Any recruitment process is not easy, but when it comes to placing professionals in affluent homes or on-board luxury yachts and jets, pretty often things go from ‘not easy’ to ‘extremely difficult’. And this concerns all three parties – the employer, the agency and the specialist who is applying for a new job.
Estate & Manor Magazine have spoken to a number of professionals working inside UHNW households and on-board yachts/jets about their experiences to create working harmony between both job seekers and recruiters. A good number of private service professionals working with UHNW individuals and families felt disconnected from the entire process and described a lack of personalisation. On a whole, some professionals had pleasant experiences with recruitment agencies and others did not – Estate & Manor Magazine have decided to share some of the opinions for the benefits of the whole industry. Here is what different experienced professionals had to say about the whole job application process and the most important factors that determine whether or not they are going to apply for a position which is advertised:
“I have worked in a VIP household but did not come by the position through application. I had known the family for years. They were having problems and wanted someone discreet and rather than going to an agency they asked me to assist temporarily. I left 3 years later after the patriarch passed.
As the months went by my responsibilities grew. I felt like I had a knack for this type of work. I tried to find something similar through various NYC staffing services but nothing came about. It seemed like there was interest and there were second interviews but again, nothing. I have some theories. I am 63 in August. I know agencies can’t hold age against applicants but I’m sure they think I’m too old. I tell them I’m looking for long-term commitment, my last job. I am a runner and belong to Planet Fitness gym. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs but can’t get a chance anywhere. Every agency I go to has been top heavy with people from other countries. I have heard recruiters ask if the applicant can speak English and has a Green card. Seems like the trend favors immigrants who are young and will work cheap.
I also drove for a local Limo company in Connecticut, hoping to find a private job but I’m still looking. The company went under last Christmas and I have been doing odd jobs and applying for positions, but nothing yet. I am a jack-of-all-trades and will do my best to make a repair, calling in a specialist only as a last resort. I can take and follow directions well. I deal well with the very young, the very old and anyone in between. I’m sure there is something out there for me and won’t give up until I find it”, says Chuck, a Property Manager/Houseman/Private Chauffeur in New York.
Amanda, a member of a VIP cabin crew in the Middle East, believes that many people may not apply for a certain job because of the way that the job is portrayed: “The job description can often sound much more complicated than the role actually is with the agencies or employer embellishing it, I guess to attract better candidates. I often feel that I will read the job advert and may not meet the specific criteria even though I would be suitable for the role. Also, it might seem out of people’s reach or daunting to work for VIP’s (I have heard a few horror stories).”
Vanessa, who is a professional Yacht Chef and a Private Chef, stresses that unfortunately, a lot of recruitment agents she has dealt with were not experienced enough, as they have never worked in a private household or yacht themselves and therefore, they did not know the right questions to ask both the Employer and the Employee. She also mentioned the rumor of putting friends first and telling applicants that they are not qualified for the position when the agency are not really sure what the whole role includes, simply because they have never done it and don’t understand what it requires. “I find that the job description is often not accurate in the first place, whether this comes from the recruitment agent or the household itself, I am not sure. And if you are successful, you end up doing so much more than the job description initially stated. A lot of the time the UHNW individuals don’t know what they want themselves. The norm seems to be having somebody work 24 hours a day 7 days a week, for the worst wages, which, let’s be honest, in this industry money is a huge factor. But in their world they get what they want when they want it, which is usually right now, whatever it takes, and they don’t like to hear the word ‘no’. So, in all honesty, it basically comes down to an experienced recruiter to ask the right questions, but how honest a VIP household is going to be with their job offer, is still unpredictable. I know some amazing agents out there, but a lot of them are unaccustomed to the industry”.
“The main thing I look for in a new position is a job that is interesting, challenging but does not absorb your whole life. The location is important but if you are well compensated or there are plenty of benefits with the position, then I am prepared to sacrifice the location for the compensation and benefits. I look at the job brief to see what duties and services are required or need to be provided. I also look at what other staff are in place in the household to make sure the job description matches the brief. Sometimes you might be offered a fantastic salary and then realise that you might be required to do the work of 2 or 3 different people. The most important thing about any position is it “being the right fit”, the relationship between you and the employer. You can have all the skills in the world but if you don’t have the right relationship with your employer then the position won’t work. So, matching the employee with the principal is probably the most important thing an agency can do. I expect the agencies to give me a full and proper brief of the job description and what is expected and to have a good knowledge of the principals and the household. They should have a good understanding of the type of person that the principal is looking for and a good understanding of the other staff who work in the household, their positions and duties. They should be able to tell me why the last person vacated the position being advertised and accurately tell me what salary is being offered. My main grievances against some agencies are that they are more motivated about collecting their commission and don’t really care where they place you. You are sent to interviews being promised a salary that is not being offered or does not exist and the information you are provided with regarding the position is outdated or completely wrong”, tells Simon, a professional Butler and Estate Manager, who has also got experience working as a private chef and a VVIP flight attendant. Recently, he applied for a position as a house manager and was advised that it would be just managing the contractors who visited the property and that there was a full-time housekeeper in place. When he went for the interview, he was told that the housekeeper only came once a week to do a spring clean and the rest of the week it would be his responsibility to clean and vacuum house. There was also a minimum of two loads of washing and ironing each day and 5 beds to make. They expected him to prepare dinner 4-5 nights a week and maybe the odd weekend; he would order all the food online to be delivered because there would be no time do the shopping. His responsibilities would also include washing and maintaining the cars. The family expected him to prepare daily school lunches and do the odd school run (drop-off). And then Simon was asked how he handled working under pressure. “The agency under-quoted my last salary by $20,000, when I corrected them on the figure I was told: “That’s just to get you through the door”. And then they get upset when you don’t want to accept the position, which in fact is completely different from the one you initially applied for”, says Simon.
Francis decided to become a Butler after 20 years in real estate sales and buildings acquisitions for VIP clients. He was brave enough to dramatically change his career and become a student once again – this time at the French Touch Attitude, and qualify as a professional Butler. “I am 51 years old and my decision was not a middle age fantasy but the result of maturity. I am afraid my age could be a problem… even when a friend, a butler in position says the opposite”, tells Alex. “The only thing I found surprising is the absence of face-to-face interviews. A resume says a lot about an individual, but considering the nature of the profession, an interview should be mandatory in my opinion. An interview is the only way to appreciate the personality, the charisma, the culture and professionalism of the applicant. They should not stick to «3 years of experience as a butler»: I did a short-term contract as a Butler and my Principal was very satisfied with me, even though I am quite new to the profession. An agency’s main work for me is to select the right person to be placed in the right household. It is not the same thing to serve an aristocrat or a successful football player, the cultural background is very different even if the mission is the same. I wish I could find a position in which diversity is mandatory (housekeeping, table service, travels, gardening, driving etc.). I speak French, Italian and English, so Monaco, the French Riviera or Switzerland would be perfect for me. The location means a cultural context. The salary is important, but it is not the main point”.
It would be fantastic for the industry if more professional individuals shared their points of view and experiences, so feel free to comment below and let us know what you think!