Shark infested waters? Busting the myths about yachting recruitment (2023)

“Being totally honest, I just can’t stand crew agents – they never get back to

my WhatsApp messages.”

“I can absolutely see through them, as they only want to talk to me when

they need me for something. I feel they are just there for their own gain and

to make money”

“They always have stupid requirements for all of their jobs”

“If I could, I would ask them: ‘Why do you ask me to sign up a million times

and never actually get in touch with me?”

If you are reading this as either current or prospective crew, chances are

that you have either said or heard at least one of these grievances about

crew agents (sometimes even labelled as ‘industry sharks’) before.

With ever more players entering the as-of-yet unregulated and highly

competitive yachting recruitment sphere in 2023 and ever-increasing

pressure on to find the right talent to keep our industry afloat, it is

unsurprising that there will be cases in which palpable tensions arise

between parties.

Here, with the help of “The Crew Hunter” experts Shelley, Phil and Joe, we

delve into the world of yacht recruitment to offer our take on how you can

work best with recruitment professionals to ensure that the best possible

candidates are placed on board your boat - and that both you and your

recruiter maintain your sanity in the process. Spoiler alert: sharks have

feelings too!

Always On: 24/7

The full-time nature of modern technology and communications can be

described as a double-edged sword when it comes to recruitment. On the

one hand, for an industry which is always on the move (quite literally)

between time zones, for agents and interested candidates to be able to

reach each other at all hours can be a blessing when a role must be filled

quickly, or when information is needed ASAP.

On the other hand, relying heavily on WhatsApp and other messaging tools

for this kind of communication rather than email can also create an

impression of constant accessibility, or a requirement to be so, which can be

damaging for both sides and prevent them maintaining anything remotely

resembling a professional/personal life balance.

Furthermore, as is expressed in the above quotation, when recruiters are

less communicative or responsive than clients or candidates would like, it

can lead to a feeling of being ‘ghosted’ by recruiters and generate a sense of

resentment from crew.


What is the solution to this dilemma? Shelley who is Head of Recruitment


offers some valuable perspective on the issue. “If you feel that you are being

ghosted, it is worth stepping back for a minute and thinking about why the

recruiter might not be getting back to you immediately. Could it be that

there are certain rules they need to follow, and boxes they need to tick

before they can do so?”

She continues: “Although it may be hard to believe at times, recruiters are

human too. It could be that they themselves are overwhelmed by the

number of applicants they have for a position, all of whom are expecting

them to be available 24/7 to field all of their questions. Recruiters also have

families to go home to, and hobbies which they’d like to be doing outside of

their jobs! If you can both remember the humanity on both sides, and

operate on these terms, it will pay dividends in the end for how you are able

to work together in the future.”

Respect Pays Off

Notably too, another consequence of the incredibly fast-paced world of

technology is that it can easy to forget the usual rules of engagement and to

communicate with others via messages without applying the usual politeness

and patience which we would use in face-to-face conversation.

In short: if you want the recruiter to treat you with respect when they are

simultaneously contending with scores of other candidates/clients who are

also wanting to be treated as a top priority, ensure that you afford them the

same courtesy.

Shelley explains more: “If you are going to message a recruiter because

they’ve not got back to you about an application, don’t go off at us rudely

via WhatsApp. Say something nice like: ‘Sorry to bother you, I know you are

very busy, but…’ That is much more likely to get a response than: ‘I applied

for this seven days ago and I’ve not heard back.’

Always use the recruiter’s name wherever possible when you reaching out,

and never send a generic, mass email or message, as they will immediately

treat you less seriously, as it suggests a minimal degree of effort. As Joe

says: “There is simply no excuse for not knowing my name when my email is” Yachting is a very personal, high end service,

so not even being able to tailor a message is a worrying sign.

And, of course, it is not just candidates who can feel upset by being left on

‘read’ by recruiters, but this can go both ways, as Shelley emphasises. “Even

just last week we had six people offered jobs who all turned it down because

they didn’t feel like it after going through the whole process of interviewing

and reinterviewing. They just completely ghosted us, which was very

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frustrating after all of the effort we had put into it.”

Depth Not Breadth

Phil Richards, technical/deck recruitment consultant at The Crew Hunter,

identifies another key issue which can contribute to candidates’ sense of just

being one of many or not being looked after properly by the recruiter: the

practice of clients tendering roles to multiple agencies or recruitment

consultants - sometimes as many as 10 or more - which inevitably means

that not all of these will take the appropriate level of care when sourcing

their candidates.

Phil explains: “While I can understand there are perceived valid reasons for

doing this, such as casting nets as far as possible to see if one of the agents

is able to uncover a diamond in the rough, or fear of missing out on that

potentially perfect candidate, there are a few downsides that the hiring

managers are often not aware of, some which have a damaging effect on our


“One of the main downsides is that of promoting excessive competition

amongst recruiters, all of whom are fishing from the same pool for the

candidates. This excessive competition often leads to poor practice amongst

recruiters, such as the sending of CVs to vessels without even speaking to or

asking permission of the candidates in an effort to be “first past the post.”

The Pros and Cons of Competition

Phil continues: “While I believe competition is good overall, ensuring that

quality recruitment agencies and recruiters don't rest on their laurels and

endeavour to be the best they can be, there are also downsides, meaning

that recruiters are reluctant to spend a lot of time running certain roles past

candidates and getting to know the candidates, particularly in the more

junior roles. There are also others out there who will perform these

unscrupulous and unprofessional acts such as sending CVs over without

candidates’ permission to be first on the client’s desk “just in case” they fit

the bill.”

Furthermore, this also has an effect on the recruiters’ motivation to carry out

their work to the highest possible standards, as Phil explains: “From the

recruiter’s side, there is nothing more demoralising than spending 3 or 4

hours interviewing someone, writing up their notes, checking their

references, checking their certificates and sending it over to the vessel all

packaged up neatly only to find out that the candidate has already been

received through another agency who hasn’t put in the time or effort to do

the same.”

Indeed, one way of ensuring that you do have the best possible experience

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when you are searching for a recruiter is to dedicate the time to finding a

recruiter you can work with, gel with, and can genuinely trust to have your

best interests at heart.

Be Pleasantly Picky

Indeed, this is a clear instance of a time in which it is worth being picky. Phil

puts it well: “As we all know, this industry is built on relationships, and this

is especially true in recruitment. Build up a solid, functional working

relationship with a recruiter you trust to do the job of recruiting for you.

He continues: “By cultivating this relationship, you can get to know a

recruiter and a recruiter can get to know you, how you work, what kind of

people you get along with and the culture you bring to a vessel. You can

allow your recruiter time to do their job properly and thoroughly and not

rush to get candidates over to you before someone else does. This, I believe,

can only benefit the industry as a whole.”

Naturally, choosing an experienced recruiter will also help you to feel

confident that your crew search is in safe hands, as Phil explains. ”Look for

someone who knows the industry and who has done the job before. Why

would you ask an accountant to recommend you a good builder? Same with

recruiting. Why would you ask someone who has never been an engineer to

identify a good engineer, likewise with the interior, deck or galley


Furthermore, as Joe – who is a Chief Mate <3000gt and has eight years of

on-board experience under his belt – highlights, being appropriately picky

can also make the whole recruitment process far more efficient.

“Save your time and only register with the agents that are good and truly

care, help and speak your language. Build a firm relationship with a handful

and they will be the ones that get you far. It is a bit like selling a house, if

you market it with five agents, there is less effort and attention for all sides.

Market it with two and you will get a far quicker sale.”

Outrageous Requirements

As anyone who has worked in yachting for any length of time can attest,

there are certain vessels and clients who have very specific requirements

and requests for what they would like from their crew.

The rightness or wrongness of this is a topic for another piece, but it is a

cold-hard fact about the industry as it currently exists (unless, of course,

there really isn’t someone out there who can juggle upside down whilst

reciting poetry in Portuguese and making a world-class souffle).

But, joking aside, as Joe who is head of new business explains, when it

comes to meeting these requirements from clients, in the majority of

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instances, the agents’ hands are tied. “At the end of the day, if the yacht has

a particular unusual machine/tender/guest preference then as agents we

must listen to our client’s needs. If the job says no visible tattoos, it is not

the agent making this up because they do not like tattoos (they may even

have one themselves), it might just be the fact that they have high end

charter clients who often have a distaste for them.”

He continues: “Obviously, goal posts move and there is some wiggle room.

Or, you may have something even better to offer that trumps a


Indeed, there are going to be some instances in which an agent is likely to

put their foot down with a requst from a client. As Joe explains: "I recall a

job post lately saying on the lines of ‘must be a Capricorn, Virgo and not a

Aquarius’. And, that my fellow yachties is just absurd. Must speak fluent

Japanese, a master wine sommelier and an ex pro golfer who gets a hole in

one each time. Sorry, unicorns do not exist!”

Successful Recruitment: Tying the Knot

Finally, as Shelley succinctly puts it, with so many differing parties and

priorities involved, successfully navigating the choppy waters of yacht

recruitment in 2023 is bound to involve a healthy dose of compromise and

expectation management.

“The best outcome is when you can successfully marry the vessel’s

expectations and the crew’s expectations with what a crew agent does. This

way, no one is disappointed and everything is handled as smoothly and

efficiently as possible. When this works well, it can be a marriage made in


So what are the takeaway lessons for keeping the crew agents/recruiters on

your side in 2023? Don’t send them demanding messages in the small

hours, don’t play the field too much, treat them like human beings and yes,

it’s probably best to stop calling them sharks. Maybe if you do that, they will

pluck you out of the the choppy waters and place you in that career-defining

role you’ve always dreamed of.

Email or call Shelley, Phil or Joe using the details below:


+27 713 443 458


+44 7494 751266


+44 7958 068670

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