Career Advice

The Dos (and Don’ts) of Your First Crew Interview

22 June 2021By Kate Lardy

Written by

Kate Lardy

Based in Fort Lauderdale, freelance writer Kate Lardy got her start in the yachting industry working as crew. She spent five years cruising the Bahamas, Caribbean, New England, and Central America, then segued that experience into a career in marine journalism, which has included stints as editor of Dockwalk and ShowBoats International.

The interview checklist is very simple: do your research, dress appropriately, and do not be late. But still, some people seem to get it very, very wrong. Here are seven mistakes to avoid when making that crucial first impression...

When the engineer had to excuse himself to vomit due to a heavy night out the previous evening, Erica Lay, director of crew agency EL CREW CO in Palma, had to terminate his interview. “Good job really, as I was getting drunk off his fumes,” she says. This probably goes down as her all-time worst interview, but there are plenty of less dramatic ways crew can flub the face-to-face. Whether meeting with the crew agent or the captain, here’s what NOT to do.

1. Wearing flip-flops

In South Florida or the South of France, flip-flops may be the go-to footwear, but never for interviews. Crew agents are a bit more forgiving. “We would never hold it against someone who shows up right from the engine room or from yard work,” says Ian Pelham, director of Preferred Crew in Fort Lauderdale. “However, if they show up right from the beach with flip-flops and a bathing suit, well, that would likely result in a very short interview.

“If you are interviewing with the hiring authority, dress like you already have the job,” Pelham continues. “A deckhand candidate who is in clean khaki pants, a clean pressed polo, and proper shoes is already making a good impression.”

“For junior crew, smart shorts/skorts for girls with a polo shirt, hair tied back and minimal makeup, clean nails, and a smile,” says Deborah Blazy, now general manager of Lighthouse Careers in Valbonne, France. Senior crew need to take it up a notch with smart trousers and a shirt for male crew. “A tie is generally not required but everything should be ironed and immaculate. For senior female crew, a smart dress or skirt and shirt, but nothing too fancy or frilly,” says Blazy.

Marcy Williams, crew services manager at Northrop & Johnson in Fort Lauderdale, concurs, advising to “dress for success,” and stressing “no flip-flops.”

Turning up in flip flops is a big no no for your first crew interview
Credit: Adobe Stock

2. Drinking, smoking, or turning up with your mum

These seem pretty obvious, but beware of a few traps. You may be interviewing at a café in the evening but that doesn’t mean you should order a glass of wine, says Lay. And who’s watching when you flick that last cigarette in the street right before coming on board?

As for bringing your mom, yes, Lay says, that really has happened at her office. “I have had more than one parent turn up at my office with the kid hiding behind them demanding I get them a job.” Helicopter parenting has no place in a job search.

3. Not properly preparing

“If you haven’t planned your answer to at least five standard questions when it comes to the crunch, your nerves may get in the way and you forget to talk about your selling points,” says Blazy.

“Most interviews start off with ‘Tell me about yourself,’ and this is a question that candidates should prepare well,” she continues. “Make it short, interesting, and make sure you bring across in a couple of sentences the strong points of your career and personality.” Typical questions include, “What do you bring to the position,” “Why did you leave your last job,” and “What are you looking to get out of this job.”

Candidates should bring a folder with copies of their certificates and references that they can leave with the interviewer, says Blazy. “For chefs, bring an iPad or similar so you can show your portfolio.”

4. Saying you don’t like the job

“I have seen crew literally say that they do not want the job during the interview,” says Pelham, “…like deckhands who say they do not want to work in the sun, or stewardesses who say they don’t like to clean.” He also has met with captains who don’t want to leave the dock, but in general it’s more prevalent in the deckhand and stew positions. “They either haven’t done any research or they want to craft a position that doesn’t exist,” says Pelham. “They all want to travel, though!”

When a recruiter asks what you liked and disliked about previous jobs, be careful not to include any of the bread and butter work of the job you are currently applying for among your dislikes.

Yes, it's important to know your salary but perhaps steer away from asking as your leading question

5. Asking about salary or perks

The vibe a candidate should be giving off is keenness to be part of a successful, hardworking team, not a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude. Hence, many crew agents are adamant that one should never bring up salary or ask questions about days off during the interview. Williams and Pelham agree that the only time this should be discussed is when you are offered the job.

Blazy, however, says it is okay to bring up at the end of the interview if it hasn’t already been covered. “You shouldn’t make it sound like this is your priority, but it is important to know the salary on offer. It will also give you an idea of the budget for the yacht. If the salaries are ‘standard,’ then you can expect the general budget to be too. The same goes for sub-standard salaries.”

6. Bringing negativity

“The interviewer is not interested in how terrible your last captain was, and why you thought you could do the job better than him,” says Blazy. Focus on the positive, your skills, and success stories, she says, “such as how you made the charter a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Also remember that superyachting is a miniscule industry; there may be a few thousand luxury yachts plying the seas, but likely no more than three points of separation between every crewmember who works on them. You don’t know if the department head you’re dissing is the interviewer’s best mate’s girlfriend.

Credit: Jake Bradley/Unsplash

7. Not figuring out if you’ll be a good fit

When it comes time for the candidate to ask any questions, Pelham advises crew to ask about anything that is important to them accepting and being happy in the job.

“One of the things we probe is what has made previous teams successful for the candidate. In the fifteen-plus years I’ve doing crew recruitment, nobody has ever said lots of cash made the team work well together. But a huge percentage has stated that the team that does ‘off-yacht’ things, like hiking, dinners, training…works really well together,” Pelham says. Yet he says many candidates miss this opportunity to ask the captain what the crew likes to do apart from work.

Williams suggests asking — in addition to questions about job duties — how long the crew have been together and if you can meet with whoever you would be sharing a room with.

8. Parting words

“Be honest; don’t try to sell yourself, just be yourself,” says Pelham. “Don’t dance around the questions that are asked,” adds Williams.

“Arrive early (but not too early, max fifteen minutes),” says Blazy. “Make eye contact, smile, and don’t forget to thank the interviewer for his time.”

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