In today’s industry, the complaints surrounding zero-to-hero captains and young guns shooting up the ladder are ample. The industry is quite clearly frustrated by the lack of experience some of – but not all – today’s captains. So it came as quite a surprise to me when, in passing, a captain told me he was turned down for more than one job simply because he was “too experienced”.

“I was informed on two occasions recently when applying for rotational captain positions on board two 70m-plus new builds that I am too experienced for the position,” he recalls. For this captain, it is clear what “too experienced” meant. “[It was] a polite way of saying the existing/lead captain has less experience and feels threatened. What happened with hiring the best man for the job and truly looking out for the owner’s best interests?”

This was not through the fault of the recruitment agent, the captain goes on. “[The agency] questioned the decisions but was powerless to influence the decisions as it didn’t provide the management for the vessel.” In this case, the owners and owners’ representatives had placed the responsibility for hiring in the hands of the existing captains. “With attitudes like that, it would suggest the programmes were not for me in the long run," the captain elaborates. "A small consolation, but not uncommon in our industry."

Credit: Jonathan Zaugh

According to one recruitment agency, who wishes to remain anonymous, there might be something in the fact of captains having too much experience. “We all agree that candidates can be ‘too experienced’ due to many factors, but sometimes people do not see it this way,” the agency told me, offering the following reasons some captains might be viewed as being too experienced:

  1. One candidate has a commercial CoC (certificate of competency), over the other having a limited yacht CoC
  2. One candidate has a very different skill set to the other; a captain from a 90m yacht looking at a job on a 25m yacht could be classed as over-experienced
  3. The personality of a candidate could come across as ‘too experienced’ for the role; this depends on what the client is looking for in a person

There is a difference between someone being "too experienced" and lacking the relevant experience, however. A captain is still a captain. The experience he or she might have on a 100m-plus vessel will be different to the experience of a captain on a 25m vessel, but as long as the captain actually has the experience, does the amount matter? And would an owner pass up the chance of having a captain termed “too experienced” or would an owner prefer a captain at the helm of his or her superyacht with as much experience as possible?

But the recruitment agency adds something that might explain it: “The term ‘too experienced’ can be used in a variety of ways if other reasons do not want to be disclosed”, something we are all too familiar with in this industry.