Yachting interviews versus land interviews

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Q: Jack, 27, New Deckhand:

“I’m joining the yachting industry as someone who’s just come from the corporate world, and I’m wondering how job interviews in yachting differ from land-based interviews. Are there any radically different things I should know about?”

A: The Crew Coach:

What an interesting question! I’ve written quite a bit about interview skills for yachting before, from which interview questions to ask (and not to ask) to how to bounce back from rejection, but I haven’t thought to point out where yachting interviews differ from their land job counterparts, so I’m more than happy to answer this for you. There are a few key differences you need to know about, and the more prepared you are for these, the more likely you will be offered a position. There’s nothing worse than being caught on the back foot in an interview with a question or request you absolutely were not expecting!

Sometimes things move very fast in yachting! As a new person entering the industry in a junior position, you have to be ready to start immediately. And by that, I don’t mean next Monday, I mean you may even be asked to start work right then and there after the interview, or be on a plane to join the boat in Athens at dawn. There’s often no time for sorting out your affairs at all, so you really need to always be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

The decision process can be instantaneous, or interminable. You may be three minutes into the interview when the captain says, ‘I like you, the job’s yours’, or you can be left waiting for up to two months while the yacht’s/captain’s/owner’s/crew’s plans change and you hear nothing for ages. The only thing you can do is keep in contact with the crew agent (if there is one involved) or the person who interviewed you, and wait it out if you really want the job. I have written before about how and when to follow up after an interview.

Be prepared for some confronting questions. There’s little in the way of political correctness in yachting. Don’t be surprised to be asked personal questions that would be totally off-limits in a land-based interview, like your age, your intention to have children, your love life or your dress size.

Land-based experience sometimes counts for precious little. You may have been Regional Director or super important in your corporate job, but to most Captains, you’re totally inexperienced in this new field and you need to act accordingly. Being a know-all or making a lot out of your high-flying management role will probably turn Captains off if they’re looking for a crew member to start at the bottom rung of the ladder and obey orders.

You’re extremely unlikely to get feedback on where your application failed. Don’t pester anyone for feedback or try to talk them into changing their mind. There are plenty more ships in the sea. Move on and put it behind you – if they didn’t want you to work with them, you probably wouldn’t like working with them either.

You don’t want what you wear to stand out. By this, I mean that you don’t want to turn up wearing a sharp suit, or with a look that distinguishes you in some way (especially if that way is shouting “Corporate!!”. What the captain is looking for in your appearance is that you’re well-groomed and attractive, but also that you look just like yacht crew. You should definitely dress in appropriate clothing that helps you to blend in, not to stand out. Check our Pinterest boards for specific examples of what to wear.

Don’t be too nosy. The idea that you are interviewing the hirer as much as he or she is interviewing you is technically true in yachting just as much as it is on land, but Captains are just not accustomed to having entry level crew hopefuls be too nosy. Feel free to ask questions about culture, job responsibilities, and itinerary so you get a good feel for the yacht, but questions about the owner’s identity are definitely off-limits, and excessive interest in salary or holiday arrangements will almost certainly see your CV go straight in the bin as soon as you leave.

Remember that there is a lot of competition for entry level jobs. While highly skilled and experienced candidates in certain departments are greatly sought after, in general there is an overabundance of prospective junior yacht crew for the number of positions available. Never forget that competition is fierce and you’re unlikely to just waltz into a job, so make it clear how dedicated and enthusiastic you are.

Show your human side. What candidates often forget in yachting interviews is that Captains are choosing a person who will be living with and socialising with them and their crew, as well as working with. The Captain is also going to be busy assessing how well you’ll fit in with his or her current crew, so don’t be afraid to let a bit of humour in, or talk about your hobbies. If you remain too cold, stiff and formal you might well make them think you don’t have enough personality to get along with everyone else onboard.

These are a few things that spring to mind, but I’d love to get some input from Captains, crew and agents on this one, so if you have any other thoughts to add to this, let us know in the comments below.

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Alison Rentoul

Alison Rentoul

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