Prepare for That Interview

By Ian Robinson | Success

Feb 10

So You Got a Callback? 

Congrats! Now don't freak out. 

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.


You are being evaluated more than just an equipment operator. You are the face of the company. You are responsible for keeping customers coming back.

Time to Grind

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.

Do Research

You have your hopes up and your family is rooting for you. Time to

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.

The first step to interviewing is learn as much as you can about the company. What is their mission statement/motto and why do they have drive to do business? What type of aircraft do they fly? What type 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.


The Three Part Interview

Typically, aviation interviews come in three parts:

  1. Technical Portion
  2. Non-Technical Portion
  3. Flight Portion

Part 1: Non-Technical Portion

Typically, in interview comes in 3 parts:


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.

A pilot interview can be one of the most stressful meetings you will ever have. You are bing 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 and 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.

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.

Video Chat Interview

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.

Interview Topics and Questions

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.

Questions THEY will ask YOU
  • Why do you want to work for this company? 
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
  • Why do you want to be in aviation? 
  • How did you get into aviation? 
  • Tell me your background.
  • Have you had any incidents, accidents, or violations? 
  • Do you have any issues passing random drug and alcohol tests? 
  • Describe a scenario that was difficult and how you overcame it. 
  • Describe an altercation with a coworker and how you overcame it. 
  • What would you do if a customer asked you to do something you aren’t comfortable with? 
  • How do you deal with bad weather situations? 
  • How do you deal with maintenance issues? 
  • How do you handle last-minute schedule or operation changes? 
  • How do you handle stressful situations? 
  • How do you deal with policy when it conflicts with your moral compass?  
  • Name your biggest strength. 
  • Name your biggest weakness. 
  • Tell me a joke. 
  • What has been your biggest challenge in aviation? 
  • What are your strong suits? 
  • What areas would you like to improve upon? 

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. 

Questions YOU should ask THEM. Asking questions will make you stand out in your interview.

Every interviewer expects you to ask the standard questions.

  • Where will I be based?
  • How much will I be compensated? 
  • Do you have benefits? 
  • When can I start logging Pilot In Command? 
  • What is my schedule? 

You definitely need to cover these items but if you REALLY want to stand out, ask questions like these:

Ask WHY does your company do what it does?

Very few organizations can answer this truthfully, but there are some that stand out in my mind. 

  • Blue Hawaiian Helicopters - They provide the experience of a lifetime to folks. Their actions are tangible proof because they never solicit tips from their guests. 
  • Southwest Airlines - From day one, they have focused on providing affordable transportation for the common man. The result of their business model has allowed them to be the first airline in HISTORY to always turn a profit. United and Delta tried to copy their model but failed in just a few short years. 
  • Reach Air Medical Services - Their motto is “Always do what is right for the patient.” It is a clear objective, and their actions prove it. They host a culture of participation, never pressure the pilots to fly during inclement weather, never challenge the decision making of the pilots, and always consider mistakes as an opportunity for a training event.
Ask about their punishment and reward system. 

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. 

Very Special Note:

"Screw up and we will fire you!" If you hear this response, RUN.

The answer you are looking for is, "We provide an opportunity to learn from your mistakes."

Ask if they have a SMS

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.

Ask about their CRM training

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. 

Ask about upward mobility

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.

Stand out in your interview by asking these questions. 


Everyone in the job interview expects you to ask the standard questions.

Where will I be based? 

How much will I be compensated? 

Do you have benefits? 

When can I start logging Pilot In Command? 

What is my schedule? 


You definitely need to cover these items but if you REALLY want to stand out, here are a few tips. 


  1. WHY does your company do what it does? 


Very few organizations can answer this truthfully but there are some that stand out in my mind. 


Blue Hawaiian Helicopters - They provide the experience of a lifetime to folks. Their actions are tangible proof because they never solicit tips from their guests. 


SouthWest Airlines - From day 1, they have focused on providing affordable transportation for the common man. The result of their business model has allowed them to be the first airline in HISTORY to always turn a profit. United and Delta tried to copy their model but failed in just a few short years. 


Reach Air Medical Services - Their motto is “Always do what is right for the patient.” It is a clear objective and their actions prove it. They host a culture of participation, never pressure the pilots to fly during inclement weather, never challenge the decision making of the pilots, and always consider mistakes as an opportunity for a training event. 


2. How do you handle mistakes? 


Bad: We FIRE YOU!


Good: We provide an opportunity to learn from the mistakes. Take a look at PHI, they have a “Stand up and shout out” policy on safety. 


3. Do you have a SMS?



4. Tell my about your CRM training? 





Pilots have the opportunity to drive the industry from the ground up. We ARE the KEY PLAYERS in the game. 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 speak up and ask why the company does what they do.

Part 2: The Technical Portion

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. 

  • Approach plates
  • IFR charts
  • VFR charts 
  • Aerodynamics
  • Airspace (dimensions, depiction, required equipment, operating procedures)
  • Weather (such as reading a METAR, types of fog, stages of a thunderstorm, and the new GFA tool)
  • Aircraft systems, performance, limitations, and emergency procedures
  • Part 91/121/135 regulations.

Part 3: The Flight Portion

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.

PRO TIP
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.**

PRO TIP
Announce your every intention BEFORE you do it. 

Example: 

You:  "Tail clear left, nose is coming right."

Examiner: "Tail is clear left."

You: Execute a smooth controlled right pedal turn. 

When touching any switch in the cockpit, remember IVAC: Identify, verify, actuate, confirm.

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!


Opportunity will certainly pass you by if you are unprepared. ——LINK——-
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 on 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 and start studying general aircraft information, limitations, emergency procedures, normal procedures, and performance. 


Pro Tip

Use your networking skills to locate the same aircraft you will be interviewing on. 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 a fun flight! 


If you can’t get your hands on the acutal aircraft, you can also look into cockpit documents. Most aircraft have a poster you can buy that has every button on display. ——LINK——Youtube is another great source for watching aircraft startup procedures. 


Good LUCK!

So you got the job! Now comes the second stressor, how to counter offer to negotiate a higher wage!——- LINKLINKLINK——


Sharing is Caring

Have you had any interesting interview experiences that wasn’t covered here in this article? Drop a comment below and tell us the story!

The technical portion of your interview is a Q&A to test your knowledge and gain insight to your ADM (Aeronautical Decision Making) skills. Some operators make you take a written test before the interview and they will go over it during 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 true aviator. 


Here are some topics to brush up on before your interview:


Approach plates

IFR charts

VFR charts 

Airspace (dimensions, depiction, required equipment, operating procedures)

Weather (such as reading a METAR, types of fog, stages of a thunderstorm, and the new GFA tool)

Aircraft systems, performance, limitations, and emergency procedures

Part 91/121/135 regulations.


Study up as if you were about to take a combined commercial and IFR checkride and you will be fine here. 


This is where the interviewer will decide if you would be a good fit in the company. You can teach anyone how to fly but not everyone can learn to work well with people. This is the most important part of the interview.


You’ll want to be suited up —- GQ LINK HERE —- for this one. Make sure you are groomed, clean, and free of any scented sprays (no cologne or perfume).  


You’ll want to have some answers prepared for the following topics:  


Why do you want to work for this company? 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Why do you want to be in aviation? 

How did you get into aviation? 

Tell me your background? 

Have you had any incidents, accidents, or violations? 

Do you have any issues passing random drug and alcohol tests? 

Describe a scenario that was difficult and how you overcame it. 

Describe an altercation with a coworker and how you overcame it. 

What would you do if a customer asked you to do something you aren’t comfortable with? 

How do you deal with bad weather situations? 

How do you deal with maintenance issues? 

How do you do with last minute schedule or operation changes? 

How do you handle stressful situations? 

Name your biggest strength. 

Name your biggest weakness. 

Tell me a joke. 

What has been your biggest challenge in aviation? 

What are your strong suits? 

What are areas would you like to improve upon? 


These questions can be very difficult to answer when put on the spot, especially when talking about your weaknesses and altercations. 


TELL the truth no matter what. Chances are, they will ask someone you know about these stories. In aviation, there is only one or two degrees of separation. If you feel like you are not right for the job, STOP NOW. If you quit shortly after taking the position, you could get yourself  blacklisted. These companies talk to eachother. If they think you’ll bounce after they invest 20k in training to get you on the line, finding a job will become impossible. Generally, try to stick around for at least a year.

So what is a good answer to the questions regarding conflict resolution?——-LINK——— 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 is a HUGE ace in your pocket. USE the term at least ONCE in your interview. Explain how easy it makes team management and that even in single pilot operations, a deep understanding is CRITICAL TO SUCCESS.

If you are unfamiliar, I suggest taking a look at a CRM course. The best one is hosted by Randy Mains, get a hold of that guy and schedule a class. You can also add it to your resume. ——LINK_———


Sharing is Caring

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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About the Author

While I get land sickness if on the ground for extended periods of time, I have discovered my true passion when helping aviators grow and succeed. Feel free to connect with me. If we put our heads together, maybe we can discover something great. - Ian Robinson

  • Samuel Spencer says:

    You rock brother!
    Thanks for paying it forward!

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