Crew Life » Career & Training » Yacht Crew Recruitment with Northrop & Johnson's Louisa Gallimore

Yacht Crew Recruitment with Northrop & Johnson's Louisa Gallimore

Blame the pandemic, Brexit or simply evolving industry expectations, but it’s no secret the crew recruitment landscape has changed significantly over the last few years. With new crew agencies springing up monthly, and the new EU 90-day rules for Brits and stricter job requirements making it harder for greenies to find a job, working with an experienced recruiter has never been so important for crew. That’s where Louisa Gallimore comes in.

With almost 20 years of experience in the maritime sector, Louisa’s little black book of connections is second to none. What’s more, she prides herself on her ability to make – and keep – strong relationships with the crew she places, ensuring each and every candidate finds the perfect fit when it comes to the next stage in their career.

Here we speak to Louisa about her early years in the banking industry, her transition into the world of yachting, the challenges faced by crew in 2023, and why she believes the future is now looking bright.

Where did you grow up and what were your early ambitions?

I grew up in a small village in Herefordshire, and later on in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. When I was very young I was desperate to be a vet but it turned out the sciences weren’t my strong point at school so I had to have a career rethink!

How did you get involved in investment banking in London and what was your role?

Initially I worked as a temp within the investment banking division and ended up staying on as admin support for the analysts and associate teams. I loved my time there but didn’t envy the all-nighters the bankers would frequently pull – you think yachties work hard during the season but the bankers there never stopped!

What prompted your move to Australia and what did you do there? 

After university I spent the summer working and saving up for a year abroad travelling with my best friend. I did many different jobs while I was there; working in a backpackers in Airlie Beach, promotional work for a golfing arcade game in Sydney, data entry for a workers’ compensation company and some uninspiring call centre work, to name but a few!

More recently you joined N&J as Crew Services Manager in the south of France – what’s the scope of your job day to day?

My job is so varied! I tend to interview candidates in the morning – it’s so important getting proper face time with crew and a chance to put a face to a name. I’ve interviewed so many people from different walks of life: an ex-professional footballer looking for a change in career, a Canadian beekeeper, an ex-circus worker – you name them, I’ve met them! I try keep afternoons quieter to work on jobs, reference checks and accounts, and to get through the never ending admin that builds up. It’s also a good time to get out and see some clients and to talk through their recruitment needs face to face. 

What are some of the main challenges for crew recruiters today?

The recruitment industry has changed significantly over the past 20 years that I’ve been working in it. It seems every month a new crew agency springs up and new platforms for crew to register their CVs. For crew it’s a challenge keeping up with all the agencies but for recruiters it’s a challenge keeping up with all the crew! That’s why its so important to forge relationships with crew so that they know you’re really looking out for them.

How has Brexit impacted the landscape for crew? 

I’m finding fewer British crew looking for work these past few years. Because of the 90 day rule, you really do have only one shot at looking for work and many potential crew have already left France to go back to the UK having been unsuccessful. It’s such a shame.

It’s widely reported that the industry is facing a shortage of experienced crew – what’s the answer? 

The widespread shortage of experienced crew is a direct effect of the pandemic. During 2020 and 2021 there were barely any new crew joining the industry and for experienced crew, lockdowns and travel restrictions meant training and career advancement was difficult too, so the pool of qualified crew looking for work was very small. Besides, no one was going to jump ship midway though a pandemic or embark on a new career. In 2022 finding crew was incredibly tough but so far this year, I’m really positive that things are looking better.

Is it easier or harder for newbies to get their first job compared to 10 years ago? 

It has always been tough, and there’s always been an element of ‘being in the right place at the right time’, as well as an element of luck. But now all the job requests I get for junior crew specify a minimum of one season; it’s incredibly unfair and it eliminates some really fantastic candidates. Ten years ago when I took junior positions, the hiring party might ask for a good hotel background, some chalet cheffing experience, or a trade of some sort – and these skills are perfect for transitioning to the yachting industry. It’s very frustrating.

Besides a fair wage, what are crew looking for and has this changed in recent years? 

Crew are looking for good owners, good crew and an itinerary that suits where they are in their lives. Yachts that can provide a good leave package, funding towards maritime training, and bonus schemes in place to reward loyalty, will always be in demand for good crew.

How do you approach references and background checks for crew that you place? 

Reference checking candidates is such an important part of our job, but I also understand how frustrating it must be for captains getting hundreds of calls a day asking about a deckhand you briefly worked with three years ago. I always suggest that crew get written references and make the latest three available for phone calls too. When I approach captains or HODs I always check whether it’s easiest to call – some prefer to write a few informal words by email and some prefer to speak.

How much involvement do you have with a crew member once you have placed them – do you offer ongoing support and career advice? 

Its honestly depends on the crew member. I have kept in touch with some over the past 20 years, may of whom have become friends, and it’s exciting to see them progress through the ranks. With every candidate that I interview, whether I find them a job or not, I make it clear that I am available for any advice or to answer any questions.  

We’re excited to welcome you as a columnist for OnboardOnline - what sort of topics will you be discussing? 

There is lots of ground to cover! We will be lookinga at everything from mental health and loneliness on board to captain and crew Q&As, the realities of transitioning to a shore-based life and how crew can best manage their finances, to name a few. 

Where can we find you when you’re not working? 

As a mum of two kids with social lives that would make even a socialite jealous, I’m generally found taxiing children to and from parties and activities during the weekend. When I finally have five minutes to myself, I enjoy a nice, chilled glass of wine in the garden!

What’s a lesser known fact about Louisa Gallimore that would surprise your colleagues? 

I’m a (VERY non practicing) level 2 Reiki healer!

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