The energy industry has seen a lot of changes over the last 30 years. During that time, recruiting firm Natek has consistently placed top talent in energy efficiency and renewables – including engineers, sales, operations, management, and executive leadership – for some of the biggest names in the industry.

Mark Dillon, President of Natek
Mark Dillon, President of Natek
LinkedIn @ natekenergy

There’s no substitute for experience. Natek’s enduring success is built on long-term industry relationships. Hiring authorities and career professionals in the energy sector know Natek and the team at Natek knows them. This gives the firm a deep and unique talent pool that’s all their own.  

We spoke with President of Natek – Mark Dillon – to uncover some of the secrets behind his sustained success in recruiting for the energy space (including what makes PCRecruiter a great ATS software for engineering recruiters.)

Industry expertise from the outset

More than 35 years ago, Mark Dillon was working in the energy industry. Back then, it was known as the ‘power generation’ field. His clients were major multinational companies supplying the world’s ever-increasing demand for power. Mark spent most of his time either on the road or in front of clients.  

I’ve owned my own engineering firm. I’ve headed and led energy groups for Fortune 50 companies. I’ve also partnered with the Association Of Energy Engineers (AEE) and the World Energy Congress as a career counselor.

– Mark Dillon, President, Natek

When energy efficiency and renewable power initiatives started to come in, these companies and their energy customers were presented with new incentives to reduce costs and demand. This shift resulted in a trend for performance contracting, where energy providers guaranteed efficiencies to corporate customers by identifying and delivering savings. 

In 1990, Mark decided he needed a role that would allow him to be closer to home, giving him the chance to spend more time with a young family. Recruiting was an obvious choice because it enabled him to work from home. 

Having worked with some of the biggest brands in the industry, Mark had built up a network of trusted contacts. So he took the opportunity in front of him. He focused his recruiting efforts on delivering staffing solutions in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable power.

The impact of work-from-home on energy recruitment

PCRecruiter is Natek's chosen recruiting software for engineering roles
There remains a demand for on-site work in the office and in the field.

Fast-forward to 2020. Most of the world began working from home in response to COVID-19. This left a lasting impression on the recruiting landscape, including recruiting for engineering and energy. Today, some of Mark’s clients want everyone working from the office, some offer hybrid roles, and others are now fully remote. 

Office-based roles are still valued. They create a synergy between co-workers, especially for junior team members, that’s not easily replicated in a video call. But the biggest challenge for recruiters is to get companies — and people — to either embrace working from home or feel excited about getting back into the office. 

And what’s on offer can potentially make or break a potential placement. In Mark’s experience, he’s seen executives pass up a six-figure salary increase because they wanted to cut the commute and use that time for their kids and family. Alongside understanding where candidates want to work, the other important ingredient in making successful placements is understanding what companies are looking for in their candidates.

Recruiting in engineering means knowing what companies need

These days, energy companies increasingly need to do more with less. Like any industry, the top candidates for open roles are usually already taken or in high demand. 

Transferable skills are invaluable in the renewables sector. That’s partly because if all the best talent is taken within a particular geographic area, the next best thing is to bring in someone with related experience, say mechanical engineering or other relevant fields.

When energy companies are putting a team together, they want people who can develop a project and manage the risks of those projects – especially when it comes to performance contracts.

– Mark Dillon, President, Natek

Another important quality is the ability to manage risk. From the C-level through to engineers on the ground, responsibility for mitigating risk is everyone’s business. And that’s a big weight. Imagine a project with a performance contract worth between $10 million and $200 million. There’s a lot at stake and a lot that can go wrong.

Recruiting Software for Engineering - PCRecruiter
Successful placements in engineering recruitment often requires the right blend of technical and leadership skills.

From an engineering recruitment perspective, employers are often looking for candidates with a technical background who also have the leadership skills to develop and deliver projects to clients. Even when aspects of a project are contracted out — such as the design phase — they need someone to take ownership and provide oversight and control. 

That’s why the risks associated with recruiting the wrong person are huge. It also means industry expertise and experience are vital when it comes to finding the right candidates.

A private talent pool is the engineering recruiter’s best asset

PCRecruiter has been my recruiting software for engineering, energy, renewables, and related fields for over twenty years. It’s the heartbeat of how I do business, from logging individuals to prepping a candidate for a VP role.

– Mark Dillon, President, Natek

Recruiting is about building relationships, and Mark’s been in the business a long time. People he placed two or three decades ago now occupy C-level positions. The truth is, you just never know when these relationships could become valuable. That’s why building your own private talent pool over time is so important. Sometimes, data that could be decades old can unlock new opportunities for candidates and companies. 

Securely held inside PCRecruiter, Natek’s talent pool contains records stretching back to the early 2000s. It allows Mark and his team to look up individuals, pull up notes, and put candidates up for interviews in no time at all. For Mark, this database is the beating heart of his recruiting. Having PCRecruiter behind him enables Mark to focus on what really matters – communicating with people. 

I live and die by customer service! Kudos to PCRecruiter. Not only is it a great ATS software for engineering recruiters, but I know I can always reach out to somebody if I have a question and get a quick and useful response.

– Mark Dillon, President, Natek

Relationships are the cornerstone of Natek’s success. It’s a people business, and while AI and automations help make doing business faster and easier, Mark’s an advocate for picking up the phone and speaking to candidates, explaining the opportunity, and building rapport. With PCRecruiter as his recruiting software, Mark has instant access to the information he needs to have meaningful conversations with candidates and clients.  

Having their own private talent pool gives Mark and his team depth, breadth, and access to quality candidates who may not be visible on platforms such as LinkedIn. That built-in insight and expertise separates Natek from the rest of the field. It also means energy companies don’t just view them as a recruiting firm, but as a strategic partner helping to build their business. Energy companies know Mark and his team understand the bigger picture of the industry, and can lean into their know-how when identifying, qualifying, and placing high-quality candidates.

To discover more about Natek, visit their website

To learn more about how PCRecruiter works as a CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE (or any other recruitment vertical) contact us for a personal demonstration.

The PCRecruiter Team recently attended the Sanford Rose Associates Fall Conference in Dallas. We wanted to publicly thank them and recognize all the work that went into putting such a strong conference together.

The PCRecruiter Team recently attended the Sanford Rose Associates Fall Conference in Dallas. We wanted to publicly thank them and recognize all the work that went into putting such a strong conference together.

It was great to meet so many successful recruiters, partners (SourceWhale, ZoomInfo, HireEZ) and to take in presentations from pros like Jeff Kaye, Jon Bartos, Jordan Rayboy, Katie DeVries, Scott Rivers, Darren McDougal, Kent Burns, Tess Lepore, Brittany ValVerde, Mike Silverstein, Norm Volsky, Jacob Binke, Scott Chadbourne, Jess Tello, and Dan Charney (all of whom happen to be PCRecruiter users), among many talented others from NextLevel Exchange, Kaye/Bassman and beyond.

We look forward to the next event!

For recruiters working in a specific industry, switching verticals can be a chance to grow their business and learn something new. But more often than not, recruiters move in and around different verticals out of economic necessity.

David L. James - Executive Recruiter
David James, shown delivering his TED Talk “Why Resumes Do NOT Work” in Las Vegas (Jan. 2020)

The economy shapes the job market. Economic downturns can reduce demand in one sector and create a surge in another. In order to survive — and thrive — recruiters and recruitment firms sometimes need to reposition themselves to weather economic storms.

We spoke with seasoned executive recruiter (and ‘O.G. PCRecruiter user’) David James to gain his perspective on how to handle a switch in recruiting verticals.  

Potential pitfalls of switching verticals

Some people come to recruiting because they want to make money, and it’s an absolute grind to them. I’ve always felt like getting somebody a job has this form of valorization. If you don’t love people and love talking on the phone, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best vertical ever!

– David James, Executive Recruiter 

It’s possible that given the right timing and right connections, you could slide into a new sector and put together a couple of lucrative placements. The thing is, however, you’re now working outside your area of expertise. You’ve left your core competency, and its marketing, on your previous desk, and that desk has now closed. You’re in a new sector with no recyclable candidates — the talent pool of prospective placements who may not have fit one role but could potentially match your next one. 

Switching verticals creates a gap in your industry-specific knowledge and skills and puts you in unfamiliar territory. You’ll need to plug the holes in your knowledge, and fast. So be prepared to invest time and effort into upskilling. Without the established connections you had in your previous specialty, you’ll also need time to grow your network. Different industries come with different compensation structures, so also be prepared for variations in salaries, commissions, and bonus structures.

Change can be challenging. Clients may be skeptical about hiring a recruiter experienced in a different vertical. So you’ll need to earn their trust, demonstrating your transferable skills and commitment to excelling in this new market. Anticipate resistance from clients and candidates who may question your decision to switch. Some clients may even think you’re using the new vertical as a stepping stone rather than getting into it for the long term. Be clear about your intentions and how this move fits into your career trajectory.

The art of market mastery 

In any new vertical, you’ve got to have market mastery – you need to aggregate all the talent. That’s why you need a FILL statement – Function, Industry, Location, and Level.

– David James, Executive Recruiter 
David L. James on the "Bit About Crypto" podcast.
David James recording an episode of the ‘Bit About Crypto’ podcast.

A professional recruiter since 1988, David James loves what he does. He’s also switched verticals enough times — from internal auditing to cryptocurrency to casinos to construction, and back again — to know that market mastery is the key to success. That’s why, before jumping on the phone, it’s important to truly understand the roles you’re looking to fill and which types of candidates will offer the best fit.

F.I.L.L. (Function, Industry, Location, Level)

Here’s how a FILL statement breaks down…

  • Function: What are the core functions of the roles you’re trying to fill? Do they align with your candidates’ skills and interests? Do the day-to-day responsibilities resonate with their career aspirations?
  • Industry: Understanding the industry’s dynamics, key players, and prospects is key to long-term success. Ensure the industry not only interests you, but also has potential for growth. 
  • Location: Consider the geography of the roles in your new vertical. They could be local, national, or even international. Are potential candidates willing to travel or move for new career opportunities?
  • Level: Assess the level of responsibility and seniority of your open roles. Ensure that the roles align with candidates’ career goals and expectations. What are the opportunities for growth and advancement within the vertical?

Tips for making the switch to a niche

When it comes to changing verticals, David says “you need to find one thing that everybody wants. Not only do they want it, they need to have it. For them, it’s essential.” But, of course, that’s not easy to find. That’s why you need market mastery (FILL). 

Take this as an example: you’re a recruiter with a specialty in engineering, which is actually a very broad market. You need to take a deep dive into that market and pull out a niche. How about engineers who calibrate scales? Scales on the highway, scales at the meat counter, scales at the market. There’s your business model (and that’s a real example, by the way). 

It’s not how many calls you’ve made. It’s how many conversations you had.

– David James, Executive Recruiter

The big misconception is that you can conquer an entire market segment. Take the accounting sector, for example. Let’s say you need to source candidates for three roles: an internal auditor, a treasury manager, and a corporate controller.

Those are three separate searches. Why? Because the internal auditor can’t do the treasury job or the corporate controller job, and vice versa. Let’s say that you sourced three candidates for each one of those searches and it took a month to find them. What you effectively have is three different recruiting businesses. What you need is recyclable candidates.

Whatever candidates you need to find, they need to be recyclable. Think about nurses. Imagine you’ve found a nurse who is willing to travel and who has got the right certification. Suddenly, you can actually go to multiple hospital systems, and they’ll see that nurse whether they have a position or not.

Relying on the right recruiting tech

No matter what vertical you’re in, having the right recruitment tech behind you is essential. That means building out your own talent pool — a private store of candidates with your own enhanced details, activity, and history records. When you’re new to an industry, the very first thing you need to do is populate your database. 

The people behind CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE have made it one of the best partnerships of my recruiting career.

– David James, Executive Recruiter

But here’s the tip from David: don’t worry about the candidates right off the bat. You need to segment your hiring authorities. Find your hiring authorities first. Push that to between 1,000 and 2,000 hiring authorities, and then you’ve got a market. 

No matter what vertical (or verticals) you recruit in, PCRecruiter adapts to your needs. To request more information or book a demo, contact us.

Got a recruiting problem? David James is an executive recruiter and recruiting consultant  with years of industry experience. Reach out to him via email, or LinkedIn @davidjames-iar