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What not to ask at interview…


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This is something I get asked quite a lot and it can come from green crew all the way up to Captains looking for their next position. Asking some good questions at the end of an interview can really make you stand out from the crowd, and equally, one poorly chosen question can undo all of your good work in seconds. So this is a brief article to give you something to think about.

One piece of feedback I hear consistently from Captains and HODs is about the attitude of crew. Specifically more and more crew have an attitude of ‘what can this boat do for me?’ when it should be ‘ this is what I can do for you’. Remember those words and those attitudes and take it into the interview with you. Be that potential crew member with the winning attitude.

You’re going to need to have at least 5 questions planned but I would suggest up to 10 is better if possible. You don’t have to ask all of them but it’s good to have them up your sleeve even if you end up not needing them. Only having a few questions planned and then having the Captain answer all of them in his opening spiel isn’t ideal.

‘Any questions for me?’

‘No’

To me, that screams of a candidate who isn’t prepared or isn’t that interested and let’s be honest, neither look covers you in glory.

Don’t dive in with the money question at your first interview.

This is the first tip and it’s the most important one of all. Do not ask questions about money and how much time off you will get during the first interview because both can leave a bad taste and hopefully the interviewer will give you that information anyway. Make sure you have a notepad ready and take notes if necessary, especially if the interview is over the phone. If the interviewer doesn’t tell you about the money etc then speak to your crew agent. If the crew agent doesn’t know then get a new crew agent. If there is no crew agent then save those questions for the second interview.

Questions to avoid at your first interview:

Can you pay more? – We have had this several times recently. Every time for jobs which are already being well paid and the greedy/delusional crew member has pushed it further and asked if it can be stretched. The answer every time was, possibly, but not for you. Not because they weren’t good candidates but because they looked money grabbing and had an overinflated sense of their own worth.

How much holiday will I get? – Can I have a week off in June to go to my sister’s wedding? 95% of the time if it is in season then the answer is no. You chose to be in yachting and missing weddings is one of the sacrifices you have to make. Your options are limited here and I could probably write a whole post about this alone. I would suggest that you nail the interview do your best to impress and then find out nearer the time if it is a possibility. But mentally be prepared to miss it.

How busy charter is this boat? – Don’t forget to make sure it is actually a charter yacht. People shoot themselves in the foot all the time by asking dumb questions.

A few others to avoid include:

  • Do you pay for courses?
  • What is my flight allowance?
  • What tips do you get?
  • Can my partner get a job on board?

Some of these questions are perfectly acceptable depending on the context, your potential position on board and what has been said at interview etc. But the questions above will shaft you more often than not and paint you in a bad light. As always I would suggest saving them for the second interview or at an appropriate time in the interview eg ‘Do you have a partner who works in yachting?’. Answer, ‘Yes I do and in an ideal world I would like to work with her at some point in the future. However, I completely understand that is pretty rare so we are more than happy to work apart. Having said all of that… are you couple friendly?’

A slightly different situation… If you are a Chief Stewardess with an excellent CV coming from a busy charter yacht then I also don’t think it is unreasonable to ask how many charters you did on previous seasons, how many are booked in for this season and do you have many enquiries currently?

Questions that will make you stand out (in a good way):

Generally, you will have found out the basics about the boat and how it is run so questions about itinerary etc should be redundant.

Try and ask questions that show you are career minded and want to commit for the long term.

For junior roles:

  • Do I rotate through different departments eg housekeeping, service and laundry?
  • Will I get the opportunity to learn how to paint/varnish?
  • I want to learn as much as I can about all aspects of being a deckhand. Is there the opportunity to learn from senior officers onboard areas that I may not get day to day exposure to, eg the bridge?
  • What is the culture of the deck department? What things do they enjoy doing?
  • What is the longevity on board/in my department?
  • What are you looking for in a junior member of crew? I believe I tick all those boxes.
  • Is there anything you feel uncertain on that you would like me to clarify? (This question takes a certain degree of confidence but can pay dividends and it may give you a second bite of the cherry if you screwed something up earlier.)
  • Would you like me daywork/ trial me tomorrow so I can show you my work ethic and what I’m capable of? (This may tip the balance in your favour but can be a risky strategy if you don’t have a good work ethic or you aren’t much good!)

To be clear, there are loads more questions you could ask and there are also various techniques you can use when asking questions that can be beneficial to your cause too. But… I’m not going to spoon feed you everything. And if everyone just asked the same questions it would get a little boring!

For senior crew roles

For senior crew who want to find out more, drop me an email to tim@quaycrew.com and I will send you a document with some more in-depth questions in there.

How to ask about salary, holiday etc

These are always tough questions to ask without sounding a little mercenary. But if you have exhausted your options and you still don’t know then I would always make a statement along the lines of…

‘Whilst money/time off isn’t the most important thing for me, in accepting my next job obviously it is important. What salary bracket are we looking at for this role?’

‘For me I really want to be working on a well-run yacht, with a happy, motivated crew. That is my first priority…’

Keep it light!

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