Carnival UK - The Talent Group
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Carnival UK

Finding unique individuals for HR at sea

Carnival UK owns and manages cruise ships that take passengers on trips of a lifetime to exotic destinations across the world. The fleet includes 12 P&O Cruises and Cunard branded ships.

Carnival UK initially came to us for support building up its in-house HR department, knowing our reputation for recruiting HR professionals with expertise in the hospitality and leisure industry.

Then, they came back to us for help recruiting onboard HR managers for their cruise ships.

The challenge

Each of Carnival UK’s cruise ships has a crew of between 300 and 1,200 staff, most of whom stay onboard for six months at a time. It’s crucial that they have a point of contact onboard who they can go to for support.

The onboard HR managers are responsible for looking after the welfare of officers and crew. They typically stay on the ship for 12 weeks, working every day, then have six weeks off. The workforce is multinational and maritime law applies, so this is a very different environment from what most experienced HR professionals will be used to.

It’s a very intense and challenging role, reporting directly to the Captain, and the company has high expectations. However, the salary is generous and is tax free, due to the number of days based out of the country.

These are unique roles, and it takes special people to fill them. One new recruit to the position had dropped out after just two days at sea, so the Carnival UK team were anxious to recruit only the right people who would thrive in the role.

The solution

First we took time to understand the unique nature of the role. In addition to in-depth discussions with the HR team, founding partner Simon Doogan spent some time on one of the ships, to get a feel for what it would be like to live and work onboard.

We then advertised the role.

“Initially we were amazed by the volume of responses we received,” comments Simon. “It seems lots of people are attracted by the idea of a glamorous life on the high seas. However the reality is not for everyone. We designed a screening process that would get past this initial excitement to verify whether applicants are really right for the job.”

Rather than psychometric testing, our screening for this role focuses on practical questions to determine each candidate’s aptitude, suitability and, crucially, their availability to go away for extended periods of time.

We pass the most promising candidates forward for a telephone interview with Carnival. A shortlist is then invited to go to the head office in Southampton to give a presentation and be interviewed by the fleet HR director. Those who pass through to the next stage have the opportunity to spend half a day on one of the ships when it next docks, to get a feel for the environment and confirm that it’s right for them.

Successful candidates then need to pass a medical, go through training and apply for visas for the countries they will be visiting. The preparation process can take two to three months. However, once in the role, they will become highly valued welfare specialists.

The results

Since 2015 we have recruited onboard HR managers for three Carnival ships, all of whom are still in their roles and excelling. One has been named as the company’s top performer.

One of the onboard HR managers we helped to recruit, Anna, told us, “Simon was very quick to respond to my application. Throughout the process he kept in regular touch with me and was very supportive. He spent time with me over the phone helping me prepare for my telephone and face-to-face interviews. He also took the time to come and meet me before I joined the company, which was a nice touch.

“I had been looking for a role that included travel, but had never thought about cruising before. The job is great though – I’ve taken to it as if I had always worked here. I get to be fully involved in the running of the ship and have the opportunity to share my ideas and thoughts. I love living onboard and seeing the world. It’s a home away from home.”

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