BP uses exclusive suite to covertly recruit top talent

This week’s Offshore Technology Conference has provided a valuable recruiting venue for oil and gas companies seeking talent to help them prosper in a hot market.

They’ve got recruiters on-site; they’ve got huge interactive screens in their exhibit booths listing job openings; they’ve got business cards to pass out that tell potential applicants where to go for more information.

BP is taking it a step further. It rented out the Chairman’s Club high in Reliant Stadium to host sessions for engineers and other technical experts who might be interested in switching jobs.

VIP: Companies offer high-class hospitality stadium-style

In the plush surroundings, invited guests can grab a sandwich, drink a soda and visit with BP executives about careers with the British oil giant.

“We’ve got lots of opportunities,” Paul McIntyre, BP’s head of group resourcing, told a group of possible job candidates. He and the other executives who followed his presentation described ongoing and upcoming projects that need capable experts.

From 2011 to 2012, BP hired 15,000 to 18,000 new employees, said McIntyre, who is based in London.

The prospects invited to the get-together had shown interest in BP previously by applying for specific openings, or responded to posts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, said Jane Brundle, who leads BP’s global resourcing, marketing and communications.

“We’ve always had networking events,” she said. But the suite provides a place for the company to court some pre-screened candidates and show off what is available.

Photos: OTC makes a splash with opening dinner

BP representatives didn’t want to make the candidates available for interviews because many work someplace else and don’t want to telegraph their interest in changing jobs.

Some kept their affiliations low-key, but one man’s ID badge displayed the name of a BP competitor.

BP also hosted panel discussions featuring its own executives, along with representatives from other energy companies and from the University of Houston, who discussed the importance of employees taking ownership of their career paths.

Don Shoultz, head of learning and development for exploration and production at BP America, said several participants approached him after his comments to get more details about a company program that combines classroom training with hands-on, real-world experiences.

Networking tip: Score an invitation to a private reception

Participants spend about a decade in a succession of training programs.

Recent college graduates are especially interested in training and development opportunities, Shoultz said, citing a study BP commissioned. They also tend to stay with a company that provides a path to develop more skills.

After the morning session in the Chairman’s Club, BP welcomed another group in the afternoon. And for prospects who couldn’t leave work — or their companies’ OTC booths — during the day, BP planned an evening reception as part of its “Inside Track” recruiting program.