On the Job

What Crew Agents Want you to Know: Communication is Key

30 March 2023 By Don McKee
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Welcome to the second What Crew Agents Want You to Know, our new monthly column that seeks out yacht crew agents around the world for insight into their recent experiences, concerns, and advice for crew. This column features Don McKee, managing director at YOA Ltd in New Zealand.

“The majority of feedback I got can be condensed into two key things: Communication and expectations,” says McKee. “Clichéd as it may sound, communicating what we need is the foundation upon which everything relies, not only in yachting but everywhere. We see evidence of this daily and failing to clearly communicate leads to undesired outcomes.”

In an industry where crew are asked to make the impossible possible, crew agents can be tasked to find “unicorns” themselves — those crew with eons of experience who are willing to work for cheap and with no vacation. Of course, we all know these crew do not exist and for good reason. “Truth be told, would you really want this person on board if they did exist?” KcKee says.

“Managing expectations as a crew agent is a challenge because it means doing our best to strike the balance between those of our candidates as well as clients,” McKee says. “This often results in somewhat of a reality check on both ends.”

As you may expect, clear communication is vital. “Many are reluctant to have the uncomfortable, yet honest conversation with a yacht owner, management company, captain, or crewmember that what they are asking for may not be possible because it means all parties needing to confront reality, which of course clashes with the ‘never say no, everything is possible’ mantra,” he says.

McKee offers his tips on how to put yourself in the best position possible for finding the best job for your wants and needs. “Communicate your motivations and desired outcomes accurately and emphasize which elements are and are not negotiable,” he says, pointing out that this should be the case with all your job-finding endeavors — on your CV and during all interviews.

McKee recommends:

  • Understand what is asked for in job descriptions and showcase how you are able meet the requirements. Yes, this does sometimes involve adapting your CV and/or cover letter to the job you’re applying for. Simply clicking ‘I’m interested’ on every job post does not serve you well. Neither does being unprepared or not arriving on time for your interview.
  • Take pride in creating your CV as well as how you conduct yourself in interviews. It really does not go unnoticed. You would be surprised how many people apply for jobs with outdated resumes riddled with spelling mistakes, claiming they have a great eye for detail.
  • Make sure all your certificates and visas are in date and in your possession when applying for jobs.
  • Client briefs when searching for crew need to be as accurate as possible and highlight what is and is not negotiable, i.e., salary, leave, qualifications, and experience required for the role. Bear in mind that the most ‘qualified’ candidate may not always be the best fit.
  • Take the time to build a relationship with your crew agent so that you can trust their judgment on the candidates presented.
  • Try not to use multiple crew agents to fill a position. We understand the urgency involved but doing this often results in a ‘race to the bottom’ and sub-par work.
  • Cultivate trust with your team on board so you don’t have to do everything yourself and can delegate responsibility to your HODs wherever possible. That is why they are in the positions they are in, after all.

McKee points out that, “There are many more and all of the above is common sense, but when mixed with the dynamics of life on board, it can be difficult to find the time to execute.”

Good luck!


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