How to Write a Really Great Seafarer Resume & Cover Letter

How to Write a Really Great Seafarer Resume & Cover Letter

Eve Jones

Knowing you need a great seafarer resume to stand out from the crowd when you're looking for jobs at sea is one thing, but knowing how to achieve that can be quite another.

So in a crowded marketplace such as the maritime industry, how do you make sure you rise head and shoulders above your fellow seamen and get the seafarer jobs that you really want?

How to write a great seafarer resume and cover letter

Whether you’re sending your resume to a shipping company, manning agency or maritime recruitment agency, one thing is certain: that the person dealing with hiring crew for vessels is busy and sees dozens of applications a day.

So how do you make sure yours is one of the resumes that makes the “potential" pile and not the “only call as a last resort” folder - or worse - the "under no circumstances" category!?

Represent yourself in the best light possible

And while no one is expecting your resume to be a literary masterpiece given that you’re applying for seafarer jobs and not jobs in journalism or publishing, making sure you’re representing yourself in the best light possible is still important.

Read more: This is Where to Find the Best Seafarer Jobs

Add to that the fact that most of us these days suffer from short attention spans (we can thank hectic schedules, social media, smartphones and the fact we’re always online for that!) and you need to work extra hard to catch the employer or recruiter’s eye.

man in pinstripe suit jacket holding magnifying glass in front of his face

In fact, research has shown that recruitment agencies, HR personnel or the managers in charge of hiring new people only give a resume somewhere between five and thirty seconds of their attention.

That means you’re looking at an average of around 15 seconds of time to impress someone and make them want to contact you with a view to interviewing you!

Make your maritime resume stand out when applying for seafarer jobs

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few sure fire ways you can grab that busy maritime recruitment officer’s attention!

First impressions count

Your resume for a seafarer is the first contact a potential employer or maritime recruitment agent has with you. If you send them a careless, mistake-strewn or scruffy looking resume, chances are you’re not going to get a call or email back.

In the maritime industry, attention to detail is everything, so what does it say about you if you don’t even bother to make sure your first introduction to a company shows that same due care and attention?

Also, you’re not applying for a job in graphic or fashion design so keep the layout of your seafarer resume clean and simple.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re applying for maritime jobs in seaports, entry level cargo ship jobs such as a Deck Rating position on a container ship, for Ordinary Seaman jobs on a VLCC, or for Chief Engineer jobs on a bulk carrier.

Check that the font type and its size is consistent throughout the document and steer clear of fancy formatting or words all in capital letters.

Wooden capital letters in a box

Make sure your dates match up and that spelling mistakes are non-existent. Think about whether or not you’d want to read your resume for a seafarer if it landed in your email inbox.

If it looks like it’s too much hard work, then a potential employer will no doubt be thinking the same thing.

It’s a resume, not a book

You might be pretty proud of your list of achievements but remember that five to thirty second time limit we spoke of earlier.

To put it brutally, busy maritime recruitment agencies and shipping companies who are hiring for their seafarer jobs don’t have the time (or the inclination!) to read pages of text.

Having said that, you need to add enough detail to make sure you’re sparking enough interest to give the person reading your resume a reason to get in touch with you: a list of job titles and no information about your achievements isn’t going to cut it either.

The ideal length for a resume for a seafarer? Make it concise yet informative and keep it to two sides of A4 paper.

Give the clichés a miss

We’ve no doubt that you’re hard-working and a team player. We’re sure you can work just as well on your own as you do with co-workers and that you’re a dynamic go-getter.

The problem is, so is everybody else. Let’s face it, no one is going to put that they like taking it easy on their maritime resume or that they hate working with other people. You need to find a way to stand out.

pale wooden chess set with one dark wood pawn in middle

Open your resume with a snappy summary of who you are and what you’ve achieved.

Stick to the facts and resist the temptation to use words like ambitious and hard worker etc. Then, when it comes to listing your work experience, go into a little more detail and tell the employer what you did, how you did it and why you’re great at it!

Who knows, you might even land one of those coveted top paying maritime jobs!

Don’t be modest...or at least too modest

No one likes a big head but the point of your seaman resume is to sell yourself. Most of us find it hard to write about ourselves, but unfortunately writing a resume for a seafarer is one of those times that you’re just going to have to suck it up and get on with it!

If you’ve achieved something, tell your potential employer about it.

They’re not a mind reader and being able to demonstrate why you’re the ideal candidate for that seafarer job could mean the difference between landing the position or being completely overlooked.

Keep it factual and, most importantly, be able to back up your claims!

Don’t be a stranger!

You’ve put all that hard work into writing a seafarer resume that perfectly sums up your experience in the maritime industry, or the qualifications you gained at marine academy.

You’re expecting a call or an email...but, disappointingly, you hear nothing back.

You’d be surprised at the amount of job applicants who go the extra mile to create an outstanding resume then neglect to include their contact details.

street art painting of white rabbit on telephone landline on purple brick wall

We can’t say this clearly enough: make sure the shipping company or recruiter knows how to get in touch with you. That means including a telephone number and email address, and your Skype or Zoom ID too if you have one as they might want to arrange a Skype or Zoom interview with you.

Read more: What You Need to Include on Your Seafarer Resume

Employers in the maritime industry understand that you might not be able to get to the phone right there and then, or that you might be away working at sea and likely to be in a different time zone.

But make sure you state that in your cover letter. (Oh yes, we did we mention the cover letter...?)

After all, even the most determined of maritime recruitment agencies, shipowners or ship managers is going to give up and move on to the next suitable candidate if they can’t get hold of you for no apparent reason.

How to write a cover letter for your seafarer resume

We're afraid we're not done just yet, because if you're sending a CV or seaman resume to an employer, manning agent or maritime recruitment agency, you're going to need to say something to introduce yourself.

pink and white neon sign of a speech bubble and the word hello

The likelihood is you won't be sending a company your maritime resume in the mail therefore you won't need a 'physical' letter. But sending a blank email with your resume attached is only going to get your message fast tracked to the receiver's trash or junk folder!

Would you open an email and click on attachments with no other information? It screams spam and would send most people's cyber security senses into overdrive!

And besides, it's just not very polite to send someone an email and not introduce yourself or explain why you're contacting them!

Your seafarer resume may be impressive but you won't win any Brownie points for your professionalism!

The good news is, a cover letter (or cover email) doesn't have to be pages long. In fact, it's better if it isn't! We're back to that employer's or agent's lack of time to sit and read everything they're sent.

woman sitting at her laptop with her head in her lands looking stressed

What to include in a seafarer cover letter

Start by addressing the person you're emailing. Having an actual person's name is best, for example; Dear Mr. Reyes, or Dear Miss. Kravets. If you're forwarding your email and resume for a seaman to a general crewing or recruitment department email address using Dear Sir or Madam will be fine.

Next state which seafarer job you are applying for and include a brief summary of the skills and work history that are relevant to that position. This only needs to be a short paragraph.  

Finally, finish with another short paragraph about how you're confident you have the skills and aptitude for the job and how you're looking forward to hearing back from the employer or agency.

This is where you should also mention if you're going to be away at sea so the employer knows they might not be able to get hold of you immediately.

It's fine to show some enthusiasm and even some personality here.

Trust us, as a maritime recruitment platform we receive many copy and paste, uninspiring cover emails and the ones that definitely stand out are the ones that have been written with some passion and dedication.

feet standing on sidewalk in front of the words 'passion led us here'

And...as with your seaman resume...don't forget to include your contact details!

Martide make it easy to find seafarer jobs

For more tips about how to write a resume for a seafarer, check out this blog post here. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for seafarers jobs online, check out our jobs at sea here.

And the really good news is that if the thought of sitting down and writing a resume for a seafarer and a cover letter fills you with dread, Martide has the answer.

That's because all you need to do to apply for any of our seafarer jobs is to create an account with Martide. You can then fill in your personal info, your education and your work experience and then upload copies of your seafarer documents.

It's like having your very own online seafarer resume!

Then when you want to apply for one of our jobs at sea, all you need to do is click the apply button on the seafarer job ad and your application will be automatically sent to the employer.

hand holding smartphone with Martide seafarer jobs app on the screen

Best of all, you only have to do this once and you can hit that apply button as many times for as many jobs as you like. No seaman resume to sit down and write, no boring cover letters to draft, and no emails to send over and over again.

Just easy (and free) access to your next seafarer job!

You can even apply for jobs at sea through Martide when you’re on the go thanks to our handy app which we’ve developed especially for seafarers.

The app is free, easy to use and also makes it simple to track your applications and stay in touch with employers and manning agents.

If you're an Android user you can download the app through Google Play here and if you have an iPhone, you can get it from the Apple App Store here.

This blog post was originally published on August 28th 2019 and updated on February 18th 2021.