Mind the (stop) gap employee

Companies recruiting to fill roles in the current uncertain oil and gas sector should be wary of the phenomenon of the stop-gap candidate, says Richard Hogg of Jackson Hogg Recruitment, a specialist recruitment firm.

In the current climate, any positions that need to be filled are likely to prove popular.

This means that now is a great time to pick up a candidate with strong transferable skills, who can come into the company and recognise the opportunities on offer, now and in the future, to progress their careers. They will know that when the economy picks up, internal progression paths will open up.

But while a less cautious employer might rub their hands together gleefully at the prospect of a rich pool of talent to choose from, their choice may prove to be only a short-term solution.

There will be many people hedging their bets and looking for a stop gap role, as they wait for the market to improve and “better” options to come available.

Some may even make a temporary sector shift to cover the quieter period in their chosen industry, moving into a strong manufacturing climate and biding their time, waiting for the oil and gas sector to pick up again.

It’s a problem that we have seen before, as markets fluctuate and, just as a key appointment is settling in, the sector improves and they move on to a choice role back in their preferred industry.

It seems opportunistic, and to some extent it is, but for the candidate, it’s a “needs-must” scenario to maintain an income during times of potential hardship.

For the employer, it is a potentially costly situation that doubles the cost of recruitment and training a new member of staff. It is not always easy to tell what the long-term plans of a particular candidate are, and it would be unfair to suggest that an individual whose recent history shows a long period in one industry, followed by redundancy, is not genuinely interested in a role in a new sector. For an employer, it is a tricky call to make, with the potential to employ a star performer, bringing new ideas from one industry to another, needing to be balanced against someone who will potentially leave within weeks or months, triggering the recruitment cycle once more.

The use of an external recruitment specialist to vet the candidates is one option for helping to make a choice. Personal recommendations and trusted referees are also highly effective.

In a volatile market, the element of risk is ever-present. One can hope that the new government will bring stability and an environment in which employers can make plans and industries thrive, reducing such risk, but that will not come overnight.

In the meantime, it is important that caution is exercised – but not at the risk of losing a potential star!