Frustrated Captain: Standardize Crew Placement

19 June 2008 By Kate Lardy

Capt. Don Edwards was feeling really frustrated.

His previous command, a 157-foot motor yacht, had been sold and his eight “great” crew were left looking for work. They were so great, in fact, that he took the time to put down in writing how stellar they were in eight carefully constructed letters of recommendation.

Then he got bombarded by the crew placement agencies.

His previous crew, as you would expect, had each gone out and registered with multiple agencies. Apparently letters of recommendation aren’t enough for today’s plethora of crew agents, zealous in their quest to uncover a potential candidate’s true character. Each agency had its own custom questionnaire that they requested Capt. Edwards fill out.

“I couldn’t respond fast enough,” says the captain.

He was getting 20 requests a week from agencies, with each form taking an average of an hour to fill out properly. (His ex-chef actually registered with no fewer than 15 agencies.)

“The thing is I put a lot of time and effort into my reference letters; then they go and ask for more,” says Edwards.

And then there’s another issue. Long gone are the yachting days when everyone knew all the agencies and could count them on a hand or two. “There are crew agents that I’ve never heard of, and they are asking for confidential information,” says Edwards.

The character reference questions asked by some agencies, such as inquiries about personal appearance or alcohol abuse problems, border on discriminatory.

“They’re asking you to write this stuff down,” he says, which in lawsuit-happy countries like the U.S. leaves the captain in a vulnerable position.

Edwards has a simple suggestion: Make standard forms to be used by all the agencies. Then the captain would simply fill out one questionnaire per crewmember, which could be sent to multiple agencies. If the agencies formed some sort of marine trades association this would be a simple matter and, in addition, would inspire confidence in those offering references that there was a level of confidentiality.

Not all the agencies’ requests were so time intensive. The Luxury Yacht Group, in particular, offered a simple link in an email that took Capt. Edwards to a two-minute, yes-or-no type survey.

Another major player, The Crew Network, says they don’t have forms at all. They do a verbal interview on the phone that they estimate takes 10 to 15 minutes.

Other agencies, take note. Capt. Edwards is probably not the only frustrated captain who feels compelled to jump through hoops to do everything he can to ensure his ex-crew find good jobs.

Do you think it would be beneficial to standardize the placement agency business? Or are you a company whose reference process is fast and have suggestions for others? Let us know. Leave your comments below.

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