Thousands of tons of cargo are unloaded from ships in each big port city. And while most containers are manipulated with the help of cranes, not everything is stocked in a container. Many items are still unloaded by hands, or with a help of a forklift or pallet jack. This will be your duty as a dock worker, plus you will help with securing ships and other related tasks.

It is not a difficult job interview, and they do not expect you to have any previous experience with similar work. Dock workers always work in a group, so your new colleagues will show you around and teach you how to operate the tools. The only thing the hiring manager expects from you in an interview is to show some motivation, mental and physical resilience, and right attitude to some tricky situations that can happen in the job. Let’s have a look at the questions.

 

Why do you want to work as a dockworker?

This is not a job young boys dream of, and it makes no sense to try to convince the interviewer of the opposite. Be honest. If you need any sort of a job at the moment, say so. When you lack qualification to do anything better, do not struggle to admit it. You need money to live just like everyone else, and unless you want to rob people or banks, you need to get a job.

At the same time, you should try to find something positive about the occupation. Maybe you like the environment of busy port, enjoy working with your hands more than with your head, like the team spirit in the workplace (you will never work alone as a dock worker), or see something else positive about the job. Say so in an interview.

This is a hard, physical labor. Do you feel fit to handle it?

A simple yes won’t do the trick, unless you look like A. Schwarzenegger (when he was younger, not now), and it is obvious from you appearance that you won’t struggle with carrying heavy loads. But many thin guys can carry heavy stuff as well, so if you do not have huge biceps, you should explain why you are confident in your abilities.

Perhaps you worked on a construction site before, or in a warehouse, simply in a place where you carried fifty or hundred pounds regularly. And since you never struggled with that load, you see no reason why you’d struggle in the new job. Or you go to a gym regularly and do not have problem with lifting heavy weights. But your interviewer cannot know, so it is important telling them.

The most important thing is to show confidence. Unless you believe you will handle such a workload, they won’t believe it either…

 

Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?

This questions can have several variations. They can also ask “Are you a team player?”, or “What is your role in a team?”, etc. In any case, ensure them that you are no lonely wolf–at least not at work. You enjoy belonging to a hard working team, sharing both joys and struggles with your colleagues.

What’s more, belonging to a team motivates you to work hard, because you feel the responsibility for the team members, and do not want to let them down with a poor job (so they have to do the work for you). You can also say that it helps a lot at the beginning to have more experienced colleagues around, as they help you understand the nuances of the job.

 

This is a port, we have a lot of rain here, and work in all sorts of weather conditions, including heavy winds or pouring rain. How do you feel about the proposition?

Ensure them that you won’t refuse to leave your warm room when it rains outside. Or when hailstones hit the ground, or the fog is so thick that you barely see ten meters ahead… You know what job you are applying for, and understand that ships arrive to the port all days, regardless of the weather. And someone has to unload the freight.

Say that as long as you have decent clothes–ideally waterproof stuff, you see no reason why you’d struggle in bad weather. Of course everyone enjoys working in the sun, but you realize that during the year you’ll experience all kinds of weather conditions, and feel perfectly fine with that.

 

Imagine that you are unloading a cargo and one of your team mates accidentally falls to the water. What will you do?

The first instinct may tell you to jump right behind them. But that’s a risky move in a busy port, and water in these places is pretty cold anyway. Now, it doesn’t mean that you should leave your colleague die in the water. It just means that instead of some illogical heroic action, you should take logical steps to rescue colleague.

Say that as soon as you notice you will stop the work, and look for the ways to help them from water. Maybe you can throw down the rope, or something similar, and help them get back to the shore/dock. You can also say that while trying to help the man overboard you won’t do anything to put other men in danger.

 

What are your salary expectations?

Dock workers do not earn big, and you should show realistic expectations in your interview. However, in some places they pay the workers based on the amount of cargo they unload each day. If that’s the case (you should know before the interview), you can say that the payment model motivates you to try super hard each day, so you and your teammates can take home a decent paycheck.

If that’s not the case and you get a regular weekly/monthly wage, just say that you are ready to accept the same salary they pay each new dock worker, and start from there. They will not pay you more anyway, so it makes no sense saying you want to get this or that…

 

How long do you want to have this job?

Sure enough, some people work in the docks for their entire life. And some see it just like a temporary place, something they bear with to save money for some journey, or an acceptable alternative until they manage to find something better, some easier occupation, or one which pays better.

It takes some time until you find your place in the team of your colleagues, until you gain their trust and become really effective in the job. That’s why I suggest you to say that you want to have the job at least for a year.

Of course, you do not have to stick to your words from the interviews. If you eventually find the work too difficult to handle, you can quit in a few weeks. Once trying to get the job, however, you should say them what they want to hear from you.

 

Imagine that you do not feel particularly well. You have a bad headache and feel tired. But one of your colleagues is missing already, and many cargo ships will arrive during the day. What will you do? Will you go to work?

This is exactly the time to show your team spirit, your willingness to sacrifice something for your gang. Of course, if you have a terrible fever or your head spins and you can barely walk straight, you won’t go to job. In such a case you would do more harm than good…

But if it’s just a headache and feeling of tiredness, you won’t let your colleagues down. You’ll take some pill to help with a headache, or have a hot tea with lemon, put on some warmer clothes and a cap, and go to work. Because you know the workload will be heavy, and your colleagues would struggle without you…

 

Do you have any questions?

You do not have to force a question, but remember that some jobs in the docks can be quite shady. What I try to say here is that you should not agree or sign a contract when something is not 100% clear.

Be sure to ask about the payment schedule and your wages, as well as the shift patterns, whether you will have a place to sleep in the dock, and about other, important things–if they did not explain them already in the interview. If the employer is serious, they won’t find these questions strange or offensive in any way. And if they are not serious, or avoid answering your questions, then you better look for another job in the port…

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Matthew Chulaw
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