Now you've put in the hard work and studied night and day to achieve your Commercial Pilot Licence, it's time to ace the pilot interview!
Pilot interviews can vary greatly depending on the type of operation you are interviewing for. For example, I once got interviewed for a General Aviation (GA) pilot position over a beer in the local pub!
General Aviation Pilot Interview:
If you are applying for a GA pilot position, it is usually quite straight forward. However, some operators interview with similar methodology and interview structure that airlines employ. These interviews are more complex, but the majority of GA operators simply do not have the resources to achieve this. The majority of GA operators just want to know what kind of person you are. Some operators may ask technical questions about the aircraft you fly, or the rules and regulations of your state; all the while they are really ascertaining if you are friendly, personable and a good person.
At one GA company I worked for in the early stages of my career I was involved in the interviewing process. However, I did not sit on the interview panel, nor did I sit in the aircraft for the check flight. So you may be wondering exactly how I was involved. At this particular company when it came to the interview day, all prospective employees, the Chief Pilot, and a few Line Pilots would all go for lunch together. It wasn't known to the candidates at the time, but this was the real interview! By sharing a meal in an informal setting you learn much more about the candidate, than when they are sitting in the interview hot-seat with their interview 'mask' on.
One particular day a candidate had done relatively well during the formal interview process, however, while at lunch this candidate started speaking badly against a fellow pilot. Sure enough, this particular candidate was not offered a position. So when attending an interview for a GA position, simply make sure you are yourself and you'll get the job. Be friendly, talkative, relax, smile, and definitely don't start speaking bad about anyone no matter what the setting is!
Airline Pilot Interview:
Once you have built up enough experience in a relatively simple operation it's time to move up the ladder to fly more complex aircraft. This next step might be your first airline interview. Airline interviews, for obvious reasons, are in another league to any other interview you might have done. Airline interviews can even go for two or three days. Airline positions are highly competitive and airlines have the resources to subject candidates to every test imaginable to weed out the best candidate.
I have attached a sample structure of a typical airline interview process:
As you can see from the above sample structure, a typical airline interview is rather intense!
So how do you best prepare?
You need to work extremely hard and leave no stone unturned! However, there are some techniques to help you with this. My first suggestion is to speak to an interview coach who specialises in airline pilot interviews. There's a few of them out there, and they are only a google search away. You are probably like me and absolutely loath interviews, but these interview coaches most of whom came from an airline interviewing background will help turn this around.
You probably don't like talking about yourself and your accomplishments either, as it is drilled into us all our lives to remain humble, but this does not apply in interviews. An interview gives you permission to talk all about your achievements as much as the time will allow. To help with is process I would do my research to find out the most commonly asked questions, then draft answers using bullet-point format. You don't want to draft these answers using long-hand writing, because when it comes time to sitting the interview you'll spiel off your answers like a scripted robot, not a good look!
You want to do as much research as possible, know the company inside out, from their history, their current destinations, fleet, managers, CEO and even what their share price and financials are. The more information you know about the company the more it'll impress the interviewers. Prior to an airline interview I would prepare a Word document where I would collate all of this information in an easy to read template. Some of these documents would be over 100 pages in length. Like I said, leave no stone unturned!
Airline interviews essentially fit into two overarching categories, technical and behavioural. A technical pilot interview is more traditional, where you might get asked what the bypass ration of a GE90-115B engine is. Out of the interviewing techniques, if you get a technical interview you are lucky. Behavioual interviews consist of no technical questions at all. They only include questions framed by "tell me about a time when...". The idea behind behavioural interviewing is that your past decisions and actions are an indication of your future decisions and actions. For example, a common behavioural interview question is "tell me about a time you had a conflict with a work colleague, and how did you resolved this situation". Unless you have a few examples ready to call upon, you will be stuck staring at the ceiling fan with a blank mind. Not a pleasant situation to be in. Technical interviews are objective, whereas behavioural interviews are subjective and open to interpretation from the interviewer.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Why do you want to work for us?
What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
Who is our CEO, COO and Director of Flight Ops?
What would be the hardest part in transitioning to our airline?
Which fleet do you want to fly, and why?
What is our longest route?
What is the role of a pilot?
Tell us about a time you worked with a difficult Capt/FO.
Tell us about a time when changes in the work environment created significant challenges.
Tell us about a time you had to change your communication style to deal with a difficult capt.
You see someone at work breaking the law, what would you do about it?
Tell us about a time you were faced with a problem for which there were multiple solutions, which solution did you choose and why, any regrets?
Tell us about the most challenging part of your career and why.
Tell us about a time you flew with someone very different from yourself.
When have you been in a stressful situation you haven’t dealt with before?
Are you interested in flying overseas?
What is the longest duty that you have done, and how did you prepare yourself for it?
Tell us about a time when you anticipated a problem and provided a solution before the problem arose.
Tell us about a time a procedure was not followed that caused significant problems later on.
Captain breaks a SOP, how far do you take it, will you report him etc?
Are you prepared to work 7 days, 24hr roster, including public holidays?
Are you ok to do overnights?
Are you happy to participate in a drug test?
These are just a few sample questions to give you an idea of what to expect and prepare for.
I really hope this blog has been able to shed some light on the entire interviewing process for pilots. In my career I have attended a total of eight pilot interviews, and two of those interviews I was not successful. If you do not get offered the position, do not dwell on it and try to learn from where you went wrong. When one door closes, another one opens!
If you have any further questions about any of the blogs in the series, or you would like some help with becoming a pilot, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org