Airline Interview Questions and Tips – Be Prepared
This article will provide you with some top tips and guidelines on what you can expect at the interview stage of your pilot application.
When you reach the interview stage of an application it is vitally important to know what the airlines are looking for. The airline industry is such a fast-paced industry and it is always growing and evolving and so is the role of the pilots. As well as the technical knowledge and ability that all pilots have, pilots also have many difficult things to deal with on a daily basis such as tech issues, weather, difficult approaches, air traffic control, people on board, language barriers, CRM etc, the role of a pilot has certainly changed and evolved over the last few decades, pilots now have all of the above to deal with as well as flying an intricately complex multi-million dollar aircraft in high pressurised environments. Pilots these days are expected to operate in a highly professional, commercial and expeditious manner, you will need to demonstrate all of these qualities and abilities at the interview stage in order for the airline to know that you are the right person they are looking for.
Airlines, when recruiting are looking for many qualities and attributes that demonstrate you can carry out these everyday tasks in a highly professional manner, even when operating in high pressure environments, or where you encounter any other issues that may arise during the daily operations of the airline.
The main points we will touch on in this article that we feel can help you at the interview stage are.
- First impressions and body language
- Research, know the airline you are applying to thoroughly
- Motivation and determination
- Documents you should take to interview/sim assessment
- Follow up
All the above can be used by airlines in many different ways to ensure you can demonstrate that you meet these competencies. Many airlines use the method of example based questions such as; “tell me when you have shown flexibility” or “give me an example of a challenging situation and how you dealt with it” always be fully prepared for these type of questions and have good strong examples as answers. If you are dealing with an agency ask them for help and advice on this, some agencies maybe be able to prep you on what to expect, or may even be able to provide you with full interview preparation guidelines so it is always good to research this.
First Impressions and body language: Most of you will have had some sort of interview before, so you will know that first impressions are vital and can go along way. It is widely speculated that interviewers will form an opinion of you within the first few seconds of meeting you. It is important that your first impression is a lasting one, how do you make a good lasting impression a lot of you are probably asking? The main things to focus on are looking the part, dressed in a nice suit and tie, carry all of your documents in a small neat folder/briefcase, be polite, greet everyone you meet with a warm smile and hello, greet everyone on the interview panel with a “good morning” or “good afternoon” a warm smile and a handshake. When your interview begins make sure that you have a good body language for example, good posture, make eye contact with whoever you are addressing or speaking to, make sure you give clear concise answers to the questions you are being asked. If you do not quite understand or hear a certain question, politely ask the person could they please repeat the question. If you do not know the answer to a question you are being asked be honest and truthful, say you don’t know but that you would do your best to find out or start your reply with “I’m not 100% certain but if I was to take an educated guess I would say” the recruiters will appreciate your honesty. It will also help stop you trying to fumble your way through the question with a wrong answer. If you can put together all of these points in a professional, diligent, and articulate manner you can leave a very positive and lasting first impression.
Research and know the airline thoroughly: It is vital to know the airlines you are applying for inside out; you should be able to tell the recruiter the following:
- Types of aircraft they fly and how many of each different aircraft they have
- Their overall fleet size and any new orders or expansion plans they may have in the future.
- The main bases this airline operate out of
- The routes and destinations they fly to
- Recent company news (aircraft orders, new routes, new bases)
- The airlines biggest competitors or threats (competition, price wars, oil prices, strikes and most recently, global pandemics)
- Know the key people of the airline (CEO, CFO, Chief pilot, Director of flight ops, Director of engineering)
- History know a small bit of history about the airline, when it was formed, when it expanded and where it is in todays present market.
During todays unprecedented times that the aviation industry is now in, it is more important than ever to keep up with global events, make sure to keep watching and reading the news in the lead up to your interview, this will help you keep in tune with everything that is going on around the world, which may have a direct affect on the aviation industry or the airlines you are applying for. This will help you keep on top of all current affairs and may help you if you are giving examples to a question you have been asked.
Commuting: If you are applying for a commuting contract pilot job it is vitally important to calculate the commuting flights home, you need to research what is the best route to your home domicile using their airline or any codeshare agreements they may have. They may ask would commuting be an issue for you, if you can give a good positive answer that it would not be an issue for you and that you have researched all of their routes, the days they fly and their frequencies, this will really stand to you as it shows your commitment to this position, it shows the research and effort you have put in to make sure this is the right contract for you.
Communication: Before your interview date it might be a good idea to communicate with other pilots who already work there, through LinkedIn and establish some good “inside information” on the airline, know some key points in the way the airlines operate and the way in which they carry out their daily operations. You should also communicate with your agency who will be able to brief you on what you can expect or may even be able to provide you with key interview preparation guidelines. Have some good examples ready which show how you can communicate in challenging environments, this could come up as a “give us an example of” question that we mentioned earlier in this article. They will be keen to know that you can communicate effectively in challenging environment, places where there are language barriers, or with crew who are not very co-operative.
Motivation and determination: During the interview you may be asked why you have chosen this airline or why you feel you would be the ideal candidate for this contract. It is very important to be very clear why you have selected this airline, what motivates you, why they should consider you instead of other candidates and what you have achieved in previous airline roles. Do not be afraid to sell yourself and to talk about some of the accomplishments you have achieved in your career to date. You should demonstrate this in a polite, courteous, and professional manner, try not to be over cocky and have an air of humbleness about your achievements while making them known to the recruiters.
Show flexibility: We have been in the recruitment of contract pilots for a very long time with years of experience behind us, one of the most frequent “traits” we are asked to find as an agency is flexibility, particularly when we search for new candidates in countries like Africa, sometimes in this region things like interviews, training and some operational activities do not always go to plan, in these scenarios as a contract pilot you would need to show a high degree of flexibility. This also might be asked in an interview so have some examples of how you have been flexible and understanding in the past or with a previous airline.
Documents you should take to interview/sim assessment: Many airlines and agencies will be able to advise you on what you need to bring with you to the interview/sim assessment, however, the following list is what we advise you to take with you no matter what as these will be the most important documents you will need;
- Flying licence to include all ratings pages
- Current up to date class 1 medical
- Copy of your most up to date CV
- Copy of your passport
- Letters of reference from previous employers
- Copy of your licence verification letter (if you have this)
- Any academic qualification certificates
Follow up: If the interview has gone well, you should follow up with the airline or agency to see have they any feedback for you. It is also important to know that the airline or agency will expect you to provide Chief Pilot or Director of Flight Operations names and contact details from your last 2 – 3 employers, so please bear this in mind and have these ready at short notice, or even have them with you in the documents you carry to the interview. If you have them ready it will keep things moving along swiftly if everything goes well for you.