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Why crew recruitment needs to be a Captain's top priority

Tim Clarke
January 17, 2021

Discover why prioritising a crew recruitment strategy will secure your ongoing success as a superyacht captain.

Not everyone understands that a Captain or Head of Department's crew recruitment strategy is your number one priority on board. There are a range of reasons for this, for example, providing the best possible service levels, owner enjoyment, safety and compliance, keeping the yacht working etc. All of which are hugely important. But in this blog I’m going to play devils advocate and say many Captains have their priorities all wrong. I may be a little biased here as a crew agent, but recruitment is the number one priority on a yacht in my opinion. 

Make time for crew recruitment

Obviously if you have guests on, or an auditor from Lloyds then they take priority over reading through CVs. But during normal operations recruitment should be your number one priority. Why? Because the quicker you start and work on your recruitment needs the more likely you are to find a great crew member who will ease the burden on your shoulders. What is the most important part of a yacht? The crew. Get that right and everything else will follow. 

Now for example as a Chief Stew you may think a junior crew mess stew is not going to relieve the burden on your shoulders as your main focuses are inventories, provisioning, paperwork, service etc and the 2nd Stew is responsible for managing her on a day to day basis. But…. If they aren’t great at their job that impacts on the 2nd Stew who has to sacrifice more time to train them and sort out mistakes etc. One poor crew member who can’t be relied upon, very quickly impacts across a whole team and I guarantee they will drop the ball at some point and if this happens during a guest trip it will impact negatively upon the guest experience which is a massive no no for obvious reasons. 

What does not prioritising recruitment mean?

We see a significant number of yachts not prioritising recruitment. Many do a great job but some yachts could definitely do better. 

Issue 1: Receiving CVs and then doing nothing with them for a week or two. Unfortunately if you don’t move quickly the best candidates will be gone. 

Issue 2: Identifying you like candidates A and C but B, D and E aren’t right for you. And then not contacting the candidates you like. I refer you to my previous answer, the best candidates will go. 

Issue 3: Having a long winded process. Whilst sometimes this is out of your control and may involve management companies, owners offices etc that makes it even more important your process is quick and efficient to maximise your chances of getting who you want. If management or owners office is involved then make sure the Captain does the 2nd interviews of the shortlisted candidates ASAP so things can be sped up. 

Issue 4: Going out to multiple agencies. The vast majority of the time if you go out to multiple agencies you will get replication of candidates. Even when you don’t get replication of candidates the other agencies will very likely have access to the other candidates as well. But because another agency has sent candidate A they don’t. Most of the time you aren’t missing out on gold. Using multiple agencies massively impacts upon your time too because they should all want to be briefed on the role, they all want feedback, you have to log all CVs sent and when. Plus, and this is the massive one, quality goes out the window when agencies are competing against each other. It becomes about who can send the candidates the quickest and get them in your inbox. I believe 2 agencies is all you need, maximum. Many of our clients just use us. 

Issue 5: We don’t need someone for 2 months so we have all the time in the world to do this recruitment. More often than not this slides down the priority list until you need someone in 3 weeks. Which now means no one can complete a notice period to join you without stitching up their current yacht. Not ideal. The more last minute your recruitment is, the worse the results will be generally and the poorer the options in front of you. 

Issue 6: We are only offering 2500 salary and 30 days of leave but we want an amazing candidate with longevity, 2 years of experience, a Yachtmaster and is also a carpenter / PT / Divemaster. If you aren’t offering a great package sadly you aren’t going to get your pick of the bunch so you need to be looking for crew with potential, great attitudes etc. Don’t waste your time waiting for this incredible candidate to arrive in your inbox because they won’t. Or even more frustratingly he does arrive in your inbox and it turns out the rubbish crew agency you used hasn’t briefed him on the role. So you spent an hour interviewing him, have been excited for the last 2 days since you got his CV and now at the end of the interview you tell him its 30 days and he isn’t interested. Being realistic about how appealing you are and the calibre of candidates your role will attract will save you time.

Issue 7: Your requirements are extremely niche. There are going to be very few suitable candidates in the market place. Which means if you get CVs you should interview all of them. Disregarding candidate A because they aren’t perfect, or don’t like their CV layout, or whatever is risky. Because that might be the only candidate who is interested and has what you require.  2 weeks later you return to their CV as nothing else has come though and they have taken a job. 

Issue 8: There is no consistent recruitment process or structure. So every HOD presents the yacht  differently in interview. Sometimes it can vary hugely from interview to interview from the same HOD. There isn’t a focus on common grounds, personality, culture on board etc. So the wrong people get hired. 

Issue 9: Messing around candidates. Cancelling or even just missing scheduled interviews because somethings come up or you are disorganised and missed the interview. Fairly self explanatory but it very quickly leaves a bad taste in candidates mouths. A candidates time is as valuable as yours if they are already employed. But even if they are unemployed and only spending the day on the sofa which yacht do you think is more appealing? The one that calls 24 hours after receiving the crew members CV and tells them they are amazing and they are really keen on them? Or the one that didn’t interview them as promised?

Issue 10: Not giving any feedback to your crew agent. We can help manage a situation, let you know if a candidate is interviewing elsewhere, if you aren’t their first choice etc. The list of how we can help is long if given the chance. But if you never tell us what you are doing, it’s a lot tougher to help. 

Issue 11: Being an optimist. Being wildly optimistic that the perfect candidate is going to come along doesn’t secure you someone great. Again you need to be realistic about what you are offering and what you need skills and experience wise. The market is increasingly competitive for good crew so be proactive with it and don’t just keep your fingers crossed it will work itself out.

This has turned into a slightly more general list of recruitment issues as opposed to just prioritising so sorry about that, but it is all relevant. 

How can I do it better?

The vast majority of those issues relate to one thing. Speed. We recently wrapped up a role within about 48 hours from start to finish and that was over a weekend and involved multiple stages in the recruitment process. The HOD in question is great and realises getting an amazing team member makes their life a lot easier. So as soon as they have a requirement requirement on board it is their number one focus. As a consequence their turnover is low and it’s a great yacht. So that is my main tip. Be quick. 

Secondly be realistic and listen to the feedback your crew agent is giving. Thirdly make sure there is a consistent recruitment process across the yacht which emphasises personality and culture as well as competency. Those few things will make a huge difference to the success of your recruitment moving forward. Any queries please don’t hesitate to contact me on tim@quaycrew.com. Thanks.

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