Getting your first job in the industry as a green crew member can be one of the toughest challenges you will face in your career. So when you do get that longed-for interview, it is incredibly important that you get it right. I have spent years interviewing candidates and training, and placing individuals into the industry, and there is a lot that you can do to maximise your chances of success. Preparation is key, and you really cannot put too much time or effort into making sure you have thought of everything and have gone above and beyond.
Research and Industry Knowledge:
What do you know about the yacht you are being interviewed for? In fact, what do you know about the industry full stop? Knowledge is power, so become a geek and research, read, and observe. A simple example of this would be, if you walked down any street right now without too much trouble, you could tell me the make of most cars, if not the model, no one has taught you that, you have just assimilated that knowledge. Yachts are just the same. They are designed and built by different yards, different designers for different purposes, different tastes and types of owner experience, and vastly different price points. There is so much information out there, so look at crew news platforms, read articles, read all the information and advice on crew social media and get informed. Arriving for an interview with a solid understanding of the yacht and its capabilities and purpose will always be an advantage.
Be The Person They Are Looking For:
You are green, you are new to the industry, you cannot change that, but you can make sure that you make up for that by being enthusiastic and positive. Of course, the yacht would love you to have skills, the more, the merrier, but at the start of your career, it is actually more important that you have the right attitude to learn and have the ability to be versatile. The yacht is looking for a mature hard worker (by the way, maturity isn’t always age-related!) who works well in a team environment, can take instruction, and is energetic and committed. Someone who mucks in, whether it’s their job or not, seeks to find the positive in every situation and is aware of the bigger picture, i.e. the safe operation of the vessel and a fantastic owner and guest experience. If you focus your attitude and interview answers on this premise, you are well on the way to a successful outcome.
Go in With the Attitude What Can I Give? Rather Than, What Will I Get?
What do you get paid, how much holiday do you get, are all subjects to discuss, but what the boat wants to know is what you will contribute? Ask yourself some fundamental questions, what is your motivation for applying for the job, money? … travel? … serious career decisions? And then think about what the yacht wants your motivation to be?
Don't Get Caught Out:
Be prepared for the curveball phone call, it’s perfectly possible that you may have been put forward for a job and you don’t know anything about it, the first you know is a call out of the blue from a Captain or Head of Department, it doesn’t matter what you are doing or where you are, get your act together quickly and focus and make sure you make the right impression regardless of whether you are still in bed or at the pub. Always make a point of answering the phone professionally no matter what and always look at the number of incoming calls. If it’s not one you recognise, or it’s obviously an international call, presume it’s an employer. Candidates have often lost the chance to interview by not answering the phone professionally or yawning, grunting and asking if they will call back later. Remember, you are entering a professional industry, so professionalism at all times should be your approach from this point in.
Beware of Partying Up a Storm the Night Before:
You may be in Antibes or Palma the night before your interview, safe in the knowledge that tomorrow’s job opportunity is moored miles down the coast, but do not ever think that having a big night out prior to an interview is a good idea. There are eyes everywhere, and all it takes is for a crew member to see you falling over drunk or being an idiot, which can very easily be relayed back to the yacht. Of course, the most obvious reason is that no one wants to interview someone who, despite a shower, stinks of alcohol and cigarettes, so just give yourself a break and have an early night, it’s worth it.
Don't Hide Your Light:
If you are young and don’t have a huge experience of employment, never think that you can’t use other examples to illustrate your work ethic and commitment, so many people think that their work and life experience before yachting if it isn’t maritime-related, is not relevant to either put on their CV or talk about in the interview. This is not the case. Evidence that you have spent your teenage years actively having a part-time job, volunteering, helping out, being a scout, or actively playing a sport, whatever it is, however, humble all help paint a picture to an employer.
Don't promise What You Can't Deliver:
It is very easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment and slightly over exaggerate your abilities, especially by telling people that you have experience at things that you don’t, for instance, taking “I have done a day of painting and varnishing training” and instead saying “I am very experienced at painting and varnishing”. It will cause you to rapidly lose face when it becomes apparent that you actually have not got those skills, and your head of department will start to wonder if there is anything else that is not quite as it seems on your CV! Being honest, enthusiastic and showing an openness to learn will save the boat a lot of time and serve you better in the long run.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
This is such a classic interview question and will often be phrased in terms of “tell me three of your strengths and three weaknesses.” Most people’s immediate instinct is to rattle out three fantastic strengths and then be terrified of talking about their weaknesses, but this is actually completely the wrong way to approach the question. What this question is really about is, are you self-aware? And how do you approach challenges? So the best thing you can do is start with your weaknesses and go straight in with “I will start with my weaknesses as actually, these are some of the things that I have worked the hardest at to overcome.” You have the interviewee’s attention straight away. By illustrating some of the hurdles you have encountered and how you addressed them, you can display your ability to be tenacious and resourceful. You can then go on to your strengths, which will be the icing on the cake.
Interview Technique Advice:
Do make the most of the information that is already out there, many of the crew agents have excellent crew advice sections on their websites and also have videos on YouTube, they know it is in their interests to make sure you properly prepare for you interview, and you have a successful outcome. CrewPass has fantastic partnerships with some of the best crew agents globally. Wilson Halligan has great blog posts and one in particular on the key questions you will be asked in the interview. YPI Crew has a valuable crew tips section with very insightful interview advice.
General Checklist: This might be the obvious stuff, but it is so worth checking.
- Social Media: Do not let yourself down, do a thorough check of your social media and have a serious look at what you have on there, checking your profile is one of the ways a yacht will use to see if you really are the dedicated, hard-working individual your CV says you are. Loads of pictures of you partying, falling out of bars or pouting and posing will not help you get that job. So either make your accounts private and keep your fun times for you and your friends’ eyes and create another more acceptable profile or just have a clear-out and be really mindful of what you post in the future.
- Voicemail: Your voicemail message could be the first thing an employer has to judge you on. Do you not have one? Take some time to record a simple and professional message.
- Feet, Hands and Hair: If you have an interview onboard a yacht, remember that you will need to take your shoes off and have clean well-presented bare feet or socks when you get there. Not smelly, not sweaty, not dirty or unkempt, so take steps to make sure that this is the case! Think about the shoes you wear too, no flip flops or dirty trainers, clean deck shoes or similar is best. Your hair needs a bit of thought too long hair for girls needs to be tied back neatly, and short hair needs a good cut, avoid using too much gel or product, just go for a professional and conservative look. Finally, nails, make sure they are clean and neatly cut. Avoid long false nails if that is your normal thing, it only makes you look unprepared to do the very practical job that you are potentially being employed to do.
- Presentation: It does not matter whether you are on a zoom call or being interviewed in person, the way you present yourself is incredibly important. Always take the time to look the part and dress in the ways a crew member would to illustrate that you understand the standards involved. A polo shirt (clean and ironed) or a neat plain shirt, shorts, chinos or a skort are all excellent potential suggestions.
- Inform your References: It is not just politeness, always check your references are happy to answer requests on your behalf, send them your CV and check their contact details are correct and keep them informed of the interviews you are attending and the skills and attributes that you will need to display. It does not matter if your referee is from employment that is non-maritime-related, it is all about their ability to say that you worked hard and were reliable. Remember they could get contacted multiple times, firstly by a crew agent and then by your potential employer, so keeping them informed and making sure you thank them for your time is a wise investment.
- Folder with Certification and References: Make it easy for your interviewer and show your organisation skills by properly and professionally presenting your documents in a folder with plastic sections, so everything is well presented and professional.
- Being Grateful: Always thank an interviewer for the chance to have the interview, you might not be suitable for their yacht, but if they like you, they will help you by passing your CV on to another yacht that you might be more suitable for.
If I could give you only one last piece of advice, it is this, we all go into interviews feeling pretty powerless, wondering what we will be asked and how we will perform. Will you get a chance to say what you want to say? It is a pretty nerve-wracking experience. But there is a different way to approach it that really helps the interviewee feel they have some control of the situation. It is pretty simple, make a list of three key facts about yourself that illustrate the following: –
a) Commitment: How can I prove or explain how committed I am to do this job?
b) Character: What experiences or examples can I use to show my character and work ethic?
c) Motivation: What can I say to show them I want to learn and positively contribute to this vessel?
Keep those three key points, write them down if you need to, and make a point that whatever you are asked, you make sure that you have woven all three of those statements into your answers during the interview. If you get to the end without finding a suitable moment, use that time to deliver those points. This is based on an interview with a candidate, where he had waited whilst two others had been interviewed before him. We took quite a while with the first two talking for around 45 mins for each of them, they were pretty nervous, and we wanted to give them a bit of time to show us what they had.
However, when this particular individual came in, it was immediately apparent that he was the man for the job within five minutes. He was polite and smartly presented, he was nervous but well prepared and fizzing with enthusiasm and determination to succeed, after ten minutes, we drew the interview to an end, with no need to question him further. His face dropped, clearly thinking that we had stopped the interview early because we were rejecting him. He stood up and said I had prepared all these answers to questions you had not asked me. Could I have the chance to tell you how much I want this job and why I think I would work harder and be more committed than any other candidate … We let him go ahead, and he is a successful Captain now!
Finally ... Do not lose heart.
This year of all years has been an extremely hard one for new crew trying to break into the industry due to a number of factors that are out of your control. It is incredibly important that you stay positive and resourceful. Resilience is a character trait that will serve you well in the long term, so do not become negative, be grateful and channel your worry and concern into positive action, your job and your future career are out there waiting for you.