Working at Gazprom Neft: experience new opportunities

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Interview with the head of Gazprom Neft Human Resources Department Vladimir Khimanych

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Gazprom Neft is a vertically integrated oil company that operates in Russia and beyond. The company is growing briskly. That’s why the best candidate for Gazprom Neft is a job-seeker who possesses experience and talent, a professional in his or her field, or a young specialist with brilliant potential. In this interview, head of Gazprom Neft Human Resources Department Vladimir Khimanych explains in detail how to pass an interview with the company and tells about its opportunities for career growth and the qualities that the company values highest.

— Vladimir, what kind of employer is Gazprom Neft?

— Over 60,000 people work at Gazprom Neft. It’s a group of companies that operate within Russia and beyond its borders.

There are several key sectors in the company, each corresponding to the specialization of its employees. The first sector is upstream. The second is everything connected with downstream: refining, logistics, and transportation. The third big group is sales and gas stations. And, of course, there are corporate functions.

Gazprom Neft today is a dynamic company undergoing brisk development and one of the industry leaders. A long-term strategy has been adopted at the company which sets target growth indicators for the company’s main areas of operations. The planning horizon is 2025.

— What are the company’s plans for human resources?

— The first priority in working with human resources is improving their performance, which will make it possible for us to join Russia’s market leaders in terms of our productivity. The second priority is managing employees’ knowledge and competencies. We are talking here about both traditional and new competencies connected with the company’s international business. The third priority is managing the number of people in the organization and strategically selecting personnel. A company growing on such a competitive market as the Russian market needs a distinct strategy for promoting its own employees, rotating employees between various projects within the group of companies, and finding valuable personnel on the market. I would also identify the company’s internal strategy for managing the quality of the human resources service, because we can’t work apart from the business.

— So, you’re saying that the Russian labor market is competitive even for Gazprom Neft?

— We are already reviewing our HR tasks with a view to mid- to long-term prospects. We want to be the best employer in Russia, as well as hiring the best of the best. And competition for hiring the best of the best is always tough, even among market leaders. It’s important here not to rest on our laurels but to tell ourselves each day that we need to do something new, something that our competitors aren’t doing and that the market hasn’t seen yet. That will make it possible for us to be in the vanguard. Candidates who agree with such a philosophy are unquestionably talented and ambitious people. And we want to get them onboard.

— We know that your corporate headquarters are located in Saint Petersburg. In what other regions and countries does the company operate?

— The company’s main business is currently concentrated in Russia. It’s the key market and the main market for us. That’s why we have always presented ourselves as a Russian company. As for international assets, those are directions that we are developing actively. We are participating in a number of foreign projects. Our biggest foreign asset, a vertically integrated oil company and local market leader, is located in Serbia. Gazprom Neft is also developing production projects in Iraq and Venezuela. There are a number of projects under development.

— What kind of job seekers are you currently looking for? What’s your conception of the ideal candidate?

— It is true that many companies ask themselves the question, “Who is the best candidate for us?” From our viewpoint, it’s the candidate who possesses both talent and professionalism in his or her field. A business like ours demands that the candidate either possess profound professional expertise or, if we’re looking at a young specialist, the candidate should have brilliant potential that will make it possible to take advantage of his or her professional arsenal. It doesn’t matter which one of the company’s areas of operations we’re talking about. And we always look at what the person has achieved. Young specialists, who, due to their age, have yet to obtain significant confirmed work experience, are another matter. That’s why in such cases we look at other attributes that we identify during the competency interview stage, when we evaluate the candidate’s potential and his or her preparedness for fast and dynamic growth. We need mobile people who are building their career without being tied down to any particular location.

— What exactly do you mean by mobility? Please give an example.

— The company demonstrated its mobility by moving the Gazprom Neft headquarters from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. That was two years ago, when the company structure moved to Russia’s northern capital. Key personnel moved there along with the company. That’s the kind of employee attitude that we approve of. Our people are looking not at work in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, but at their careers in a company that has the potential and exciting opportunities that can be realized without reference to the specific location of operations.

— How difficult is it to pass the competitive screening in the hiring process? How many stages does it consist of?

— Don’t forget that both parties have to choose to have an interview. The company chooses the candidate, and the candidate chooses the company. Interviews are conducted by managers and specialists who are experts in their field or in the HR. The only question that each person going to the company for an interview should be able to answer for himself or herself is, “How interesting is this industry for me?” Interest in the oil and gas industry is fundamentally important for us. How apparent the candidate’s drive to build his or her own career is also a significant factor that affects the decision we make. Somebody who is not quite sure whether it will be interesting for him or her to work in our industry will likely not be the strongest candidate. All the other qualities, such as having examples of the implementation of your own ideas, solving difficult tasks, and knowing how to work as a team are the competencies that ensure success in any business.

— What kind of prospects are open to company employees? Please give us your advice on how to build a career at Gazprom Neft.

— You shouldn’t be afraid of trying new things and taking risks. The most successful careers take shape when people break away from the established routines and stereotypes, and make the decision, in spite of the difficulties, to move to a new city and take on hard work to which you feel you aren’t entirely prepared. Of course, we plan our employees’ career growth, but you can’t forget that your career is in your own hands. Nobody decides anything for you.

— Please tell us about the company’s corporate culture.

— I remember well my first impressions after getting a job at the company. I really liked the friendly atmosphere among employees, that people here listen to each other’s opinions, that all of your proposals are taken into consideration and worked through carefully. I felt an atmosphere of openness and trust and the employees’ desire to help one another integrate their personalities into the company. We all frequently remember our experience of integrating at our new place of employment. My experience at Gazprom Neft was very positive. Everybody helped me, and they were very glad to see me on their team.

The second thing that is striking is that people here are truly fanatical about what they do and the industry. Many employees come from family dynasties of oil workers. Their parents and grandparents worked in the oil and gas industry. That’s the history of the industry’s development in our country. It’s also a part of corporate culture.

In summary, the corporate culture at the company is openness to new opportunities and people, an interest in the industry, and a desire to integrate into the company to the greatest extent possible.

— For many candidates, Gazprom Neft is associated with the social projects that it carries out. Please tell us a little more about those projects.

— There are formal and informal social projects. The formal ones include support for athletic schools and sponsorship for sports teams. I am particularly impressed with how Gazprom Neft has been supporting youth ice hockey clubs. In Omsk, I had the pleasure of attending the Gazprom Neft Cup that the company organizes each year. It was a superb show. I saw school-age kids who had come to the championship from across Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. I am certain that they will become champions in the future. It’s no secret that programs for the support of children’s sports are not as well-developed in Russia as we would like to see them. Children put so much energy into sports, and I often think, “If every company would pay just a little attention to these issues, the world would be a better place.”

Informal social aid involves the projects in which employees participate voluntarily. I would pick here various initiatives, for example, volunteer work. Gazprom Neft employees go to orphanages by themselves and help children by themselves.

— In conclusion, please give some advice to candidates who are interested in working at Gazprom Neft.

— People who are considering the possibility of working at our company should think about the industry in which they want to grow. My advice is to try to understand the peculiar features of the company where you dream about working. Read about it on the Internet. Talk about it with your coworkers. If you can, come to our office so you can look at the company’s life from the inside. Afterwards you will understand whether you want to work here or not. Approach the planning of your career very consciously and thoughtfully, and don’t rely on happenstance.

There is a principle very close to me that I would formulate like this: “Don’t be afraid to try!” Let me elaborate. We often don’t do certain things because we think they’re impossible. And that becomes a psychological barrier for our actions. Try to remove that barrier from yourself and approach the resolution of any task from the position that everything is possible. And then many things become simple!