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What do sponsoring companies really look for in prospective cadets?

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  • What do sponsoring companies really look for in prospective cadets?

    Just passed my ENG1-Unrestricted so now I'm beginning applications for a December intake.

    I know its quite a difficult question to answer because different employers no doubt look for different types of people for their cadetship programs, but what really makes someone stand out? I've used the search function to not much avail and I understand that as far as I am aware, no-one (or at most very few) posters on this site work in recruitment.

    I've seen quite a few academic types on this forum get knocked back despite no doubt having the ability to complete the academic component, companies seem to be happy so long as someone they think someone will simply understand and pass the theoretical components of the cadetships.

    Many people on here seem to have a lot of life experience yet still don't make it (although many are mid-twenties onwards).

    No doubt raw enthusiasm is important but I think it is quite difficult to convey that in an application (maybe I come across as a little too distant/aloof in my applications, I don't really know to appear massively enthusiastic without appearing unprofessional or over the top).

    Last year the only interview I got was with a company I phoned about three times (bear in mind very few made the interview stage for this discipline/route, there were about three I think). I don't necessarily want to nag companies and annoy them but this seemed to work last year since the company I contacted the most was the one that offered me an interview. The reason for the knockback was that they simply didn't think I was ready yet, not enough life-experience.

    Lastly, how important is attending an open day, I haven't had much of an opportunity yet but intend to possibly do so sometime in the future. Whilst I understand its useful in that it puts a face to the name and may allow them to remember certain people, is it critical in getting a job?

  • #2
    I think one question you need to ask is how in the 6 months have you affected the 'life experience' that you were lacking last time other than simply having become older without doing anything.

    I'm not sure what route you believe only 3 people got through to interview though, as the only classes that tend to run with that number are engineering fast trak

    If you can get along to an open day its worth while not really for being remembered, but simply as you cna then bring it up in the interview and that in turn is good. as it shows that your keen, interested and will also have had time to ask questions/ think about the up and down sides
    you can take it with a pinch of salt, but i prefer it with a nip of whisky


    • #3
      Hi Chris and welcome back!

      As you say it is a difficult question to answer... in summary (although I guess obvious) due to the competition these days they are looking for people they feel are most likely to complete the cadetship (not just that they have the academic ability - but that they are not going to pull out - traditionally a large number of cadets who start ended up leaving for various reasons!); and secondly they are looking for people who they think will fit in onboard their vessels (hence why some conduct psychometric testing (sp?)).

      Life experience is probably more for persons who are not going direct from school / education - as I am sure you know most recruiters aim to take people straight from school (either at GCSE or more commonly these days A-level/Higher stage) although there is an increasing number of persons going after completing a degree at university.

      In my humble opinion; if you have experience working as part of a team (so pretty much any job) - if its passenger companies you are applying to; probably having experience in customer facing roles (shops/bars/restaurants) might help. Have you been away from "home" for periods of time? was a question I was asked by one of the interviewers; Why do you want to join the merchant navy - use your cover letter to explain this - especially if you are switching careers (eg: If you were at university or working) - if you've made numerous career changes then I would say this maybe works against you as it would give the impression you're not sure what you want to do!

      If you're applying to numerous companies then personalise the cover letter for each company - eg; why you want to work for X.

      If you've been in previous employment / a career then bare in mind there will be a substantial drop in your income - something which I would suggest you show you have considered as part of your cover letter.

      Several companies have application forms - if you have the option of sending a CV or application form, I would always recommend you send the application form (and attach your CV to it).

      Open Days will give you an opportunity to see around the college and speak to current cadets as well as the training officers / recruiters - I never attended an open day prior to applying, but if you can I recommend it. Some companies will conduct interviews at the open days and take copies of your CV along.

      Good luck and do let us know how you get on...
      ?Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn?t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.?

      ? Mark Twain
      myBlog | @alistairuk | flickr | youtube Views and opinions expressed are those of myself and not representative of any employer or other associated party.


      • #4
        An excellent question and I hope one of the training providers' representatives will be here to give us their views.

        In the meantime, the recent changes to the way that SMarT funding is paid to the training providers, with a larger proportion paid on successful completion of the CoC, combined with the huge increase in college fees, should focus the minds of the sponsors upon 1) those most likely to successfully complete, with all the qualities that entails, and 2) those who they actually want to employ upon completion, again with all the qualities to fit their business and existing personnel.

        Taking on heavily Government-subsidised young cadets to do 'skivvying work' to maintain a shipping company's Tonnage Tax status is no longer the cheap option it was. If a shipping company finds that the cost of maintaining a UK management office and its UK Tonnage Tax status provides only marginal savings they will probably drop out of it. Those that remain will possibly fall in to two groups with overlap: 1) those more interested in actually recruiting their future officers and engineers as it will now cost them to train them and/or 2) those with so much tax to be saved through the UK Tonnage Tax scheme that the costs of training are still small in comparison. We can speculate which type of companies these may be.

        Although, I can't answer your question directly, I imagine the 2012 SMarT & college fees changes mean that fewer cadets will be successful and those that are will be very, very good candidates for the shipping companies who sponsor them.


        • #5
          Firstly, thanks for the advice so far.

          ETwhat?-The last time I applied was for a September 2011 intake, at the time I had dropped out of uni and my only work experience was in retail. Now I'm working in as an apprentice taking part in the designing and testing of some of the most advanced vessels around. I was attracted to the apprenticeship because I hadn't got any offers from the MN and this was the closest thing to it( we were told that we could get a few weeks at sea during the programme, this has since been effectively removed). Also, I've taken up a couple of new hobbies since then. Whilst I don't wish to identify the company that interviewed me, they are quite small, not one of the names that often appear in these forums.

          alistairuk-I have had some experience working in a customer facing environment. Whilst I haven't had long periods away from home (about a week max) I have had quite a bit of time on my own at home (longest was about a month). Personalising a cover letter sounds a great idea, whilst I do change things for different types of companies, I hadn't put any company specific knowledge in, historically I had saved that for the interview although I will do this in future. Considering income, having looked at what different companies offer, as far as I am aware there shouldn't be a massive drop in income. Application form wise, I do always complete the application forms, have attached CV's/Cover Leters where allowed.

          timmilea-I haven't looked to the SMarT funding changes in detail except that I know that there has been a decrease in funding, presumably because of the increase in the number of cadets compared with places. I remember a few years ago there were adverts on the radio encouraging people to apply, which seems to have worked quite well for those who are recruiting. I just hope the industry doesn't change in the manner that the airline industry did where most people now have to pay for all of their training. Training at sea no doubt costs a lot of money and in the airline world sadly a lot of parents are remortgaging their homes so that their son/daughter can afford the training fees, its effectively a financial arms race.

          In addition, I am quite surpised that a lot of companies don't use online psychometric testing to weed people out, for pretty much everything else I've applied to in the past which is highly competitive, I have often had to complete either one or two reounds of online testing before I've even been considered for an interview (this has been typically apprenticeships, air traffic control and the financial services sector). I can only guess that this is due to the fact that there has been an application boom recently and companies simply haven't got round to dealing with the vast increase in applicants quite yet.


          • #6
            Ok that adds a bit more depth, working backwards
            things like Psychometric testing - its new fangled and easily miss used (i.e. it can give you useless data) the MN seems to be stuck in a dark age for so many things HR is just one of them.
            Funding - its been reduced in the over all amount, but the reduction was aimed at keeping the number of new first time cadets the same, this has reduced availablity to current staff getting asstance with hight tickets. (but shouldnt affect you)

            Retail/customer service, this is a decent thing to have dont over blow it in a covering letter though.

            I am concerned that you are dropping out of an apprenticeship now, having already failed to complete a degree. a degree is totally different its purely academic and is often not that related to the type of work your going to be doing. while you say that the conditions of the scheme you are on now has changed from what you originally expected your going to have to really work on presenting yourself as someone who can commit for a long period 3-5years It may even be worth sitting it out till after you complete the apprenticeship. I'm still unsure of what discipline you are looking at, as that has nothing to do with the company you apply/train with
            you can take it with a pinch of salt, but i prefer it with a nip of whisky


            • #7
              I think the fact I got to speak with the head honcho of Clyde Marine helped me a lot and I did that at the Warsash open day last February. I have a university degree in English, have done a little travelling and teaching abroad and had just moved back from Canada where I used to work in a large team of foreign internationals (in a coffee shop, but nonetheless, Toronto coffee shops usually only hire people on working visa's so I was working alongside Japanese, Korean, Chilean, Mexican, Moldovan, Lithuanian, French... Scottish lol) so I had a decent amount of experience working alongside people from very different backgrounds and had lived away, a long way, from home for quiet a while. I had a background doing a fair few unfavourable jobs such as a binman, but no career as such so I could justify moving in and out of work.

              I drafted a cover letter that spoke about growing up by the sea and the maritime lore in Cornwall and watching the ships at Falmouth, I felt it might sound a little hokey but my background has certainly steered my interest in ships and subsequently a career aboard them. If you get to the interview stage you need to express a real desire and a certain amount of knowledge helps to about the career AND the course (I thought I'd blown the interview at this point because I'd largely forgotten what the course would entail but managed to recount a lot of stuff), I'm a ship spotter (a bit sad I know) so when they asked me about what you'd find on a bridge I basically filled the box two times over, I've also been on a few bridge tours and mentioned that in the interview (I also told them what car carrier was docked across from the IBIS hotel I was staying at in Southampton). Name dropping Officer Cadet doesn't hurt either, recruiters know about this place and know that if you've been here you'll have done some research into the career, but also mention your other experiences. I'd have thought working in an apprenticeship within in the maritime sector could be a help, but you'll have to be very exacting (probably in your cover letter and again at interview) about the reasons why you are choosing to leave it. Have some questions prepared, mine were all about ship types and what additional courses I may go on if I got the cadetship.

              Oddly enough I was considering ATC at one point in my life.


              • #8
                The primary thing they are looking for is commitment. This is not like a day job, going to sea for any length of time requires a serious commitment and to be honest (and I'm not being nasty in any way), you've dropped out of Uni and you'd be dropping out of another apprenticeship and that isn't going to look all that impressive to a potential recruiter because what's to guarantee that you will have the commitment to stick it out and make it to the end? Swearing blind you will to them will not be enough, they will need something else.

                Life experience means very little to be honest, because unless you've actually sailed in some capacity or another then it really means bugger all as you will have no idea what the life is like until you actually go and do it (and believe me, it's nothing like "Cruise Ship Diaries" and what not). Having the academics is all well and good, but to be honest, even that isn't enough. You need to be able to convince the recruiter that you are the best candidate.

                Again, I'm not being nasty, but I have done a brief stint with general crew recruitment and cadet recruiting and to be honest, unless you had a really damn good reason for dropping out of the two other courses (and it would have to involve deaths and what not), I probably wouldn't have recruited you as you would be too much of a liability.
                I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.....

                All posts here represent my own opinion and not that of my employer.


                • #9
                  ramfeild66-I can definitely see how travel abroad and knowledge of various customs would be a great advantage. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled quite extensively for someone of my age but only on holiday, I haven't lived or worked abroad. Also, I can see how people's passion for ships could help get them into the MN too. It is quite interesting though that many people on here seem to have considered aviation as a career. From what I can gather the core competencies for flight crew and MN officers are in some ways quite similiar (teamwork, maths/physics, understanding of navigation/engineering etc, besides being operational as opposed to design roles).

                  ETwhat? and GuinnessMan-I can see how dropping out of both uni and an apprenticeship could be of a concern. Theres quite a few reasons for both which I will briefly explain.

                  Uni: Out of my depth mathematically really, didn't enjoy the purely theoretical nature of the course. Also, I was well aware that in order to get a good job at the end I would need to get at least a 2:1 or a First, didn't see neither happening. I was struggling with first year calculus and there was a lot of stuff I simply didn't understand, I didn't see how I could succeed in industry if I couldn't understand the material, even if I could do some of it in exams at uni.

                  Apprenticeship: Totally different this one, the reason I gave earlier was one of many. Whilst the department I am working in now is very good, a lot of stuff happened over the past year. There was no discipline, this lead to health and safety risks (people playing with electricity, not wearing correct PPE etc.), bullying of apprentices by certain people in the group (vandlaism of work, victimisation), people taking ridiculous amounts of sickies (one guy did about 30 days spread throughout the year) and a generally toxic atmosphere (amongst both students and lecturers). Neither college or my employer didn't seem to care really, they appeared to believe that dealing with the problems formally would dent their image. Besides, college was a joke, one lecturer even took a class in a workshop (we're talking bandsaws, pillar drills etc. here) whilst still tanked up on booze from the night before. The only problem is, how much of this could I realistically tell a potential employer (the uni bit is fine but I'm not sure they would be impressed about what happened at my current place). I did report some of these problems to my employer at but this just made me unpopular with lecturer's (had trouble getting work signed off) whilst my emplyer did very little about it. Also, at my employer there has been problems around career stagnation for some guys and the company is generally shrinking, I didn't realise either until after I had joined.

                  I haven't really discussed my reasons for leaving in my applications since I felt it would be better to stick to the positives, I have no doubt I'll be asked if I get any further, I just don't really know what to say about my current place.


                  • #10
                    How long do you have left on your apprenticeship? Your still young, my advice would be to stick it out - get the qualifications (and employers reference) and then it will be a easier sell to shipping firms - maybe I enjoy my work and the technical side, but I would like a more active job, not stuck in an office etc

                    Could you shift to another part of the firm? I assume you are talking about a large UK defence contractor as your employer - should be some scope for this, go higher in the mangement chain if needed. If you are making complaints about people or a situation make sure you go in with objective facts and what you would like to see happen.

                    As an aside a guy I know completed an enginnering apprenticeship in a similar environment and he was snapped up by a "good" company for his cadetship - though it was to be an engineer.

                    As someone who has worked in a fair few places sometimes you just have to get on with your own thing - all jobs require you to work with people who can be tits or you don't get on with. Think on that in the MN - you might have to work with someone you hate for 4 months but still have to be effective and profesional. Biting your tongue is a life skill!

                    However if your work mates are bullying you or others or endangering their or others safety then it is not acceptable for your firm or college to ignore this. As above take it up the management chain and state the facts of the situation

                    EDIT: In addition a thought on people who moan about career stagnation/progession in most places of work - it can indeed be in issue but just to make a point that the people who often moan the loudest have not tried for promotion, have issues that you aren't aware off (poor performance etc) or are comfortable and don't want take a risk and move to another firm for example. People rarely praise their employer - even if they are generally happy enough


                    • #11
                      Ok your right the university is easily explained away, especially if you only did a year as whilst the Cadetship is 'foundation degree' its nothing like a university degree program. for the current course your probably needing to sell it as 'i started this to improve my skills whilst still wanting to become an officer' however i would seriously consider simply waiting till you've finished. as you can then use the 'job stagnation etc' as the reason for wanting a change ( i know thats not what you want to hear).
                      you can take it with a pinch of salt, but i prefer it with a nip of whisky


                      • #12
                        I don't want to go in to too much detail about my current employer but my position does appear to have been strenghened slightly in the past couple of days. The problem of career stagnation was raised in such a way that I can only really see it as being genuine. Moving from around the business really depends on what opportunities are available and where but I've been keeping all options open at my current place.

                        I understand that MN sponsoring companies may be very much apprehensive about recruiting someone who will have dropped out of two seperate things at the time of entry, as a result I have been keeping other career options open. That said, a career as a deck officer is my number one preference and since I am applying for January 2013 (whilst everywhere else is September 2013 at the earliest) I am likely to receive any MN offers first. If I don't receive any offers from the MN before September 2013 and an employer outside the MN offers me a good career, then I may not end up with a career in the MN. There is simply a lot of uncertainty at the moment regarding both my current career and what else may be available so I'll simply keep applying and keep as many options open as possible.


                        • #13
                          Just wanted to say thank you for this thread... I'm re-writing my various cover letters and it's been great for advice. Now, back to the grind...