Michael McCown is CEO of Energy Hire, a tech-enabled hiring platform that connects energy companies and mineral interest owners to energy professionals nationwide with land, petroleum engineering, geology and other industry-specific areas of expertise. For more information, visit www.energyhire.com

When I first started in the business, the hiring process was chaotic, disjointed, inefficient and almost entirely opaque to the outside world.

It still is today.

The chaos is understandable. The energy industry is composed of highly specialized professions in niche fields with distinct regional and even temporal limitations. But with the economic, social and political uncertainties circling around the industry, modern hiring companies and energy job seekers require more efficient, innovative and equitable solutions.

Currently, it is difficult for qualified candidates to easily find the right open positions. The mega job sites lack title, tag and certification-search specificity for the energy industry. Their algorithms are not organized to support our needs. Outside of those sites, every company has a unique website or LinkedIn presence, and job seekers are faced with finding and applying for positions through a patchwork of portals.

If you are a talented petroleum engineer and you want to apply for a job at an Exxon Mobil, Chevron or similar company, you must go through a corporate site-specific search and application process for every opening. If you’re a contractor looking to limit unpaid downtime between projects, your prospects are bleaker.

This is the gauntlet faced by people who already know what jobs they are looking for. But many young people today have no idea where to begin, isolating them further from great opportunities.

The current situation does not work efficiently for job seekers or employers.

In the early years of the shale boom, Wall Street encouraged rapid growth through free-wheeled spending on drilling and acquisitions. But beginning in 2016–2017 and continuing through the pandemic, oil and gas companies came to grips with hard lessons.

Investors demanded free cash flow and low G&A. Energy companies had to rein in operations and concentrate on the bottom line, which in HR departments led to a greater reliance on contract hires and the search for better paid, but more specifically trained and experienced employees.

Even when commodity prices are riding high, companies are no longer willing to throw money around on G&A expenses.

Taking all these factors into account, the current hiring system is no longer sustainable. There needs to be a better way to approach energy industry hiring

A hiring platform is needed that is centered on the energy industry, deploying industry-specific algorithms and tags and bringing hiring companies and job seekers together with one application protocol.

A hiring platform should replace the trust built from personal networking with trust built from actual job histories, on-the-job reviews and verifiable certifications.

It should harness technology and artificial intelligence to match highly specific jobs to equally specific candidates.

Finally, the hiring platform should remain above the political fray, combining non-renewable and renewable jobs into one indivisible energy community.

We are all aware of the political and social stigmas currently placed on the non-renewable energy sector. But there are even more concerning developments on the horizon. As of January 2024, the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Commitments Database boasted 1,612 qualifying institutions that promised varying degrees of fossil fuel industry divestment. Numerous top universities, wealth funds and influential cultural entities are on that list.

What happens if—or when—such activism reaches the mega job sites? What happens when people can’t find well-paid and rewarding jobs because the job sites have quietly downgraded them, or refused to post them at all?

Let us hope we never find ourselves in that situation, but let’s also be prepared. As long as an industry-centered hiring platform exists that represents the full range of energy industry jobs, both renewable and non-renewable, industry hiring will remain resilient and independent of political headwinds.

Though questions of efficiency, innovation and transparency are important for the day-to-day health of our industry and must be addressed by an improved hiring system, the need to remain resilient—with new people always finding and entering the energy field—is of utmost importance to our industry in the future, and to the world we power.