The Perfect Recruit


The yachting industry is in feisty and fine fettle according to data recently released by YPI Crew: The industry is expanding, the yachts are getting bigger, with more and more jobs on yachts over 71m and the lion’s share of crew work to be found on private yachts.

Director of YPI Crew, Laurence Lewis, is feeling positive about the year ahead, but tempers her enthusiasm with a warning. She says, “2017 was a busy year with record numbers of jobs and crew registrations, which is the sign of a healthy industry. However, this positive big picture should not detract from the fact that the yachting employment market remains tense with a great discrepancy between job offers and crew expectations and between required skills and skills available on the market’’.

So, the trick is to close the gap between all these discrepancies to keep the business buoyant and reward us with a satisfying season. How can it be done? ONBOARD Magazine asks the experts for their best advice for those looking to fill the gaps.

First up, what do interviewers look for in their winning candidates and how can the jobseekers improve their pitch for their perfect position on board?

Liam Dobbin is Managing Director of Wilson Halligan Yacht Recruitment. His advice to crew is be polite, friendly and reliable. Make sure your CV is well drafted and not overly stylised or coloured; content is more important that what it looks. Lucy Simmonds deals with yacht crew recruitment of Greycoat Lumleys. She recommends adding more strings to bows with extra skills such as personal training, masseuse or beauty therapy or hairdressing training. Laurence Lewis agrees, ‘People need to be able to offer added value and invest in themselves: Read books about their profession, bring something to the table that is tangible’. Stews could study wines or table decoration ideas, even just a trawl of the internet can throw up valuable knowledge, and Bosuns can offer an edge by practicing water sports, sailing or kite surfing, or diving instructor certification, for example. ‘Be curious’, says Lewis, ‘and show real interest’. For junior crew, presentation at interviews is important. Dress for the job advises Lewis because first impressions count. She adds, ’So far this year I haven’t seen much effort. I have a feeling people don’t take the industry seriously enough. Ok, it’s not a corporate job but it needs to be taken seriously’. Lewis recommends that Captains need to position themselves as problem solvers with convictions and opinions. The days when ‘the owner is always right’ are over. Now, owners want people with opinions and who can put a case forward clearly and convincingly, who have attitude and are prepared to argue their case and be really solution driven.

Crew Pacific is a superyacht crew training and recruitment agency based in Cairns, Australia, owned and run by Joy Weston. Like Dobbin, she recommends a precise and clearly laid out CV (no text boxes!). Check how recruitment agents want the resume presented and follow their guidelines: She says, ‘Listen and follow the crewing agents’ registration requirements as we have these for a reason and that reason is the captains, owners, yacht managers, pursers and chief stews ask us for this information.’ She recommends providing current written references and referee names on the resume. ‘Just sending a resume to an agent is not sufficient enough and will not secure you into a good job!’, she warns. Provide current certificates, photo portfolios of table settings; napkins folds. A food portfolio and menu plan is great to present to the agent by Chefs looking for work’.

As well as a well presented CV, Esther Delamare Senior Crew Manager from HRcrew explains that “of course the experience is important, but extra skills a crew member can bring are important especially for juniors. But for all its vital for them to realise how important it is to present themselves in the best possible light from the initial contact.”

Debbie Blazy’s, Director of Crew Placement at Camper & Nicholsons first piece of advice is that if crew want to stand out from the crowd then a good tip is don’t visit recruitment agencies in a crowd; ‘How many times do we see new crew coming to the office in groups of five or six. We wonder if they dock-walk in the same pack and how they expect to make their mark. The yachting industry is one of excellence in every domain but also one of going the extra mile, making each charter or owner’s trip a once in a life-time experience. Each crew member needs to shine with that same enthusiasm when they introduce themselves, whether it is to a crew agent or a captain. A smile, a positive attitude, the ability to know when to stand their ground when it comes to standards and values and compromise when the success of the team or the charter is at stake is a fine line. One that makes the difference between a happy and an unhappy crew’.

So serious crew with good, clear CVs are in the crew recruitment agency door, alone, without their mates and waiting for the interview. What will the agents be hoping to see? Esther from HRcrew mentions personality “We need to make the right match for the position and the particular yacht – We are the ‘Tinder’ of yachting…each yacht has its’ unique personality and we aim to match the right crew to this dynamic.”

Dobbin at Wilson Halligan wants to see crew who are personable, easy to talk to, happy to take advice, have proven longevity and good references; He says, ‘Honesty and openness go hand in hand with building a relationship with a recruiter’. If meeting a recruiter face to face or over video think of it as an interview and dress/act appropriately he suggests.

Simmonds at Greycoat Lumleys is looking for good skill sets, longevity, team players, people able to get along with anyone and professionalism. Crew should be clean shaven and presentably dressed, she advises. Weston at Crew Pacific advises that crew who get interviews with Captains or departmental heads must properly prepare themselves for the interview: Find out about the yacht, prepare questions to ask during the interview; ‘If you can hold a 40-60 minute interview with a captain or chief stew you can say you have pretty much nailed the interview and a good chance you will get offered the job on the spot or a day latter!’, she says enthusiastically.

In the door (or rather on the yacht) and looking to move up the ranks and secure a promotion, longevity is often cited as the key asset for career development. But Blazy at Camper and Nicholsons says that longevity in itself is not a valid reason for promotion; ‘Each individual should prove that they have gained the necessary skills, maturity, and in certain cases certificates, to earn the right to step upwards in terms of responsibility and salary’. Don’t rush through the ranks advises Dobbin, experience in a previous role often pays dividends when taking the next step upwards. This advice is echoed by Lewis at YPI who sees crew looking to move too quickly upwards without the necessary real experience and graft. Delamare added “This depends on the position however we believe key elements include dedicated, motivated crew who are loyal and fully invested in their work. A team player who will go the extra mile not just for him/herself but the rest of the crew. Crew who will continuously keep learning, invest in training, show initiative and most importantly are ready to move up in rank.”

Dobbin says, “We are seeing more people doing a Purser course or ETO course, sometimes too early in their career to be considered for that role, but it’s often good for the future. Many new to the industry are signing up to entry package courses with training establishments which is upping the bar for an entry level candidate however; this is commonly weighed against prior experience”.

“It is getting hard to find good senior crew with longevity and good solid qualifications and I am not sure why”, notes Weston and Lewis agrees that there is always room for improvement in the general calibre of candidates. Plenty of crew are registered at recruitment agencies and there are plenty of yachts looking for crew, but the challenge is putting them together. Says Lewis, “There is always a shortage of talent. If we send a client a CV it is because we feel that person really deserves an interview. And yachts shouldn’t hang around waiting for a unicorn, unicorns don’t exist.”

Dobbin notes a shortage of Chief Stewardess’ for large yachts. ‘We often see large yachts of 90m+ struggling to find housekeepers or experienced. He has reason to note that crew tend to prefer to work on yachts under 80m where work is more multi-skilled and varied and yachts can get into ports. Delamare explains what HRcrew have found so far this year “It varies across departments and also yacht size ranges, however, for the larger yachts we have experienced a shortage of experienced senior and chief stewardesses. “ But continues to explain “We are experiencing an increase of entry level candidates with many courses completed as well as many very well qualified and experienced commercial/Passenger/Cruise ship candidates looking to make a transition to private yachting for the larger 100m+ yacht division.”

Dobbin and Blazy both point to a shortage of positions for yacht Captains, which Dobbin suggests might be the result of more people obtaining certificates or moving from commercial shipping. ‘Commonly’, he says, ‘Captains look to increase yacht size and the pyramid of yachts gets smaller towards the top so those looking to move from a 50m to 70m is difficult as there are less 70m yachts than 50m’. Says Blazy, ‘It has been a tough winter for many of the captains out there’. She sees several reasons for the surplus of captains: firstly the winter season has been a quieter one that in previous years. The hurricanes knocked the wind out of the cruising plans for many of the habitual Caribbean cruises and charters last winter so we saw a large number of yachts staying in the Med and or going to the yard instead. This created an atmosphere of uncertainty which had captains and crew staying put instead of putting feelers out for new positions. She explains, ‘The normal domino effect just hasn’t happened this year. The yachting industry is also growing up with a lot of younger guys moving up through the ranks and ready to take on their first captain’s role,or move up to a bigger yacht. The older guys are not quite ready to hang up the stripes so we have a bottle-neck situation with not enough work out there for all of them. Perhaps when we can convince more owners to accept rotations for the captains this will free up more positions and create a better balance’.

Captains aside, the pool of qualified crew for deck or interior could be fuller, a fact that Blazy hopes will be remedied once the Caribbean season closes and crew start to look for new prospects in the Mediterranean. But for now, there is an imbalance in supply and demand.

Who is to say if this lack of qualified crew is in any way related to the introduction of the new French Social Charges regulations which have been the subject of discussion for the last year. Is this what is driving qualified crew away? Dobbin is sceptical that this is the reason since he says the government haven’t yet to decide how the regulations will be enforced. Simmonds, however, believes that some candidates may be less inclined to apply for or be put forward for positions where the hiring yacht will be based in France for a significant amount of time, ie. more than 181 days of the year.

Weston at Crew Pacific anticipates (and possibly hopes) the new regulations will bring more yachts to the Pacific and Australia which will only increase Crew Pacific’s recruitment sector. Blazy says, ‘I think the bottom line is that no-one really knows how it will affect recruitment. We should be very clear on this point: it affects not only the French nationals, but specifically all crew who are French resident. Crew of any nationality who work on yachts that spend more than 90 days in France will also be affected by the law. In reality, those who are already employed do not appear to be losing their jobs, however we are hearing rumours of crew who are being pushed aside for positions because of their French residency. As a recruitment agency, we have not dealt with that first hand so far, however the rumour appears to be verified by more and more examples. As in any period of change there is a lot of uncertainty and rumour and fear, mixed in with some sadness that the result may be that the yachts and crew leave France for more welcoming countries’.

The superyacht industry has weathered a variety of storms over the years such as the Sardinian luxury yacht tax and the more recent Spanish matriculation tax. There will always be something to rock the superyacht industry but it is too buoyant to sink. Lewis at YPI assures us all that the industry is doing well and it needs new talent and new people to avoid a shortage of crew in years to come: ‘Already, 2018 has started at a fast pace, so here’s to a great season for all’, she says.