After training a whole bunch of pilots on interview skills in the rounds of airline recruitment a couple of years ago, I’m not sure if I should worry more about flying or feel safer doing it. I’ve heard all sorts of entertaining, if not slightly disturbing flying stories, that have made me say “no way.” On the big aircraft, I now find myself sniffing for strange smells, looking out for tiny birds and wondering what the Captain is really looking out for, when he wanders up the aisle for a toilet break. As for small planes, I doubt if I’ll ever get back into one of those shaky little things again ;-)
I noticed from these training sessions, a few things pilots struggle with in interview, that I think are particular (or should I say peculiar) to your profession.
- Many airlines now use behavioural interviews where the interviewer asks you for a specific example. You are supposed to talk about the situation, how you approached it, and how it turned out. If you haven’t faced these before it can be challenging to understand both the point of a question and the best example to give the interviewer.
- Many pilots I have coached have a slightly laconic, understated communication style. The outlook was always a “bit bumpy” instead of a whopping great thunderstorm. This style is good for keeping passengers calm if you’re talking turbulence, but not appropriate in interview if you want to convince the panel that the situation you’re describing was a challenging one.
- Being self aware. Most of us struggle with this. We don’t really understand our strengths and weaknesses. It’s debatably slightly easier if you’ve worked in a large corporation, where you are given performance reviews and so forth. But if you’re a pilot applying for Qantas/Jetstar and Virgin, which are very large corporations, this may be the first time you are asked to present yourself in such a way. You may have only flown with a small outback airline where the only “feedback” you’ll have received, is a dressing down from the boss’s wife for being late. In a behavioural interview you often need to understand then explain what makes you effective in a particular situation, say teamwork, for example, which brings me to my next point.
- Answering team work and leadership questions. Often flying is often a solo occupation. You do not get a real chance to work with others in the same way that you would in an office That’s possibly not a bad thing, but it does makes it hard to give really meaty example if you want to talk about “shared goals,” regular communication, and the like.
- Talking the HR talk, so to speak. HR have a big say in the design of these interview questions. They can be full of HR/corporate speak that you need to understand. Like the “shared goals” example I’ve just given you above.
As with most things practice makes perfect, but the caveat on that statement, is that it needs to be perfect practice. I’d strongly suggest running through questions with a friend, as you often need to convince yourself you know what you’re saying before you can convince others. Or if your friends aren’t that patient, there are professionals like me, who can explain the point of questions, help you talk about what is unique about you and help you confidently present your best behavioural examples in interview. Have a read here for other things that can help.
Finally, and this is purely self interest speaking here, after the last round of interview coaching sessions I ran, the stories I heard were great, but I want to go on holiday, and think I may need some reassurance before getting back on a plane!
- Are you all talk in interview?
- Airline Interviews
- Interview Techniques: Kirsty Ferguson and PinStripe Solutions
- What Makes You Great Pilots can… Make You Hard to Interview!
- Pinstripe Solutions Interview Checklist
- Airline Simulator Assessments
- Free Pilot “Interview Preparation Checklist” from Pinstripe Solutions