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Crew Interviews: How to Interview a Candidate

Erica Lay 2

Interview tips for CAPTAINS

Lots of crew magazines offer helpful hints and advice on how to prepare and behave in a job interview, but not much consideration has been given on the other side of the table:  how do you interview a potential crewmember?

Firstly, let’s look at the goal of an interview.  Presumably you’ve already read the CV and can see what qualifications the candidate has, what experience they have, and what they are looking to do next.  You want to know if they can do the job you require of them, and if they’ll fit in with the current team on board.  An interview should give you a good indication of both.

Depending on the position you’re interviewing for, you’ll have different questions to ask. You might find it helpful to highlight anything on the CV that has caught your interest. Make some notes, write down a few questions.  Winging it, although sometimes unavoidable, usually leaves you kicking yourself afterwards when you think of all the questions you forgot to ask.

We’ll start with the obvious stuff.  What do you want to find out about this person?  A good ice-breaker is to start with the usual – “So how did you get into yachting?” – type questions.  From there you can talk through their previous experience and ask questions as the opportunities arise.  What are their long-term goals and aspirations?  Where do they see themselves in five years? 

Encourage candidates to ask questions about the role; an interview should be an interactive experience, not just a grilling from one side to see if they fit the job profile.  Do they have any other skills from pre-yachting jobs you could use? Some people don’t list their previous positions on their CVs so it’s always good to ask.  What are their hobbies and interests? You might discover you have someone with more skills than immediately apparent.

Bear in mind, when you begin the interview, that a lot of people will be quite nervous. If you’re also feeling nervous about interviewing, this will create a stiff atmosphere and neither side will come away feeling particularly good.  Relax and be yourself. This might encourage the candidate to relax too so you can get a glimpse of the “real” person. 

A company director once told me he only hired people who are more qualified or have more knowledge about a particular field than he does.  That way he can rely on his team to deliver more and keep improving.
If you’re a captain interviewing a deckhand, or a stewardess, then make sure the heads of departments get involved too.  Ideally get them to vet candidates first so you only interview the short list.

A good question I enjoy asking – and usually it’s a good way to see if people can think on their feet – is to ask for their strengths and weaknesses.  Strengths are easy, as everyone comes to an interview ready to sell themselves. But weaknesses?  That’s a tricky one to answer!

After a formal interview, some captains also like to invite the potential crewmember to a night out with the current team to see how they interact…and how they are after a few beers. This can give you valuable insight into the team fit.

No interview technique is set in stone for yacht crew. Usually the best way is to approach it with an open mind, and see how it goes. Once you have the professional information you need, have an informal chat and see what sort of person you have in front of you. 

Interview tips for CREW:

On the other side of the table, there are a few rules you should heed in preparing for an interview:

Before you go, find out as much about the yacht and the position as possible. Use Google, use MarineTraffic, and ask around your colleagues and friends. Just a few minutes of preparation will help you to appear prepared in front of the captain. If you know the yacht has recently undergone a refit then you look like you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in the position. 

Be smart in appearance and, if you can’t, then explain why and apologise. If the captain knows you’re working in the yard and you’re coming over in your lunch hour for a chat, then he probably expects you to be in work gear. However, take a minute to throw a clean shirt on and wash your hands, and when you get there, mention that you’d normally dress smarter but you’ve come straight from the bilge…

Give a good handshake. Ok – sounds daft. But if you’re not au fait with giving a good handshake, then try it out on a few friends.  There’s nothing worse than a limp soggy mitt at the start of the interview.  Be confident. Give a firm (but not knuckle-breaking) handshake and look people in the eye with a smile.

Answer questions honestly, but not too honestly… Tell the captain what he needs to know but, be careful. If you left your last yacht because you couldn’t stand your last captain, you should be diplomatic.  Remember it’s a small industry, and word gets around. Besides, this captain might be his brother-in-law!

Ask questions. Be interested, ask questions, especially when invited to.  Before the interview think about what you’d like to know and, when the captain asks if you have any questions, you can look informed and interested. I wouldn’t recommend asking how much the salary is, if the tips are decent, or if you can bring your mum on for a tour - save those for later.

Be yourself.The captain will want to know if you will fit in with the current team, and you want to know this too.  So be yourself, behave how you would normally at work, and see if you would get on with your interviewer.  If you are invited to go on a social event with the crew then don’t get plastered.  Join in, but let the existing crew take the lead.

And finally…a few more dos and don’ts…


Arrive on a skateboard
Be late
Arrive with your mum, boyfriend, dog
Flirt with the interviewer
Slouch, yawn
Get hammered the night before
Assume you know more than the person interviewing you


Bring a copy of your CV, and organize your tickets and references in a smart folder
Relax, but maintain a professional demeanour
Pay attention
Ask informed questions
Stand tall and sell yourself!!

I hope that helps – and I wish you good luck with the new season!


Erica Lay is the founder of Erica Lay Crew Company, which launched in January. She has worked in international yacht crew recruitment since 2007. She has developed her own unique way of sourcing and interviewing yacht crew with great success. Having managed two international crew recruitment offices she brings a wealth of ideas and experience with her and has always strived to provide the most professional service to her yacht clients. Erica has worked with some of the largest and most prestigious yachts in the world; not that size matters… She thrives on the challenges involved in sourcing crew for all yachts large and small, and treats every single client´s crewing requirements as an individual project. Erica has a vast network throughout the yachting industry and is known internationally as the person to speak to regarding working on yachts - be it your first yacht job, or your twentieth year in the yacht industry. She loves the recruitment side of the yachting industry, that´s why in 2013 she decided to take the next step and launch her own international yacht crew agency.

Find out more at Erica can also be reached at +34 673 55 76 76 or



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