mind answering questions.

- Daily, weekly, monthly check-ins – Have their boss check on them daily for the first week, weekly, and then monthly at a minimum. This is in addition to their standard meetings. Just make sure the new employee is settling into their new role okay. It is a major shift for them so overcommunicate.

- Training – I always advocate for more training but especially so in this case. Make sure they fully understand your products and services early on. They need to know what they are dealing with, what they can and cannot do, and where to go for details. Big companies can overcome misrepresentations with budget and resources, but not all smaller companies can.


If you are hiring an executive level person, consider investing in an executive coach with a background in small/medium sized businesses. Understanding and navigating the first year with a new company can be very challenging. Having an outsider that knows what to expect

and can help with team leadership, leadership development, and culture acclimation can be extremely valuable to a new executive. Many can leverage personality assessments to ensure the new employee understands the challenges

they may face. They can also help the existing executive team understand how best to work with the new member.

If you would like to discuss further, contact me at or visit



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