A pilot interview can be one of the most stressful meetings you will ever have. You are being judged and interrogated. In aviation, you are being evaluated in a serious way. Your future boss is deciding if you can be trusted with a multi-million dollar asset as well as the lives of their customers. That multi-million dollar machine is probably on a contract. Maintaining client satisfaction is just as important as safe operations because a parked aircraft costs more than most of us earn.
You are being evaluated as more than just an equipment operator. You are the face of the company. You are responsible for keeping customers coming back.
Bombing an interview can have life-altering consequences. If you do, more than likely, you will have to relocate, potentially take a pay cut, or work for an organization that doesn’t provide benefits.
Most interviews are unpaid so you may be out the cost of airfare, hotel, food, and professional attire. You have your hopes up and your family is rooting for you. Time to prepare to nail that interview.
The first step to interviewing is learning as much as you can about the company. What is their mission statement/motto and why do they have the drive to do business? Think about how their mission coincides with your belief system or career objectives. What type of aircraft do they fly? What kind of mission or services do they provide? Are they profitable? Is their market saturated? Is their operation sustainable? Who do you know that worked there? Get an inside scoop if you can from current or former employees. If you don’t know anyone inside the organization, have a look on LinkedIn to try and meet some other people that work for the company.
Typically, aviation interviews come in three parts:
This is where the interviewer will decide if you would be a good fit for the company. You can teach anyone how to fly, but not everyone can learn to work well with people. This is the essential part of the interview.
You’ll want to be suited up for this one. Make sure you are groomed, clean, and free of any scented sprays (no cologne or perfume). A tie clip is one of the most overlooked accessories. Ladies, you are usually smarter than the guys in this department but here is an article with some attire ideas.
If you are taking a Skype interview, I have had great luck with a button-up shirt, blazer, and my favorite pair of boxer briefs.
When setting up your webcam, spend a few minutes getting ready beforehand and DO A TEST CALL! Do a quick chat with a friend to test the bandwidth, speakers, microphone, camera, and lighting. Set yourself up as they do in the video below a few days in advance. Give yourself ample time to purchase any items you may need or to find a new location if yours has noisy children and pets.
Interviews should go both ways. It should not be run as an interrogation. You are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. If you want to get a little deeper, Peggy McKee wrote the book on interview questions.
These questions can be very difficult to answer when put on the spot, especially when talking about your weaknesses and past altercations.
TELL the truth no matter what. Chances are, they will ask someone you know about these stories. In aviation, there are only one or two degrees of separation. If you feel like you are not right for the job, STOP THERE. If you quit shortly after taking the position, you could get yourself blacklisted. These companies talk to each other. If they think you’ll bounce after they invest $20,000 in training to get you on the line, finding a job will become impossible. Try to stick around for at least a year.
So what is a good answer to the questions regarding conflict resolution? Here is your opportunity to show them that you are educated above and beyond the basic equipment operator pilot. The brass tax loves to hear that you implement industry standardized communication strategies to handle problems. Utilization of Crew Resource Management (CRM) is a HUGE ace in your pocket. USE the term at least ONCE in your interview. Explain how easy it has made team management and that even in single-pilot operations, a deep understanding has been CRITICAL TO YOUR SUCCESS.
If you are unfamiliar, I suggest taking a look at a CRM course. Randy Mains hosts the best one; get a hold of that guy and schedule a class. You can also add it to your resume under your list of certificates.
Every interviewer expects you to ask the standard questions.
You definitely need to cover these items but if you REALLY want to stand out, ask questions like these:
Very few organizations can answer this truthfully, but there are some that stand out in my mind.
A good management team understands what motivates people and about the depths of job satisfaction. You want to work for a forward thinking organization who will give you a quality of life and a satisfying work environment.
Take a look at PHI; they have an open culture of safety that promotes self-disclosure. Their Safety Management System (SMS) is one of the best in the business. I only wish they wouldn't keep all of their identified hazards a secret to the rest of the industry.
You want to be sure that your organization embraces Crew Resource Management. I can't stress this enough. It enables people to speak to each other with the common goal of safety in mind.
Pilots have the opportunity to drive the industry from the ground up. In a time where the demand for pilots is on the rise, asking these questions will start to alert organizations that we care about our safety and the quality of our job. Don’t be afraid to ask why the company does what they do and that you want to be a part of their cause.
It's time to bust out the books. The technical portion of your interview is a Q&A to test your knowledge and gain insight into your ADM (Aeronautical Decision Making) skills. Some operators make you take a written test before the interview. Most of the time they will ask you general aviation topics to feel out if you are just a pilot or if you are a real aviator.
If you study as if you were preparing for a combined commercial and IFR checkride, you will be fine here.
If you are unprepared, I can guarantee one thing: opportunity WILL pass you by. If you will be flying an aircraft that you are unfamiliar with, it is a good idea to get as much information as you can. You don’t want the first time seeing that aircraft to be in your interview. How embarrassing do you think it will be if you can’t figure out how to get the door open before jumping in the pilot seat with the company evaluator? Try to get your hands on the flight manual or training manual and start studying general aircraft information, limitations, emergency procedures, normal procedures, and performance.
Use your networking skills to locate the same aircraft you will be interviewing in. Chances are, you know someone who has access to one. Play a little seek-and-destroy game to get familiar with the cockpit layout. Sit in the cockpit and do some dry-runs (a mock start-up, shutdown, and emergency procedures). Who knows, maybe you’ll be offered to take it up for a flight!
If you can’t get your hands on the actual aircraft, you can also look into cockpit documents. Most aircraft have a poster you can buy that has every button on display. Youtube is another excellent source for watching aircraft startup procedures.
When on the flight, relax and take things slow. A wise man once said, "Fly the aircraft like you are taking your grandfather for a ride." --Thanks, Kevin, I still use that mentality to this date.**
Announce your every intention BEFORE you do it.
You: "Tail clear left, nose is coming right."
Examiner: "Tail is clear left."
You: Execute a smooth controlled right pedal turn.
You: "Switch identified, switch verified."
You: Actuate the switch
You: "Result confirmed."
Did you get the job? Now comes the second stressor: how to counter offer and negotiate a higher wage!
Have you had any interview experiences that weren’t covered here in this article? Horror stories perhaps? Drop a comment below and tell us the story!
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