Laurence Lewis & Chloe Collet from YPI Crew,
Our Resident Recruitment Gurus.
Over the course of the following article Laurence and Chloe look at how to climb the careers ladder, prepare and succeed in interviews, develop your career in yachting and if you’re an employer, our gurus have advice on how to conduct a successful interview and get the most out of the interviewee
New season, new comer, new team
The 2023 yacht crew recruitment season has been quite intense. We have registered a very large number of new crew candidates in our database. Over 1100 new profiles in all departments have been uploaded into our online database since January 2023 with a spectacular increase in April 2023 of 457 new registrations in comparison with April 2022. This staggering amount, over 110 a week, is a key indicator of the current job-seekers market during the busy spring recruitment season. A large amount of these candidates are new comers from all four corners of the globe eager to secure their first job onboard.
Yachting has become a household word with the development of social media channels and reality TV. However, the current onboard employment opportunities, even if we are in a vibrant and expanding industry, will not be able to absorb this large number of potential new crew entrants, many without previous maritime or hospitality experience. How then does a new comer make a difference in such a competitive environment?
Our team of specialised recruiters has also grown this year with new coordinators and larger specialised teams in all departments, adjusting to the requirements of the industry and promoting our professional position as forerunners in the yacht crew recruitment sector. Each department has expert advice to share as the yachting industry has evolved a lot over the past ten years.
To start, our President Laurence Lewis recommends; “not to come to soon, too young with no life and work experience”. Working for UHNW individuals requires some maturity and self- confidence which comes with real life work experience. Holding a STCW Basic Training Certificate and passing a Seafarer’s Medical is not enough and this will not set you apart from the rest of the crowd.
The engineering department’s tips for success are to focus on building up a professional reputation before chasing a title or a salary/benefits package. An engineering or deck officer coming from a commercial background may need to start at a lower rank or on a permanent, non-rotational contract with less leave. Accepting a short-term or temporary assignment is also a great way to get your foot in the door and build the basis of a successful career in yachting.
Our interior department that has recently welcomed a new recruitment coordinator and strengthened the existing junior, specialised and senior stew teams encourages new comers to identify what makes them stand out from their other job-seeking counterparts. Do you have any special skills or talents that set you apart? For example, have you lived in many different countries and travelled and worked or studied abroad? Do you speak another language or have an artistic talent, play an instrument, sing or dance? Perhaps you have played an individual or team sport to a national or international level or run a marathon? Think outside the box about what makes you “you”. This could be your point of entry into the yachting industry.
Furthermore our deck and bosun department recommend that deck crew include any relevant skills such as carpentry, diving, watersports, experience as a life guard or having worked long hours in hospitality.
Finally, all new comers are advised to pay extra special attention to their social media footprint. Your future employer may conduct digital background checks. Double check your email address and create a new one just for professional correspondence if necessary. Be attentive to your profile photo on all online media and to what is publicly visible as this creates an initial first impression that could result in obtaining an interview or not.
Is it always about size?
As Spring approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, the many yachts scattered all over the world will start to prepare for the summer cruising season, notably in the Northern Hemisphere. Yachts of all types and sizes will complete their winter shipyard work or cruises and head for the Mediterranean hot spots, East and West. In crew recruitment we will start our busiest search and placement period, from March through to June. Many of our international crew, both experienced or green will be seeking a new opportunity onboard. Very often the question of the size of the yacht will be discussed as this determines the duties and responsibilities that go hand in hand with the operation of a smaller or larger yacht. Prospective crew candidates will be seeking a position on a yacht over or under a certain size or length. It is generally accepted that a superyacht is considered to measure over 24 metres. Indeed there are many rules and regulations that will come into play for yachts once they are over the 24 metre mark.
Two units are commonly used to measure and classify a yacht, feet and metres. The Imperial System for feet and the Metric System for metres. The British Imperial System evolved from the multiple Roman, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and customary units that were employed in the Middle Ages. These thousands of local units were codified in 1824 and again in 1878 by the Weights and Measures Act on the basis of a selection of existing units. On the contrary, the metre is a rational system based on multiples of 10. But what is a metre? Where did it originate from?
From the Greek “metron” meaning measure, the metre is part of the international decimal system of weights and measures, the metre for length and the kilogram for mass. The decimal system was adopted in France in 1795 and is now officially used in most countries across the globe. Prior to adopting the decimal system a whole plethora of units of measure existed. This was extremely chaotic; with measures changing from town to town, region to region and country to country. Part of the lists of grievances (cahiers de doléances) drawn up by the three Estates (First Estate – clergy, Second Estate – nobility and the Third Estate who were the rest of the population) in France in the first part of 1789, the year of the French Revolution, were concentrated on the fact that there were no two equal measures in the country. These multiple units of measure were considered a source of great unfairness and inequality at the heart of the feudal society. An urgent reform of this frequently discussed idea was thus called for and finally in 1791 the French National Assembly was mandated to find a rational solution. A rational solution that could be nationally and internationally recognised and adopted, for all people, for all time “à tous les hommes, à tous le temps”. The new system would be based on a natural physical unit to ensure immutability.
The French Academy of Sciences at the request of the French National Assembly was therefore entrusted with the task of determining this new and totally original system. The Science Academy decided that the length of 1/10 000 000 of a quadrant of a great circle of the earth, measured around the poles of the meridian passing through Paris would be the basis of the measure. A team of interdisciplinary researchers was selected and they embarked on a six-year survey. This survey was led by the Astronomers Jean Baptiste Delambre, Jacques-Dominique Cassini, the Scientist and Hydrographer Pierre Mechain and Mathematician Adrien-Marie Legendre amongst others. They measured the meridian arc from Dunkirk France to Barcelona Spain between 1792 and 1798.
Thus the universality of the metric system lies in its definition. The quarter of the terrestrial meridian, that is to say the earth itself, is taken as the real unit, while its millionth part, the metre, is taken as the usual unit. In 1875 an International Bureau of Weights and Measures was established and The Treaty of the Metre was signed. A permanent laboratory nearby Paris in Sèvres keeps the international standards, and metrological research is also conducted within. The system has also evolved in time taking into consideration the technical and technological changes of the last century and more.
So whether it’s a foot or a metre or both on your CV, it is good to remember that it has taken many years to establish a measurement system that is internationally recognised!
This article was inspired by the book “Le Mètre du monde” written by Denis Guedj, Editions du Seuil, 2000.
What if it all goes wrong?
The season is nearly over and many crew are looking forward to winding down in the Autumn after a successful summer cruising season. Unfortunately, it has not been a bed of roses and enjoyment for all our crew. Indeed, as recruiters, we are often called upon to assist when there is an incident or problem with a crew member onboard. This is especially true for new comers to the industry who may not be aware of their rights and which procedures to follow should there be a problem. Not an easy subject to address however things do happen and as the old idiom goes “Worse things happen at Sea”.
The problem scenarios are very diverse; a physical accident, safety or personal security issues, verbal or sexual harassment, contractual issues linked to non-payment of salaries for example.
So where do we start? Needless to say, your trusted and experienced recruiter can listen and understand your problem in the first instance. However, depending on the nature of the problem exterior assistance may be required to resolve the issue.
The 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) provides a well-documented and regulated response for all issues that are linked to the application of the Convention’s requirements that also include seafarer’s rights. MLC 2006 Regulation 5.1.5 stipulates that all yachts to whom the Convention applies must have On-board complaint procedures. These procedures may be used by all crew to lodge complaints, without prejudice nor victimization. The Maritime Labour Convention stipulates that the procedures should seek to resolve complaints at the lowest level possible. However, crew have a right to complain directly to the captain and, should they consider it necessary, to the appropriate external authorities.
The On-board complaint procedures should be provided to all crew in addition to the seafarer’s employment agreement (SEA). The On-board complaint procedures may be included within the SEA. The procedures should provide the contact information for the competent authority in the flag state or in the crews’ country of residence. Additionally, a name or names of a person(s) onboard the yacht who can, on a confidential basis, provide the crew member with impartial advice on their complaint and assistance for following the On-board complaint procedures available to them on the yacht.
The first step when faced with a problem is to address the issue with your head of department or superior officer. The head of department should attempt to resolve the matter but if this response is not satisfactory it may be referred to the captain who should handle the matter personally. If a problem remains unresolved it should be referred ashore to the yacht’s management company and the yacht’s owner or representative. The MLC 2006 Convention also ensures that all crew have the right to report a complaint to the port of call (Port State) in order to facilitate a prompt and practical means of redress.
The above guidelines should be clear to follow on a yacht that complies with the MLC 2006 Convention. However, should your yacht not be regulated by the Convention, then use the above steps as a guideline. No matter how big or small your yacht, private or charter, there are always solutions and you may need to contact other organisations to find assistance.
What else is available? In some instances, you can also contact a professional yachting organisation. The PYA (Professional Yachting Association www.pya.org/) or the GEPY (Groupement des Equipages Professionnels du Yachting www.gepy.fr/) for example. Both of these well-established and respected associations have a large network of professionals who may be able to offer advice if they cannot assist directly with your problem.
Another avenue to investigate is a trade union that deals with seafarer’s issues and you may consider contacting Nautilus International (www.nautilusint.org/en/) or the International Transport Workers’ Federation (www.itfglobal.org/en) who also deal with yacht crew. These large and international trade unions have legal specialists and multiple departments who can provide solutions and support on diverse matters. It may be wise to subscribe to a professional body before you have a problem as often assistance is only available to paying members. Remember that for a small fee they can also guide you in your future career development.
When dealing with a problem that may be more emotional or mental health related you can make contact with Yacht Crew Help (www.yachtcrewhelp.org/) who promote and find solutions for a healthy onboard working environment.
Last but not least there are also many social media sites that offer support to yacht crew on varying subjects.
Take care and remember solutions do exist!
Port side or starboard
The Mediterranean summer cruising season is upon us. From Turkey to Gibraltar, all the ports are packed and the bays are full of luxurious yachts of all shapes and sizes. Following the ease up of Covid 19 travel regulations, yacht crew from far and wide have also returned to the shores of France, Italy and Spain amongst others to seek work. Crew search and placement services have been extremely busy since the early spring of 2022 with not only new comers to the industry but also experienced candidates eager to secure a new position.
As experienced and specialised recruiters we are often called upon to give expert advice to junior or entry level crew on how to succeed in their job search. Advice that we offer can be on many subjects and very often during a face-to-face interview in our office.
There are indeed multiple sources of information and a large array of pages on social media with helpful hints and suggestions on how to secure a position onboard. These pages may deal with the presentation of a CV and how to prepare for an interview for example. One useful element of advice, not often recommended to junior crew is to become familiar with nautical terms. This may not appear fundamental but the maritime world has its own set of vocabulary and yachting is no different. As a candidate seeking a position in a new industry researching and understanding a new set of terms can be vital in securing and building a successful onboard career. Of these terms there are two basic navigational terms that each “yachtie” should be aware of, notably port side and starboard side.
Where did these terms originate from and what do they mean? The origin of port and starboard sides date back to the 16th century and comes from the old English usage for their respective purposes. They are essentially used to indicate the left and right side of a vessel. Port and starboard are non-interchangeable terms referring to two halves of the vessel. Why not just use left and right? Well the left and right side may differ depending on the location of the observer, commander or deck crew whilst under navigation.
So in order to avoid a collision, when looking forward, toward the bow or fore of a ship, port and starboard refer to the left and right sides, respectively. The stern or aft is the rear portion.
In the early days of maritime navigation, before vessels had rudders on their centrelines, boats were controlled using a steering oar. Most sailors were right-handed, so the steering oar was placed over or through the right side of the stern. These steering oars functioned as the rudders of the craft and had to be expertly manoeuvred. Hence, it was easier to have the steering oar on the right-hand side so that the sailor was facing forward comfortably to navigate. This led to the right half that the sailor sat on being called the steerboard. The word steerboard was later converted into starboard which is a combination of two Old English words: stéor (meaning “steer”) and bord (meaning “the side of a boat”).
As the size of boats grew, so did the steering oar, making it much easier to tie a boat up to a dock on the side opposite the oar. However boats would dock with their left hand side against the port wharves. For smaller vessels and sailing yachts this led to some difficulty in loading goods from this side of the vessel. Subsequently this side became known as larboard, or “the loading side.” Nevertheless, over time and due to the confusion under sail of the two terms, larboard and starboard, larboard was subsequently replaced with port. This was after all the side that faced the port, allowing supplies to be ported aboard by porters.
In addition to the terms port and starboard, and especially used as an aid in night manoeuvres, colour coding was also introduced, red and green.
Red is the international convention for the port side, whilst green is the colour for the starboard side. This colour code system aids in preventing collisions when there is a lack of light. This is also common for aircraft and helicopter vessels.
There are many other basic maritime terms that can be researched, the difference between a sloop and ketch, a beam or caulking for example and it can be fun to not only widen your knowledge base but be equally well prepared for a new job in an exciting industry.
Why and what is a psychometric test you may ask? Well, in a nutshell it can be defined as a “standard and scientific method used to measure an individual’s mental capabilities and behavioural style” (Institute of Psychometric Coaching).
So, why test? Psychometric testing allows for the person responsible for the hiring process, captain, head of department, management, to better match crew candidates to the role as well as to the other members of the crew team. These tests are frequently used in the corporate world to assess leadership qualities and team dynamics and are slowly being acknowledged in the yachting industry as a worthwhile recruitment tool too.
However, just the mention of a test can conjure up scary images and induce fear for both candidates and hiring managers alike. This may be linked to a distorted image associated with testing that has developed over time. Although psychometric testing may appear to be a modern practice today, its roots are nevertheless established as far back as 2200BC when Chinese Emperor Yushan tested for skills, intelligence and endurance for Official Public roles.
The origin of today’s tests can be attributed to Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of English naturalist Charles Darwin. Sir Francis, an explorer, anthropologist, eugenicist and pioneer of human intelligence studies, was fascinated by individual differences and is considered as the first to have elaborated in the early 1880’s an objective testing method based on examination and measurement of a candidate’s physical characteristics as well as sensory and motor skills. More than 17 000 people were tested by Sir Francis and he demonstrated that objective tests could provide meaningful scores. Nonetheless, with eugenics treated as an expression of class prejudice and Galton as a reactionary, one can indeed see why psychometric testing at its debut earned a negative reputation.
Following on from Sir Francis’s work, the tests as we know them now have evolved from French psychologists, Alfred Binet, Victor Henri and Theodore Simon. They developed together in 1905 a standardised test that could help identify young children between 3 and 12 years old affected by mental deficiencies with the intent of classifying children as a means for them to receive special education. It was a ground-breaking assessment tool and over time developed into a measurement of intelligence for all children. The Binet-Simon test is still in use today! Another reason perhaps why testing can be perceived in a negative light as linked to mental retardation.
From 1917 following the work of Robert Woodworth, an American psychologist, psychometric tests were designed for the US military to assess recruits for any neuroses or shell shock during enemy bombardment in World War I. Known as the Woodworth’s Personal Data Sheet this testing was only published in 1919 and thus did not serve its original purpose. It did however become the blueprint for other personality inventories and questionnaires.
In 1943 another personality inventory tool was developed by a mother and daughter team, The Myers – Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Based on the theories of Swiss Psychoanalyst Carl Jung. The Myers-Briggs test has also been the object of scientific criticism but it did contribute to further research and opened doors for the popularisation of personality profiling.
In the 1950s and 1960s the Big Five personality test was conceived after exhaustive analytical research to measure individual differences in personality, which to this day remains a well-recognised personality trait model. The Big Five personality or OCEAN model traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. This test and the multiple tests developed thereafter have all received their fair share of criticism and acclaim.
No test is therefore perfect and should be viewed as an opportunity. An opportunity to source the best fit candidate and additionally to provide a holistic overview of a candidate that a Curriculum Vitae doesn’t necessarily divulge. A personality profiling test can also provide an unbiased evaluation of a candidate and in the long term be a reliable predictor of job performance. A well-designed test can ultimately reduce some discriminatory practices and form part of a professional long-term approach to encourage longevity onboard and personal growth for the candidate.
So why not take the plunge? Investigate the myriad of tests that are available online and offered by trained professionals who have refined their testing techniques to provide a tool to assess candidates as objectively as possible.
It’s a two way street
Why enquire you may ask? Well terms do differ from one crew recruitment office to another, from one online platform to another and varies on each specific social media site too.
Additionally, the information a job seeker lists on their CV needs to be true, accurate and not misleading. If there are blanks in your CV, discuss them with your recruiter so they do not disqualify you for an opportunity. If you took a year out to go travelling, to complete a new course, “took a break from yachting” or even had an unfortunate onboard experience in your last position, then let your recruiter know so they can advise you on how best to explain this on your CV in a positive and professional manner.
If you are seeking employment confidentially, it may be a good idea to steer clear of social media sites that can be accessed by all, including your current employer who may be surprised to see you are seeking employment elsewhere! If you are no longer available, let your recruiter know. Some agencies may continue to forward your details for other vacancies and this may compromise your current position.
Facebook job postings may offer a good alternative method of seeking employment. However, it should be noted that job scams do exist and you should be wary of any posts that contain unusual requests. As per the MLC 2006 regulations you should never be requested to pay any sums of money to secure employment nor work for free.
My final advice is to get to know your recruiter better so they get to know you better. There is no downside here, it will only help you in your career. It will bring you that much closer to securing your ideal position on the best yacht!
The ebb and flow of recruitment
The Mediterranean summer cruising season is nearly over and what a different season it has been for yacht recruitment! Following a near standstill in late March and April, in normal years the busiest hiring months, we witnessed an impressive recruitment drive from the middle of May and throughout June with all departments fully occupied placing crew. As recruiters we wore many new hats too as we were asked to solve problems linked to COVID 19 reduced international travel and restrictions. Finding the most suitable candidate in the right place was indeed a challenge and involved using some innovative methods to close the deal.
Considering the amount of successful engagements made these challenges proved once again that using a reputable crew placement service was not only a time saver but a guarantee that when time is of the essence, a necessity. Recruiters are not only highly adaptable and flexible they are also able to give the best advice to clients and candidates in difficult times: clients who need to source crew on board their yacht rapidly and multiple crew who are concerned about their job search and future prospects in an upturned market.
The key to this crisis period is therefore the ability to adapt or as defined by the Oxford Dictionary: “ to change something in order to make it suitable for a new use or situation”. As recruiters we are constantly seeking new methods of using the current available technology to keep the human touch. The human touch -so vital to our industry – has been even more important when personal interviews are impossible. We have learnt to video interview from our dining room and conform to new safety regulations in the office.
Looking towards and preparing for the final quarter of the year we can only encourage our crew candidates to adopt the same method and adapt to the ‘new normal’. If qualified engineers and chefs as well as the more experienced interior and deck crew have managed to find suitable opportunities, it continues to be a very difficult marketplace for both entry level crew as well as senior officers and captains.
For green or entry level candidates the months ahead for them should be time well spent in enrolling in additional training or specialisations in order to be ready to embark for the next Mediterranean hiring season and the Caribbean or Indian Ocean this winter. For example, completing a yoga instructor or beauty therapy/spa course. Most schools now offer their courses entirely on line and thus training is readily available regardless of location or travel restrictions.
Apropos of senior officers and captains, my particular domain of expertise, it could be a period of introspection and personal preparation for a role that may not be the “ideal” job or on the idealised “yacht”. Here too additional training can also be of great value as many of the current employment standards applicable in the corporate world can be embraced: training on sexual harassment, mental health issues for instance.
There are several groups in yachting that have started to address these questions too and whilst searching for a position it could be an additional benefit both personally and professionally for senior on board management. Additionally, as we adapt to an ever-changing recruitment environment, we can also use this as an opportunity with our yacht clients to widen selection criteria. To this effect, YPI CREW has recently joined an industry initiative that hopes to encourage increased diversity, especially on deck where female presence remains limited.
Our challenge moving forward is to continue to adapt, to change and create opportunities that help construct a professional and enjoyable workplace on board.
Here we go… there is always a renaissance
June is my favourite month; we enjoy beautiful weather in the south of France with the bluest of skies, the temperatures are perfect and spring is slowly giving way to summer. Most crew are by now employed, the peak of the recruitment season is behind us and the tension can ease a bit, or can it? Let’s take stock of what has happened in the past three or four months in the world of recruitment and see how the covid-19 pandemic has changed the recruitment industry.
It all started with a couple of weeks of social distancing in the office followed by a brutal, almost overnight drop in the yacht recruitment activity as uncertainty, lockdown, isolation policies and travel bans gripped the world.
The number of permanent and temporary placements had, over the past 18 years, been rising steadily in the company so to record an 80% decline of activity over the month of April 2020 was shocking. Not only did the yachts, for the most part, freeze their recruitment drive, we also witnessed evidence of knee-jerk reactions probably fuelled by uncertainty when, as early as mid-March, some crew were asked to take pay cuts whilst some were simply laid off, mostly on charter yachts whose season was deemed compromised. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most resilient segment of the job market was engineering, witnessing some recruitment activity even during the height of the crisis, albeit at a much reduced level.
At the end of April we carried out a survey with over 300 captains who had engaged our services over the past year to assess what had really happened on board their yachts. It emerges that 77% of those who responded did not have to agree to modify their season further to the covid-19 pandemic, so only a minority were negatively impacted. A reduction of salary for them or their crew is the most common change recorded for those whose conditions evolved, followed by taking paid leave and in third position having an employment terminated.
For those who recorded a reduction in salary, 55% took a cut between 26% and 50% of their monthly wage and 40% took a cut of 25% or below. As far as outlook for the future was concerned, a majority of captains felt confident that recruitment would resume in June. Having said that, 25% also cited winter 2020/2021 and beyond as their next recruitment campaign.
As the lockdown in France started to ease on the 11th May 2020, the job market recovered somehow with jobs that had been on hold for a month and half being activated again. Slowly the yachting ecosystem came back to life with a larger than usual number of crew on the market looking for employment. Salaries are however not dropping due to a lower level of international travel compared to pre covid-19 times with, as a consequence, a more limited pool of candidates actually able to join yachts in Europe. We are even seeing a slight inflation with Chefs’ salaries as guests eating ashore is not part of the normal owner or charter routine. More is expected of chefs which has a direct impact on salaries as clients compete for the best talent.
Virtual methods of assessment and selection have been common in yachting for years; a recruiter in France, a candidate in Australia and a client/yacht in Germany is a typical scenario so a mix of telephone and video interview is nothing new. With the lock down this process has just become more fluid, wide spread, and indeed, second nature.
We are all clearly at a cross roads, transitioning towards a new way of interacting. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that there is always a Renaissance just around the corner.