In an industry where it is so important to know exactly who you are hiring, the techniques and tools used to take on a yacht crew have not changed significantly in many years. No matter how rigorous the interview process and how glowing the references are, recruiting the crew can be a game of chance.
The superyacht industry is perhaps the most intimate place in which to work throughout the entire maritime sector, and is unlike most other jobs, no matter what your field of expertise; the cost of the boat you’re working on, the responsibility and safety of the crew, owners and guests, for their food, children, belongings, well-being and everything else in between. It’s as unique a career as you’ll get.
While the industry is good at ‘getting to know someone’ before hiring them, many of the crew who are hired are rarely subject to stringent and relevant checks that get beneath the skin of a social-media profile or reference from a previous employer. While recruiters, managers, captains and owners might look at prospective employees’ Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profiles, this isn’t sufficient. If there is something that you don’t want the outside world to know about, you’re not going to make it public on social media.
While references are hugely important, you are essentially relying on someone else’s opinion. A recent survey of superyacht crew by Faststream revealed that nearly 40 per cent of crew secured their last job through being referred by a friend, which does pose an important question around the favourable nature of references. As in other high-tech industries, the way references are taken is very different, and in many examples, the references are taken not by the candidate’s previous manager, but from the staff working alongside them on a daily basis. Using this approach within the yachting industry could prove to be successful.
"Would you want someone with a history of bad credit or bankruptcy to be in charge of the money on board? Would you be able to find this out from someone’s Facebook profile or past references?"
Another thing to think about is Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) psychometric testing. This has been used by thousands of employers, has been around since 1920 and was created by the same person who invented the lie-detector test. It provides an accurate insight into how people behave at work, answering questions such as: what are their strengths and limitations?; how do they communicate?; are they self-starters?; what motivates them? I have used them for many years as part of the hiring process for the Faststream business.
There is still a perception that psychometric tests are a pass or fail challenge but the reality is that if you are being interviewed for a job that demands certain skills and abilities, it is in your interest not to be selected if you do not have the desired aptitudes. There is no such thing as a good or bad result because it is just a matter of fitting the right person to the right job, and is something that I believe should be used. The tests could also be tailored specifically to this industry by focusing on behavioural questions, such as looking at teamwork and how someone might interact on board with other crew members.
If you are hiring a crew of any level, you are likely to want to know if someone has a criminal record or a dubious past. However, very few owners we work with utilise criminal-record checks, giving the impression that the industry could be taking unnecessary risks in the hiring processes when it comes to someone’s background. Is this not just as important as ensuring a crewmember’s CoC is present and up to date? Criminal-record checks as part of a thorough recruitment process are standard in many sectors, so why not in superyachts?
Financial background checks are another grey area, but highly relevant for crew handling money, such as pursers. Would you want someone with a history of bad credit or bankruptcy to be in charge of the money on board? Would you be able to find this out from someone’s Facebook profile or past references? The answer to both these questions would be no. However, we rarely see financial checks in place or as part of the recruitment process.
More stringent checks can obviously lead to further complexities in the hiring process, but the yacht sector must be prepared to evolve its ‘industry standard’ recruitment. The cruise industry is yachting’s closest comparative sector in leisure maritime and has raised the bar in recent years when it comes to hiring, the checks it performs on its employees and the entire candidate experience. If the yachting industry was to learn from anywhere, the cruise sector would be the place to go.
So, do you still think you know who you are hiring?