If you’re applying for seafarer jobs, chances are you might be asked to attend an interview. And the very nature of the shipping industry means that your potential employer - for example one of Martide’s clients - is operating globally. That means, as a seaman who is applying for one of our maritime jobs, you might be located in a completely different country to the shipowner or ship manager.
You might be in Ukraine, Philippines or Ethiopia but the company you’ve applied for a job with might be in Germany, Montenegro or China. So what does that mean when it comes to attending an interview? Surely you’re not going to be expected to hop on a flight and turn up to a traditional interview face-to-face in the shipping company or manning agent’s office?
The good news is, that’s a very unlikely scenario. So how are you going to get your chance to impress a maritime recruitment agency or employer and make sure you’re the one chosen for those hot vacancies for seamen you have your eye on?!
This is where video interviews using software such as Skype and Zoom can help. And that’s exactly why we’re going to take a look at what Skype and Zoom are, and more importantly, how you can prepare for a video interview in this blog post.
How to prepare for a Skype or Zoom interview to win seafarer jobs
First of all, what is Zoom and what is Skype? Skype and Zoom are video conferencing solutions that connect people over the internet instead of using a regular mobile phone or landline. They’ve been used in business for some time now, but being a seafarer, you might have also used them to video call with your family or friends back home while you’re away working in maritime jobs.
Staying in touch is awesome and being able to see the faces of loved ones is particularly great. But Zoom and Skype (and other similar platforms) also come into their own in a business sense.
Virtual reality: meeting in cyberspace
Skype and Zoom are both excellent ways for shipowners, managers, manning agents and seafarers / candidates to ‘meet’ each one another - without having to go to the hassle and expense of booking flights or even just driving down the road!
If you’re a seafarer looking for jobs at sea they let you, as an applicant, explain why your seafaring skills and personality make you the right candidate for the seafarer jobs you’ve applied to, while also allowing you to get a better idea of who you’ll be working for.
In fact, as a seafarer who is used to connecting with family, friends or employers from a distance, chances are you’re already an old hand when it comes to Skype and Zoom maritime job interviews. But just in case you're not, or you’re starting out in your career at sea and applying for entry level cargo ship jobs, we thought we’d take a look at what to do when you’re invited to an interview for maritime jobs over the internet.
So, whether you’re fresh out of maritime academy or you’d like to brush up on your etiquette and ensure your Zoom and Skype video interview technique is going to win you your next seafarer job, read on as we take a look at the do's and don’ts of video interviews.
Be professional in a Skype or Zoom interview
The main thing to remember is that even though you might not be in the same room as the person interviewing you, they can still see and hear you and you need to maintain the same level of professionalism as you would if you were meeting your potential employer face to face.
You want to be making a great first impression if you’re going to line up that contract and be hired for the jobs at sea you really want. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re applying for top paying shipping jobs, chief marine engineer jobs, shipfitter jobs or entry level cargo ships jobs. Being professional is a must. Don’t be tempted to let things slide and act casual just because you’re not in the employer, manning agent or maritime recruitment agent’s office!
Preparing for your Zoom or Skype interview
Because this is the maritime industry, chances are you and your interviewer are in completely different countries, maybe even on different continents. That means it’s very possible that you’re going to be in different time zones.
With that in mind, check, check and check again that you have the date and the time of your interview right. The last thing you want to happen is to miss your interview because you haven’t worked out the difference between the shipping company’s time zone and yours. Not a good start!
You also need to do your homework and impress potential employers in the shipping industry, by researching their company. It says a lot about you as to what type of employee or contractor you’ll be: prepared, conscientious, willing to put the work in, and dedicated, to name just a few positive traits.
Best of all, it’s so easy to do: check the shipping company’s website - their About Us or Our Story page is a great place to start. See if the company you’re interviewing for has a social media presence: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are three of the most likely platforms.
If you want to, write down some notes to prompt you when it comes to replying to, and asking questions. (Tip: interviewers generally like it when you ask questions!)
Dressing for the occasion
It can be easy to think that it doesn’t really matter how you rock up to your Skype or Zoom job interview. After all, you’re at home, right?
Wrong. Prepare what you’re going to wear in advance and dress as if you were going to an interview in person. Just because you’re sitting behind your computer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort. And whatever you do, don't fall into that trap of thinking you’ll be able to get away with wearing sweatpants or your pajama bottoms with a shirt or blouse!
However unlikely it might seem, you may find you need to stand up at some point to plug in your laptop or fetch a seafaring document. Do you really want a potential employer to think that you cut corners and only ever do half a job because that’s what it will look like!
Creating the right environment
Before your Zoom or Skype interview you need to make sure your surroundings are tidy. It’s possible the person on the other side of the screen can see more of your room than you think. Therefore you should make sure there are no embarrassing or unprofessional items in the background! It’s also important to ensure the room you’re in has good lighting.
Plus if it is at all possible, don’t sit with your back to a window as this will create glare and make it tricky for the interviewer to see you.
Peace and quiet are also important. If you’re taking the call at home and you have children who will be around, ask someone to look after them during the interview. (We’ve all seen the YouTube video of the dad (a professor) being interviewed by the BBC from home when his kids burst into the room, right?!)
The same goes for pets. Shut cats and dogs out of the room and if your dog is a barker make sure they can’t be heard - or ask someone to take them for a walk.
Live with your partner, family or roommates? Make sure they know when you’re interviewing and don’t interrupt you. It’s also a good idea to use headphones which will help you hear the interviewer more clearly and also block out any distractions.
Time to get (kind of) technical
Now you don’t have to be the most technically adept person on the face of the planet, but there are a couple of things to do that will make all the difference to the interview experience - and they don’t require a masters in computer science to understand. And they’ll make you look more professional and organized, and put you in a better position to win that seafarer job!
Make sure you’re set up and ready to go around 10 minutes before the interview’s actual start time. You might also want to run a sound test beforehand to make sure your Skype or Zoom and internet are in good working order. Check that your webcam on your laptop or computer is positioned so the interviewer can see you properly and bear in mind that it's much better if you use a desktop PC or a laptop for the interview - a handheld device such as an iPad or your smartphone does not look professional. Save FaceTime for the family!
You should also close down any unnecessary websites and background applications, especially if they might make any noise. And it might go without saying, but make sure your computer is either fully charged or plugged in - the last thing you want is your laptop battery dying on you halfway through the interview!
During the interview
Phew - that was a lot to take in, but it’s all really important stuff if you want to be in with the best shot of getting one of the hot vacancies for seafarers and other maritime jobs that you’ve been chasing! So now let’s take a look at what you should (and shouldn’t) do during a Skype or Zoom interview.
Do: Make eye contact
Body language is just as important when you’re interviewing over Skype or Zoom for jobs at sea as it is if you're sitting in an office with the interviewer. Sit up straight, listen, smile and look interested!
If you were being interviewed in person, you wouldn’t think of gazing around the room and not looking the interviewer in the eye. But talking to someone through a screen can make that a little awkward. Not sure where to look? Don’t look at the screen itself, but look at the actual camera to make sure you’re maintaining eye contact with the other person.
On a similar note, the sound won’t be as clear as if you were talking to someone in the same room and the internet connection may cause delays, so speak clearly. This is especially important if one or both of you aren’t native speakers of the language the interview is being conducted in.
Do: Highlight your good points
The main topic of conversation while you’re interviewing for jobs at sea is likely to be your work experience, so be prepared to answer any questions the interviewer might have. Keep a printed copy of your seafarer resume next to you so you can quickly refer to dates, timelines and jobs.
Want to know how to write a great CV or resume for a seafarer? We have you covered here. On a similar note, keep your logbook with you too for the same purpose.
Once the interviewer has satisfied themselves that your experience in the shipping industry is potentially a match for one of their vacant seafarer jobs, it’s likely they’ll ask you some questions about your current role or contract. Standard questions that often get asked in interviews for jobs in the maritime industry include why do you want to work for our shipping company and why do you want to leave your current company?
They’ll probably also ask you if you have any questions. This is where the research you did beforehand will come in handy. Showing interest by asking something relevant about the position you’re applying for is always good, as is asking questions about the company itself.
One thing to avoid talking about though is salary - this will make you look like you’re more interested in the money than the actual job. Of course, we all want to be paid for our time - and paid fairly - but now is not the time or the place to discuss that. Wait until you’ve actually got a job offer in the bag.
Do: Finish on a high note
The end of the video interview is where you should be leaving the interviewer with nothing but positive vibes! As it’s drawing to a close, thank them for taking the time to talk to you and let them know, once again, that you are definitely interested in the jobs at sea they are advertising and that you’ve applied for.
Are Skype and Zoom free to use?
It’s a good question - after all, you don’t want to be paying for your interview! The good news is that both Skype and Zoom are free to use if you’re an individual. If you and the interviewer are both using Skype it will be free. Zoom is also free of charge although companies can choose to upgrade to a paid package if they have a lot of users, but for you as a job seeker, you won’t need to pay.
Find new seafarer jobs now
Are you interested in applying for seafarer jobs in the shipping industry as a fitter, second engineer or chief officer? Maybe you’re looking for vacant oiler jobs or for work as a junior electrician on a container ship? At Martide we have open seafarer jobs for all officers and ratings, from master to entry level cargo ship jobs. Take a look at our maritime jobs board now and find hot vacancies for seamen now!
And don’t forget, if you’re a seafarer who is looking for jobs at sea, you should download our free mobile app too. Android users can download the app from Google Play here and iPhone users can find it in the Apple Store here.
The app makes it much easier for you to stay in touch with employers, manning agents and Martide and it also means that your next seafarer job is just a couple of clicks away. Win win!
This post was originally published on August 30th 2019 and updated on April 8th 2020.