October 2017

What’s the most effective method for getting a job in the mining industry?

  • By Steve Heather, Managing Director & Principal Executive Search, Mining People International

Mining industry recruitment has changed in the past decade, and will likely continue to do so. This article examines the way resources professionals look for work.

There are a number of preconceived ideas about the best method for finding a job in the mining industry.

Most of us, if asked, would probably recommend whatever has worked for us in the past. But your experience is not necessarily the same as the next person. What works for you, at your level or in your discipline, might not work for someone else.

As a specialist mining industry recruiter, I have a vested interest in learning what people have found to be the most effective method for getting a job in our industry, so my team and I ran an experiment on our website (www.miningpeople.com.au).

Each month, Mining People International runs a poll via the Mining People Polling/Media centre. We’ve asked all sorts of questions over time and we always get hundreds of respondents. The results are, without fail, a really interesting insight into what’s happening at the coalface (if you’ll excuse the pun).

In June, we asked the following question, asking respondents to choose one option only: ‘What method have you found to be the most effective in searching for a job?’ Possible responses included:

  • professional networking (including LinkedIn, former colleagues, organised networking events, etc)
  • social networking (including Facebook, Instagram, sporting clubs, local clubs, social gatherings, etc)
  • applying directly to employers
  • applying via recruitment companies.

It was a popular poll. Close to 400 people – current and past jobseekers looking for work in the mining industry – took part. The results were fascinating.

The largest group, 44.2 per cent, applied directly to employers. The second largest group, or 27.6 per cent, applied through recruitment firms. Professional networking was considered most effective by 23.1 per cent of respondents and just 5.1 per cent used their social networks – both offline and online.

So, what stands out? Let’s take each method one by one and then I’ll make my predictions – based on 22 years as a mining industry recruiter and 40 years in the mining industry – on how the viability of each method will change over the next five years. Some of these predictions are based on observations and anecdotal comments, but they are also backed by hard data.

Applying directly to employers

Applying directly to employers is, unsurprisingly, rated as the most effective way to get a job in the mining industry in Australia.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a previous survey to compare figures, but I suspect this would still have been the highest rated method ten years ago too. That said, we’re also fairly certain that inside the mining industry the 44 per cent attributed to applying directly to employers would have been lower back then.

It is no secret during the recent ‘cost out’ phase encountered by the mining industry, many employers have chosen to fill roles themselves before coming to a recruitment firm later, once conditions have improved.

Very interestingly, though, many candidates tell us that while they may have a higher success rate when a job is advertised directly, the actual customer experience and service they get from dealing directly with employers is often poorer than the experience they get from recruitment firms.

Our five-year prediction

We expect the direct approach to decline as a source of successful recruitment experiences. As software and technology platforms relating to recruitment and search become vastly more sophisticated, and as costs are driven down, it will simply become a non-core activity inside mining companies and will be cheaper and more efficient to outsource the function to boutique search experts.

By way of example, we now host our content management system in the cloud and have numerous specialist recruitment and search related ‘apps’ to manage the administration, the candidate experience, the data interrogation, as well as – most importantly – ongoing relationship management. We see very few principal employers with the expertise to do this and believe the gap will get bigger as the processes become more specialised.

We think the usual mining industry cyclical winds will also play a role, with the supply and demand equation once again moving us back to a candidate shortage and, therefore, forcing mining employers to use boutique market expert recruiters.

Applying via recruitment companies

Recruitment firms should also be mindful of some of the points above. While certain structural winds may be at your back, the candidate experience must continue to improve or you will not participate in the wins. Recruiters trying to shift the blame for a poor candidate experience to their client are plain lazy. If as a consultant you take the job on from a client, then it is ‘your’ job, representing you, your company and your brand.

Our five-year prediction

We expect the volume of mining industry candidates using this method to find employment to stay roughly the same, or to slightly increase, as a source of successful recruitment experiences. Recruiters will gain some of the increased work employers outsource, but at the same time some recruiters will definitely lose some market share to technology platforms and social networking.

Professional networking

In our poll we put LinkedIn in together with professional networking, as that’s what the platform is meant to be – a professional network. However, we could have included it with social networking instead – as that’s how many people think of it. We understand that some people may feel that way and it does raise an interesting question about whether LinkedIn is a social network or a professional one.

Those who feel it’s a social network might feel the inclusion of the platform has skewed the result, so to provide some context around it, we had previously conducted a separate poll asking whether LinkedIn had been helpful in searching for a new job. It was early days for the Mining People International Polling Centre back then, but the poll received almost a hundred replies with the following results:

  • not at all: 38.4 per cent
  • somewhat: 34.3 per cent
  • definitely: 27.3 per cent.

If we consider that only 27 per cent said LinkedIn had been successful, and some of these people would also have had success using other methods, we suspect the effectiveness of the ‘professional networking’ result in our latest poll was only modestly contributed to by LinkedIn. This is consistent with the anecdotal evidence that we hear.

As for the non-LinkedIn professional networking channels, we continue to hear from jobseekers that a good old ‘word-of-mouth’ referral from previous colleagues is a major contributor to success and we would expect that would apply to many of the 23 per cent who found a job through professional networking.

Our five-year prediction

If we believe platforms like LinkedIn represent professional networking, then we think this area might increase slightly over time. If we don’t believe LinkedIn fits here, then we expect this area to stay roughly where it is now, with the word-of-mouth referrals from previous colleagues continuing to play a key role in a successful job search.

Social networking

For all the talk of the rise of social networking, it seems it still rates poorly as an effective method for finding a job. We have no doubt this will rise, but what we notice in our own endeavours is that a lot of social networking is unstructured and the best way to actually get a job (when you want one) is to treat it like a project – create a list of targets, clarify your goals and apply your efforts in a systematic manner.

From the perspective of a mining industry jobseeker, most social media platforms don’t really enable this. Social media is better used as one source of leads, or one tool, and as part of a broader project – rather than a standalone method.

Our five-year prediction

We expect this method to rise as a source of successful recruitment experiences as software and social platforms better structure the user experience to enable jobseekers to better organise their job searches.

A final word on mining industry recruitment

Recruitment in 2017 is a completely different ball game to ten years ago, let alone 20 years ago. The internet, websites like SEEK, even email, has completely changed the way we all do business – and not only in the mining industry. It’s entirely possible that in another decade, there’ll be new methods for recruiting employees that we haven’t yet imagined.

As technology has advanced, it has become easier for candidates to apply for jobs at the click of a button. That’s a trend that’s likely to continue. It’s one that makes the jobseeker’s job easier, but places a heavy administrative burden on the employer, as they sift through the serious and qualified applicants from the hopefuls, wannabes and daydreamers.

It’s a problem every human resources department will have to deal with eventually. So, while candidates are considering the most effective method for finding a job in the mining industry, mining companies should spend some time figuring out the most effective method for them to find and screen perfect candidates – and ideally before matters get too busy.


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