Seaman Interview Questions & Answers for Cadets

Seaman Interview Questions & Answers for Cadets

Eve Jones

Interviews can be nerve wracking, especially at the beginning of your career in seafarer jobs. So it makes perfect sense to be as prepared as you can be for any seaman questions and answers you might encounter.

It doesn’t matter whether your job interview is in person, or over Skype or Zoom, you need to be on the ball when it comes to putting yourself ahead of the competition!

And luckily for you, Martide can help you with that.

As a company that works with shipping companies, manning agents and seafarers, we think we have pretty good insider knowledge when it comes to knowing what employers in the maritime industry are looking for. And what they’re asking candidates who apply for their seafarer jobs.

container ship and advert for Martide's maritime recruitment platform

(Keep reading and we’ll tell you how we can help you find your next job at sea at the end of this blog post!)

Read more: How to Prepare for a Skype or Zoom Interview

So what do you need to know if you’re applying as a cadet for entry level cargo ship jobs?

For a start, the way you behave in interviews is crucial - and that goes both for when you interview in an office face to face, and when you interview over the phone or a video call. You need to be confident - but not so confident that you come across like a complete know-it-all.

That’s not going to impress anyone - especially if you’re applying for entry level maritime jobs!

You should also do some research on the shipping company that you’re applying to. This is just standard politeness and shows interest in the job and the company.

Remember - there are plenty of other cadets looking for work and if you rock up to an interview without even the most basic knowledge about the people you want to employ you, you’re probably going to get passed over in favor of someone who is prepared!

the word 'nope' written on wood

Interview etiquette aside, let’s take a more in-depth look at the seaman interview questions and answers that you might come up against in your job interview for a cadet.

Seaman interview questions and answers for cadets

First of all, be aware that if you’re applying for seafarer jobs, the shipping company or manning agent will have carefully checked your seaman resume and your documents.

Depending on circumstances, they may have also requested a reference check on you from the manning agency.  

They will likely also want you to have taken your CES (Crew Evaluation System) test and will want to know what you scored.

So now let’s look at some of the seaman questions and answers you might come up against during an interview for a seafarer job.

yellow street sign saying 'questions answers'

First of all, an interviewer might ask you how many contracts you have had under your present seafarer rank. If you’re a cadet and you’re only just starting out in entry level cargo ship jobs, don’t worry, as you won’t be expected to have had loads of contracts or seatime.

They will normally also want to know what your level of English is, as obviously this is important for working in maritime jobs at sea where the working language is English and you may be working with seafarers of a number of different nationalities.

Read more: How to Communicate Better When Working in Seafarer Jobs

Another common question in an interview for maritime jobs (in fact for any jobs!) is why you left your last job or previous employer.

The important thing to remember here is to not bad mouth your previous shipping company - this will NOT go down well with a prospective employer!

woman with duct tape over her mouth

And it’s very likely that the person interviewing you will want to know when you’re available and ready to join a ship.

Be as transparent here as possible - whether it’s a shipping company, a manning agent, or one of the maritime recruitment agencies, they will need to know this information so they can meet the next crew changeover date for the position you’re interviewing for.

You can also expect an interviewer to also ask you about your previous experience working with various nationalities, the different trading areas you have worked in, the types of vessels you have worked on, and your experience with different types of cargo and how to handle it.

Knowledge of seafarer codes and conventions

Other seaman questions and answers could involve your dry dock experience, and whether you have your PSC (Proficiency in Survival Craft) certificate.

An employer will probably also ask you about your knowledge regarding the ISM (International Safety Management) Code, the ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility) Code and the MLC (Maritime Labor Convention).

you got this written in chalk on tarmac

Think that’s everything? Not quite!

In an interview for a seafarer job you may also be asked about your knowledge of international conventions such as SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea), MARPOL (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) and STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping).

More questions you may be asked in seafarer job interviews

A prospective employer will also want to know if you have been involved in any accidents or incidents, if there are any issues with alcohol abuse and, looking on the brighter side, your expectations of working for that shipping company and your future plans.

Shipping companies, manning agents and maritime recruitment agencies will also be keen to know how you will cope with a life at sea - especially if you’re at the start of your career and are applying for cadet jobs or entry level cargo ship jobs.

view of land from a ship's porthole

Spending months away from your friends and family can be tough and it takes a certain kind of personality to be able to cope with life at sea. It’s in an employer’s best interests (and yours!) to make sure that you’re going to be okay mentally with working as a cadet or an ordinary seaman, miles away from home.

Read more: How to Cope with Working Away From Home at Sea

Informal seaman interview questions and answers

Obviously an employer will need to know your experience and seatime are what you say they are, and that all of your seafaring documents are in order before they make the decision to hire you, but they may also want to chat to you to get a greater understanding of how you would handle the very specific challenges of life at sea.

For example, they might want to know what you would do if you spotted something on fire? How would you deal with seeing a man overboard?

As a cadet, it is understandable if you don’t know a shipping company’s specific emergency procedure, but according to your answer the interviewer can gauge whether or not you understand how serious a situation is and your general awareness of an emergency.

emergency exit door sign

We know of one interviewer, for example, who likes to ask candidates for seafarer jobs to draw what they think signal lights look like for various vessels - for example, pilot board or a drifting vessel etc.

This shows the interviewer if the candidate learned COLREG (the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea) by heart, which they should have done in first grade if the cadet was a good student.

Other seafarer job interview questions you might find thrown at you and which you should be prepared for are explaining tricky hypothetical scenarios such as if you were the only capable person onboard during an emergency, what would you do if you had to abandon ship? Or what would you take with you in the rescue boat from the bridge?

Questions like this give an interviewer insight into how you deal with emergencies and also shows them whether or not you know about the various items of safety equipment, as well as the general rules of salvage.

lifebuoy mounted on the railings of a vessel

The question that’s almost always asked at job interviews

No matter whether you’re applying for jobs at sea, entry level cargo ship jobs, able bodied seaman jobs, ordinary seaman jobs, chief engineer jobs, or even jobs in ports and shipping offices - if you’re at the beginning of your career, many interviewers will ask you why you chose that profession.

Make no mistake, this gives great insight into your motivation and dedication to become a good seafarer, but it is also a great way of checking how you can communicate in English, if English isn’t your native language.

Shipping company interview questions and answers for cadets: conclusion

Life at sea is tough yet rewarding but if you’re finding it hard to break into your chosen profession, we hope that these seaman interview question and answers tips will help you.

There are also a number of things to do (and not do!) when you’re actually at an interview so you might want to check out a couple more of our blog posts that cover interview tips for anyone applying to jobs at sea.

container ship on the ocean at sunset

Further reading:

5 Mistakes You Must Avoid When Interviewing for Seafarer Jobs
4 More Mistakes Not to Make in Interviews for Seafarer Jobs

Meanwhile if you’re at the stage in your career in the merchant navy where you’re actively looking for a seafarer job, why not let Martide help?

We’re always looking for various seafarer ranks ranging from Able Bodied Seaman to Chief Engineer and from ship Electrician to Ordinary Seaman to ship’s Master and beyond. You can take a look at our current seafarer jobs online here.

Meanwhile you should also download the free Martide app for seamen. It’s the ideal way to check out maritime jobs on the go, upload your online seaman resume, and stay in touch with shipping companies, Martide, and manning agents - no matter where in the world you are.

Download the app today from the App Store for Apple devices or from Google Play for Android.