Camper and Nicholsons

Ask The Crew Coach – Our Leadership Q&A Column

7th Mar 2014

This month our Crew Coach Alison Rentoul talks to a Captain about successful hiring techniques.


We're getting ready to start crewing up for the season and I wanted to find out if there are any things I can do to try and ensure this process goes well so we select the best possible people for our team.

Crew Coach:

This is a great question because selecting the right crew is essential to having a successful season, and we all know that one bad apple can unfortunately spoil the lot. There are a few things you can do to make the hiring process much smoother and to gain more certainty about the quality and calibre of people you are hiring.

The first thing to do before contacting agencies or sifting through CV’s is to give some thought to the available positions and type of people you’re looking to hire. Don’t just dash off an email to the agencies; take some time to create a clear brief for them, as this will help you to narrow the field from the start.

Consider questions such as: What exactly does the role entail, i.e. precisely what skills, attributes and abilities does this role require? Who will the new person (or people) be working alongside and or reporting to? Are there specific personality traits required to make a good match there? How much experience is needed and what level of training or certification is required? What about your yacht culture? What personality type would be a good fit for your team as a whole?

When working through these questions, draw up a list of fundamental skills and personality traits that would be most suited to each position. Once you have your list, mark which of these are absolutely essential, which would be useful and which are just bonus or nice to have, and list them in that order, from deal breakers through to non-essentials.

Prioritising your hiring criteria will help you be really clear about what you’re looking for and make it much easier to create a brief for crew agencies. This list can also then serve as a useful guideline when interviewing people, as when you know what you want or need, it becomes much easier to measure and compare potential candidates.   

It’s also important to give yourself enough time to find the right people, especially if you are looking for experienced crew, as it could take a while to find someone with the right skillset and personality. Especially at this time of year it’s good to start this process as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of reviewing a wide range of people.

If working with a crew agency it’s best to develop a close relationship with one key agency you can trust and either exclusively give them the job of sourcing your crew, or at least give them a head start to begin looking for people for you. If you apply the scattergun approach by sending your brief to all the agencies at once, it prevents them from being able to take the time to research candidates for you as it puts them in competition with each other, so they need to send CVs fast in order to have any chance of gaining the placement. See our recent article on this topic here.

When interviewing, think about how you will know if they actually have the skills you’re looking for. What questions can you ask that will help them demonstrate their expertise or experience? Concentrate on asking open questions that get candidates talking, such as: 

•    How does this job fit in with your overall personal and professional goals?

•    What type of work environment are you most productive in?

•    What keeps you motivated at work?

•    What are some of your pet hates?

These will give you deeper insights into the candidate's character and personal values, so you can see if they are in alignment with the team you wish to create.

Many people fall into the trap of talking too much or trying to talk candidates into the position, but a good trick to use is to do the opposite and actually try to talk them out of it. This tests their commitment and helps you assess how much they really want the job.

Keep an eye on their body language, tone and vocabulary as this often tells more than words do, and watch out for excessive fidgeting or nervousness about making eye contact as these are often signs that the candidate is hiding something. You could also consider using a personality-profiling test to gain deeper insights about their genuine skills, strengths and potential weaknesses.

After the interview make sure you personally speak to their references as you will easily tell whether they genuinely recommend this person or not. If the candidate came via a crew agency, get the agency’s feedback on how the interview went from the candidate’s perspective. A professional crewmember should have followed up with them so if they haven’t it’s not a good sign. Trust your gut instinct, if there are any doubts; address them before you go any further.

Last but not least, if you want to hire the person, act fast. Good candidates are snapped up quickly so be quick to make an offer once you’ve found the right person for the job. 

For all your crew placement needs don't hesitate to get in touch with our Crew Placement Division.

Camper & Nicholsons International provides complimentary leadership training and coaching including a private and confidential hotline for the Captains of our Managed and Charter yachts. For more information about our Crew Development Program and our Crew Coach please click here.

by Camper Nicholsons

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Selecting the right crew is essential to having a successful season so it's important to give yourself enough time to find the right people