Is it mad to hire someone with no longevity?

Q: Tony, Captain, 43:

“I want to hire this guy, but my other Captain friends think I’m mad. He’s a long-term deckie who’s moved around yachts a lot. According to his resume he’s not stayed in one job more than 14 months. I know this is normally a massive no-go, but I have this gut feeling he’s the right fit for the yacht somehow. He’s done a bit of daywork for us and I’m really impressed so far, and his references seem pretty solid. Management is not keen based on his CV, but I’ve got a pretty good relationship with them and think I can win them over with a good argument. Am I mad? Is it worth taking the risk on someone like this? Maybe I’m just biased, as someone took a risk on me when I was dockwalking over 20 years ago. Maybe I just see myself in this young guy!”

A: The Crew Coach:

Great question! Your logical brain and your instinct are conflicting on this one, and it’s hard to know which one to listen to. The first thing to know is that a ‘patchwork’ CV doesn’t necessarily mean a poor employee. Over my 17 years in yachting, and the hundreds of CVs I have optimised for crew in this time, I have really come to learn that there are so many reasons why some people end up with what looks like poor longevity on their CVs, and many of these are not actually a reason not to employ them now.

To begin with, some candidates start out in yachting quite happy to yacht hop for a while, picking up skills and friends along the way until settling on one yacht they like, where they can then stay for years. A flighty 22 year old deckhand may well transform into a highly dedicated one when they get a bit older and their priorities change.

On the other hand, it is true that many serial job-hoppers find themselves unable to truly hack the demands of yachting, leading them to quit regularly, but finding themselves constantly drawn back to the money and travel. These are poor hires: their enthusiasm wanes quickly as the old negative feelings about the job rise to the fore; normally within a few months.

So, how do you tell the difference between someone who is ready to commit and someone who is a risk? Which should win in this case: your head or your heart? Well the two parts of you don’t have to be exclusive: your head and your heart both have some important things to contribute to this dicussion.

Recently, I came across a TED talk: ‘Why the Best Hire Might Not Have the Best Resume’. The talk discusses why sometimes the ‘scrapper’ with a patchwork CV might end up being a better choice than the ‘silver spoon’: that is, the one with the perfect resume. Steve Jobs, for instance, was a ‘scrapper’. This TED talk topic appealed to me because I’ve taken a chance and hired backpackers and dockwalkers with seemingly doubtful CVs over the years, and they’ve gone on to have successful yachting careers. I took a risk based on instinct, and it paid off.

To find the balance between logic and instinct, let’s go through the pros and cons of hiring those who have had lots of different jobs.

1.They tend to be highly adaptable.
2.They normally bring lots of different skills and knowledge from other yachts.
3.People who have had to jump jobs often due to no fault of their own can feel they are at a disadvantage because of this, so when they do find a good fit they tend to be very hardworking and very loyal to the person who believed in them and gave them a chance.

1.Genuine drifters can lose interest and start planning the next adventure.
2.They may have an attitude problem that has stopped them from being kept on.
3.While they have a wide range of skills on the surface, most crew really need to be on a yacht for at least a year before they truly know the boat and become high performers.

Things you can do to help with the decision

Ø Put him on a trial for as long as you can before making a decision. See if any cracks appear.

Ø Have a lengthy chat with as many of his past captains as you can. Really delve into what he was like as a crewmember: performance, crew dynamics and attitude.

Ø Pose him some tough questions about past jobs in a formal interview: see my past post on spotting liars for some tell-tale clues.

Ø Impress upon him that you’re taking a mighty chance on him, and that you need him to prove the doubters wrong. This is how you generate loyalty and bring out any inner grit he has.

Ø Keep him engaged with short-term goals to get the best out of him, serial job-hoppers tend to like projects and challenges with an end in sight.

Ø Explain that his probation period is anything but a rubber stamp- and that he will be evaluated regularly. Tell him what your expectations are.

Ø You could even run a 20 minute personality profiling tool on him to assess how he will fit in with your crew and culture. (I can help with that.)

Great things can happen when we take chances on people we have a good feeling about, yet you also need to minimise the risk of hiring someone without proven longevity. My number one greatest hiring tip is “Hire character, train skill.” If you and others he has worked with before have a strong feeling that his character is commendable, you should be able to bring him into the team and bring out the best in him so he will want to stay as long as possible.

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