Adaptability in the Face of Change

When The Crew Report asked me to write about whether owners and captains focus on the wrong requirements when hiring crew, I hesitated before accepting as it’s quite a loaded topic for a recruiter in a niche market.

interview advice YPI CREWBut then I thought I should practise what I preach in my own company. Indeed, the company culture at YPI CREW is built on the notion that successful yacht crew recruiters are not CV pushers, but that their value lies in their opinions, advice and ability to create efficient small shortlists of suitable, available and interested candidates. A recruiter without an opinion is useless. So I decided to tackle the topic; yes, we do see clients focusing on the wrong requirements when hiring crew, but the beauty is that any recruiter worth their salt will always champion the talented underdog or give a true picture of the state of the employment market, working towards finding a realistic solution to that particular recruitment issue.

In the yachting industry, the issues facing the employment market are more acute than elsewhere. Other industries may face an affordability problem when employers can’t get staff to accept jobs at the salaries offered. That’s not applicable in our world where we face more of a skill shortage when we can’t get staff at market-clearing wages.

Having said that, not all departments are affected; certainly, experienced interior crew on yachts are in short supply. In this candidate-short market, employers must review their traditional requirements and adapt their ways of recruiting because top candidates are at a premium and can afford to be selective, which inevitably creates a dash for talent. Top crew, and others too, have more choices and more competing offers. Employers, like it or not, need to develop skills in influencing candidates to accept their offers and should highlight why potential crew should be excited about working for them. I realise that there is something uncomfortable about this concept but the market has evolved and a new generation with different aspirations has hit the employment market in yachting and elsewhere.

Employers’ inflexibility with regards to their hiring criteria is an issue we face daily as recruiters. Clearly, selecting candidates for jobs is not like fitting pistons into engines or rebuilding a fuel pump, where requirements are highly specific, set down and unchangeable. Perhaps a cultural fit, coupled with great attitude, can override the skill gap that can be tackled with on-board training or schooling. For instance, there is a flurry of interior courses available for stewardesses on most subjects including silver service, flower arrangement, table settings, wine knowledge, team leadership and management to name but a few, so most shortcomings can be addressed.

Yachts and captains with an active on-board mentoring philosophy are better able to adjust to the current employment market and therefore less likely to focus on the wrong requirements when hiring, as they have more leeway. Of course, this informal type of training requires commitment from both parties – the mentor and the crewmember who needs to show interest and a willingness to grow and develop their career. The good thing is mentoring can help in all departments, whether deck, engineering, galley or interior. This transfer of skills is essential to the development of today’s crew, and while there is no ‘mentoring bible’ available, most captains and heads of department will develop their own style on how to be a valued role model.

Nationality-based discrimination is one of the ‘wrong’ requirements that pops up from time to time, and one which experienced recruiters are equipped to deal with. They have a global vision and spend their time meeting candidates from worldwide locations and varied backgrounds; invariably they will champion the candidates best suited to the job in terms of personality and skills, irrespective of the narratives of the job description. I believe that when diverse groups of people work together, it creates smart, dynamic teams.

At the end of the day, it’s the job of the recruiter to share their knowledge of the market with their client, to help refine the candidate profile and identify the best crew for the job. Recruiting is not a one-way conversation, it’s not a monologue; it’s is a dialogue between two professionals, a captain and a recruiter who respect each other’s trade.

This article originally appeared in issue 80 of The Crew Report.