Insider Interview Tips to Win the Best Jobs at Sea
No matter how much experience you have in the maritime industry being prepared for an interview is the difference in acing it and landing a job or blowing it!
Congratulations - you’ve been selected for an interview for one of the jobs at sea you’ve applied for! Maybe you’re taking the first step on the ladder in entry level cargo ship jobs, perhaps it’s ‘just another contract’, or it could even be one of your dream seafarer jobs.
Whichever it is, you’ll need to do your research to ensure you’re fully prepared for anything the interviewer might throw your way.
Whether you’ve only just completed your maritime training or you have years of experience working in the maritime industry, being properly prepared for an interview can mean the difference in acing it and landing great jobs at sea.
Or blowing it and taking a hit to your career and confidence.
Being prepared is key as it will enable you to be more focused and therefore more likely to impress your potential employer.
Insider interview tips to win the best jobs at sea
Your seafarer resume was impressive enough to make an employer or someone from one of the maritime recruitment agencies contact you, but now you need to make sure you follow through in person.
Plus, the way you prepare for an interview for jobs at sea can differ according to the type of interview. For example, you might be invited to attend a traditional face to face interview, depending on your location and your rank.
Having said that it is quite possible there is a geographical distance between you and your interviewer, which means the interview could be done on the phone or over Skype.
One thing that won’t change though is how important it is to know something about the shipping company you’re applying to.
Find out more about the company you applied to
Just as there are numerous different seafarer jobs, there are also a large number of shipping companies and you may have sent your maritime resume to more than one of them. This means you need to do your research and make sure you know who you’re talking to.
Being organized is an incredibly important part of your search for jobs at sea and will go a long way to impressing an employer too.
Back in the days before we were all hyper connected finding out information about a company you’d applied for a job with used to be considerably trickier. But these days Google’s done most of the hard work for you!
Even if you’re applying for seafarer jobs through maritime recruitment agencies, it won’t hurt to take a look at the shipping company’s website and social media accounts.
You can also see if they’re mentioned on forums for seafarers, and check them out on maritime jobs and industry news websites.
LinkedIn is also a valuable resource as you should also be able to find both information about the company and its employees there - possibly including the person who will be interviewing you.
What sort of information should you look for?
It might sound obvious, but make sure you really understand what the company you’re applying to does and what role they play in the shipping industry. Even if your interview is with one of the maritime recruitment agencies they outsource to.
Where does the company fit in? Do they have specialist equipment onboard their vessels such as excavators, cranes or dual fuel engines?
What are they well known for? Who are their customers? What kind of maritime jobs do they have?
By knowing this, not only will you be able to confidently answer any questions your interviewer asks you about the company, but you’ll also prove that you’re well prepared and that you pay attention to details. Important traits for a seafarer!
If you haven’t stayed abreast of current affairs in the maritime industry it’s also a good idea to take a look at some websites for mariners and see what’s been happening. Look for news about changes in the industry, with a focus on the sector your prospective employer is in.
Doing this can also help you come up with something to say at that (often dreaded!) point in interviews for jobs at sea when you’re asked “Do you have any questions for us?” You’ll look keen and it will show that you’re invested in the company’s success.
How to act in interviews for seafarer jobs
Again, this doesn’t matter whether you’re applying for a chief engineer vacancy in person or having a phone interview for an oiler job, the way you present yourself is crucial.
If you’re talking to an employer or someone from one of the maritime recruitment agencies in person or in a video chat, make eye contact with them.
This doesn’t mean you have to stare at them non-stop - this will probably make you both uncomfortable. Break contact by glancing to the side or at the seafarer resume you’re holding from time to time.
Just keep in mind that not looking someone in the eye when you’re talking to them or looking at the ground when you or they speak will make you appear to be at best shy, and at worst untrustworthy.
Top tip: If you find it really awkward to make direct eye contact when you’re talking, look at a point just slightly above the other person’s eyes on their forehead!
Practical tips for in-person interviews for jobs at sea
If your interview is face to face, make sure you know a) how to get to the interview location and b) how long it will take you to get there. Google Maps will help with that.
It doesn’t matter how great your maritime resume is and how much experience in maritime jobs you have, getting lost and being late will impress exactly no one! Plan ahead and aim to arrive around ten minutes before your appointment.
You should also make sure that you dress appropriately; no one will be expecting you to turn up in a suit and tie, or office attire, but it’s best to go for a smart casual look and leave the sweatpants at home.
You should also take a copy of your seafarer resume with you and any documentation that the interviewer has requested to see.
Practical tips for video or phone interviews for seafarer jobs
If your interview is to be conducted over Skype, chances are you and your interviewer might be in different countries and therefore different time zones. This means you must check (and double check!) that you have the time of the interview right.
There’s no harm in asking the employer or maritime recruitment agency who arranged the interview either - it shows you’re thinking on your feet and want to be prepared.
If your interview for your jobs at sea is on video chat, you should also make sure the area around your computer or laptop is tidy.
And don’t forget that you can’t be 100% sure what the person on the other side of the screen can see in your room - so make sure there’s no embarrassing or unprofessional items lurking behind you!
You should also make sure that your room is well lit and that you’re not sitting with your back to a window as this will create glare. You want the interviewer to be able to see you.
On a similar note, for video calls try wherever possible to use a PC or laptop as this will look a lot more professional than using a smartphone and face timing with someone for a job!
Make sure you won’t be interrupted by family members, children, roommates or pets while you’re interviewing. We’ve all seen that viral video of a man being interviewed on live television from his home office when his kids burst through the door. Don’t be that dad!
Finally - a couple of slightly more technical things: it’s probably best to wear headphones so you can block out any unwanted background noise made by dogs, kids or traffic. It will also help you hear the interviewer more clearly.
And it’s definitely a good idea to make sure your laptop is fully charged or plugged in - the last thing you want is your battery dying mid-interview!
This article was originally published on the Martide Seafarer Blog on March 18th 2020.