Is it time to say goodbye to superyacht CV photos?
The industry standard is at odds with most shoreside sectors, why do we persist?
Many crew spend hours perfecting their CV photos, and many recruiters provide style guides to assist the crew with the process. The early morning photo shoots in freshly purchased H&M polos on the Paseo Maritimo in Palma de Mallorca are a feature of every spring. The stakes conveyed are high. A bad photo, it is said, is the fastest way to get your CV disregarded. The need to portray your professionalism via a photo that presents you as ‘clean cut’, ‘healthy’ and ‘presentable’ is ostensibly the rationale, but these terms are also euphemisms that support biases, both conscious and unconscious.
Many CVs are disregarded due to ‘bad’ photos, but how do you untangle this reasoning from the reality that candidates are also dismissed because of their race, looks and age. This is the inconvenient truth of many industries, not just yachting and is the backbone of extensive anti-discriminatory legislation. It's not illegal to put a CV photo on, but it is discouraged throughout the vast majority of shoreside industries. As the industry matures, why not follow suit?
The jarring distinction between my ‘yachting cv’ and my first fumbling attempts to write a ‘normal life cv’ was an awkward process to navigate when I moved shoreside, and I am sure that I am not alone. I recall sending my yachting CV to friends and a consultant and them politely sending it back with more corrections and deletions than original content, first and foremost a big X over the photo.
I have been too involved in the hiring process onboard. The crew selection by committee, with printed CVs on open display in the crew mess, may be poised jokingly, but undoubtedly influences the eventual hiring. There is an inordinate amount of oversight given to the bridge over this process on many yachts. The captain, officers and frequently deckhands can be involved in the initial superficial vetting process of female crew in an unconscionable way. A group of men influencing what women to employ from outside their department, for no reason other than aesthetics and the idea of ‘best fit’ is abhorrent. I can follow this with the usual ‘not all yachts’ caveat, but the fact that it persists at all is shameful.
Many recruitment and management companies convey their commitment to equal opportunity, and this is not a critique of corporate diversity practices, which while problematic, have at least gained some attention. But when you place a photo front and centre to someone predisposed to discriminate, that will likely be exactly what happens. The systemic issue of racial discrimination and predatory hiring practices will not be solved by removing a photo. But it may be a step towards maturity for the industry.
At the same time as we are recognising the need for diversity, we continue to persist with a practice that reinforces subconscious biases. As was raised during the session on human capital on Day Two at the Superyacht Forum Live 2021; as the industry laments a shortage of human capital, we also profess to want to increase diversity. One seems to solve the other, but each issue still seems siloed in the discourse. In an already heavily racially skewed industry, we then take the extra discriminatory offramp by throwing a photo in the mix. Like a snake that eats its own tail, it is little wonder that the people who were chosen because they look a certain way, then perpetuate the cycle.
I am under no illusions that, without the photo, the social media sleuths would have a range of images at the ready regardless. As a friend in the industry pointed out “removing the image only differs the discrimination to the zoom call”. While I'm sure this is true, then why not get rid of the photo? If there is no photo sucking all attention to the top corner of the page, and triggering all of the ingrained biases at first glance, maybe the next step would be to actually read the candidates qualifications and experience and they may make it to the interview process. There is a spectrum of discrimination, and like it or not almost all of us exist somewhere on it. Removing this relic of discriminatory practices may seem like a token gesture, but I believe that it would show a willingness to develop as an industry.
The Nuremberg discrimination defence that it is what the owner wants, and we’re only following orders may be undeniable in some cases, but falling back on it will not be looked on kindly with hindsight. Likewise, talking about maintaining ‘the cohesion in the crew mess’ is unlikely to age well. We are a professional industry, as we keep saying. Do we need the first experience of entrant into the industry to be handing over their photo on top of the CV, because, as they have been told, there is so much that hinges on it?
As with all experiences and opinions, I am aware that mine may be atypical, and we would love to hear yours. Please see below a simple two-question survey on the subject. Please note that all answers are strictly anonymous, but the responses may be analysed and published anonymously also.
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