Ron Gottschalk – a Missouri native – earned a bachelor of art’s degree in radio and film from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He spent a decade (from 1991-2001) working for Royal Caribbean International, as a shipboard Broadcast Manager.

Drawing from his personal experiences, Ron settled on land and became a cruise ship recruiter, and worked in Disney’s Orlando office. In his new role, Gottschalk sailed to Italy in 1997 on Disney’s first ship. These experiences paved the way for his career as a human-resources professional specializing in hospitality. From years of experience as a recruiter, Gottschalk shares valuable insight on smooth sailing through your next career fair.

“My first human-resources manager job was at the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The 230 people on property never went home, they lived a similar life to the personnel onboard cruise ships,” says Gottschalk. Today Gottschalk is director of human resources at The Westmoor Club, in the vacation community of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

As a cruise ship recruiter, what were the most important attributes you looked for when you met an individual for the first time in a career fair setting?

Since the most important attribute that a shipboard employee must possess is personality, the first thing I look for is someone who presents themselves with confidence, is well groomed and not afraid to approach the booth and introduce themselves.  Be confident!  This same attribute will be used over and over again if you get hired.

What advice can you give to students preparing to attend a career fair?

Do your research.  The number one senseless question I would be asked when recruiting for cruise ships was “where do your ships sail?”  This information is so easy to find by going to any cruise line website, or can be easily found on under each company profile. By asking this type of obvious question, it shows that you really haven’t done your research.  You should be able to talk about the newest ship in the fleet, maybe reference an award the cruise line has received recently, mention what the possible opening of Cuba means to the industry…these are things that will impress the recruiter and make you memorable.

Approaching recruiters in this setting can be overwhelming and daunting. What can you suggest to help keep nerves at bay?

Relax!  I know this is hard to do and everyone is nervous.  Maybe start the job fair and approach some of the booths that are NOT on the top of your list to get some practice interacting with recruiters.  Once you have spoken with a few of these individuals, you should be warmed up and more at ease with the whole process.  Once you feel relaxed, then meet with the companies on the top of your list.  If you’re not good at speaking to strangers, then maybe a cruise ship career is not for you.  Remember, this isn’t the interview.  This should be a two way conversation so be sure to come prepared with relevant topics to discuss. And start the process early – why not attend as a freshman or sophomore? The earlier you start the inquiry process, the better prepared you will be by the time you’re ready to graduate.

How important is following up with the contacts you made at career fair?

Follow up is very important.  Recruiters can meet hundreds of candidates at a job fair so you need to be memorable.  If you are a male, try to wear a memorable tie – nothing too funky but something that shows your personality.  For females, same thing, don’t go too extreme but don’t wear the traditional blue or black blazer and white shirt.  Wear a blouse that has color.

A nice email follow up is always great as are hand written notes.  The only problem with hand written notes, it won’t reach the recruiter for several days or a week.  In today’s environment, a short “thank you” email is sufficient.  Share one or two sentences that will refresh the recruiters mind about your conversation. Also, be sure to mention why, after meeting the recruiter and discussing the opportunity, you feel strongly that you are a great fit for the position and the company.

Can you explain what it means for a recruiter to “pre-screen” applicants?

Pre-screening is very important in today’s environment.  A recruiter can receive hundreds of resumes each month and you typically have seven seconds before a decision is made as to which pile your resume will land on. Important qualifications to highlight on your resume: Education – if you’re applying for Cruise Staff, do you have a degree in Commercial Recreation?  For Youth Staff, do you have a degree in Education or like field? Experience – do you have entertainment and/or public speaking experience?  Have you worked at a summer camp or in the resort industry?  Are you an experienced traveler?

Don’t be too wordy on your resume.  Make sure you can easily scan through your work experience. I know this may go against everything you may have read or been told, but gimmicks work!  I once received a resume in a bottle, one that came in a passport cover, and one guy went as far as having his resume etched into the back of a wine bottle.  All showed a great deal of creativity and landed the interview.  One was actually hired.  Case in point, I remember all of those individuals!  It won’t work all the time and don’t go too overboard, but this is the type of creative person that many companies are looking for.

From your personal experience working onboard ships and recruiting for the cruise industry, what makes cruise ship careers unique to the field of hospitality?

When you get hired to work on a cruise ship, you are not just accepting a job, you are accepting a new lifestyle.  There is no going home at the end of the day.  If you are someone who values your privacy and can’t take being around people 24/7 then ship life may not be a good fit.

On the other hand, you will meet lifetime friends and possibly a spouse.  It’s a lot of work and long days but it’s also a lot of fun too.

During my career on cruise ships, once a week I would go up to the pool deck and take a few minutes just to stand there and look at all the guests who had saved up for this one week of vacation.  I would then think to myself, this is my home and I get to do it all over again next week.  There are worse ways to make a living!

Any final words of advice about presenting your best self in the eyes of a recruiter when pursuing a career on cruise ships? 

In a nutshell, it’s all about being confident, personable and outgoing.  Make sure to have a good firm hand shake and look the recruiter in the eyes.  Sell yourself and your skills.  Make sure your clothes fit you well; men need to be clean shaven and ladies should minimize makeup and jewelry. Most cruise lines today have strict grooming standards and don’t allow for facial piercings or visible tattoos. And remember, it’s the hospitality industry – so smile, do your research, and put your best foot forward!