How I Got a Top Job Using Residual Knowledge and Skills

Few years ago, after more than 3 years of working in a downstream petroleum company, I had become burned out and needed to move on. In October of same year I saw an advert in Tuesday Guardian by one of the top consulting firms which had been contracted to recruit ABC role for an upstream oil company.

I saw the ad and made up my mind to give it a shot.  The name of the company was not revealed, you know all these job adverts that will say “an upstream oil and gas company with assets in XYZ state is recruiting for ABC..”

I made my research based on the little info supplied on the company but couldn’t find out the name of the company.

No biggie. Since it’s an upstream company, it must be a good one.

The advert required applicants to send in CV and cover letter to the email of the top  firm handling the requirement.

Now, I knew it was going to be very competitive.

1, Anything upstream is competitive
2, My experience was in downstream, but here was an upstream opening. Can I go far with this experience deficit?
3, The advert expressly said upstream oil and gas experience or experience in a Big 4 company. I know a good number of folks from the Big 4 companies would also apply.


Yet, I must scale this competition and get this job!

What can I do to stand out?!

I thought of a strategy – if my technical skills (i.e experience and knowledge in the core of that role – i.e ABC, especially upstream part) is limited, I can deploy my non-technical skills to my advantage.
What are these skills?

The requirement in the advert that the application should not just be CV but candidates should include cover letter/statement of purpose was the first opportunity I knew I could take advantage of. I crafted an unconventional cover letter. It was just one page but it was not the regular statement. It was more like a political manifesto. I titled it, “ABC Role in an Upstream Oil Company: 5 Reasons I Fit the Bill”, rather than the regular run-of-the-mill title “Application for ABC Position blabla”. It was a daring title, but I was sure whoever was shortlisting would likely want to invite me to hear from me, from this crazy guy! Of course, I met the other basic requirements (professional qualifications, 3 years experience, oil and gas experience etc). Till today, I still believe it was that cover letter that got me the invite for interview because I’m sure not less than 50 equally qualified folks would have also applied and less than 10 shortlisted for interview.


Another “game” I played during that recruitment process was working on the psychology of the recruiting agent, the top consulting firm. I had attended trainings organized by this firm before and I made that conspicuous not just on my CV but also in my cover letter and even during the interview with the firm. Under a bullet point “Vast training” in my 5-point manifesto of a cover letter, I said I had attended some of the best trainings in the country (on the field of that role) which were organized by no less a top firm than that consulting firm. Let’s now see whether you will not shortlist the person you trained yourself as that would mean your training was rubbish. lol. Blackmailing? No, just working on recruitment agent’s psychology. It worked. I suspect my emphasis on their training on my CV and cover letter and during interview also worked for me.


After interviewing the about 10 shortlisted candidates, the recruitment consultant picked the Top 3 and sent their names to the company for final interview to determine the final choice.

I made the list of the 3 candidates that made it to the final stage. It was at that stage that the name of the company was revealed. The final interview (with the company) took place like 6 months later.

Again, I knew I might not be the best if the interview was solely on technical part (knowledge and experience), so I made up my mind to direct the interview to my most comfort zone – current affairs.

We got talking and after answering questions on the basics, I found a way of diverting the interview to topics on Nigerian political economy, starting from the fiscal policies of then Finance Minister, Ngozi Iweala. After getting the interview to my comfort zone, I took charge and was flowing like a canary!

To God be the glory, I got the job.

It was a career defining move for me.

Sometimes, it’s not just your knowledge of your core field – engineering, economics, accounting, etc – that gets you jobs in your field. Your residual knowledge and other skills can make a difference.

Of course, if you are awful in your primary field, these other things wont help you.

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