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Airline Interview Guide – Part 2

What airlines are looking for in applicants

by Rob Avery

Previous Employers

When asked about previous employers, do not say that you left because they were bad operators, or that the chief pilot was an idiot. Never bad-mouth previous employers. Aviation is a small world, and one of the interviewers could be a personal friend of the operator you just decried. When asked why you left a company, underline the fact that it was because you felt there was a better chance of progression elsewhere, or that the cost of living at that location was eroding the money you were putting aside for an instrument rating or such.

Training Facilities

They will certainly ask you where you did your training. That may vary. You might have done your CPL at one place and your IFR endorsement somewhere else. This being the case, you probably did so because the standard of training was renowned as being better there, as they specialized in instrument ratings. Standards of training vary from place to place, and the panel may ask you to comment on your impressions of the training provider. Be diplomatic here.

Flying Experiences

There are few guidelines on what “in-the-field” experience you have amassed. Airlines may have an undeclared preference for those with charter experience, in countries where there is a large general aviation industry. The reasoning may be that in charter you need to deal with the public more so than you would in say aerial top-dressing, or geophysical survey.

If you amassed most of your flying hours as an instructor, appreciate the old adage that “a great way to learn is to teach“. That way you get to fill in the corners of your knowledge when a student asks a left-field question that really tests your understanding. Instructing can be a worthy benefit later in your airline career if you get promoted to a training captain.

If you moved geographical location during your career, be sure and highlight the career advantages of any such move. It could have been from the mid latitudes to the tropical Pacific Islands for a year or two. Experiencing the various world climatic regions first hand would be a good response as to why you went there.

Management Experience

Remember that today’s pilots are more managers that a manipulator of controls. If you have any managerial experience, such as managing a service station, or the annual school fete, let the panel know. As a pilot of a modern airliner, you are in the centre of several teams of people with varying tasks. Load controllers, cabin staff, baggage handlers, re-fueling personnel, maintenance staff, and cleaners, to name some. If you are doing a university degree, then a managerial elective will likely be viewed well by an airline looking to employ you.


Airlines expect you to be in control of your own life, and to relate well to a wide cross-section of people your job will bring you into contact with. You must be able to gain peoples confidence, and doing this does not involve moaning about how hard it was for you to get where you are. Some of the Captains that interview you, no doubt were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth either, and likely did it tough themselves. They appreciate that passing examinations, flight tests, and building hours has rarely been easy.


The panel may ask you about your views on unions. Appreciate that there has to be a collective body through which employees relate to management to get anything done, so some form of collective body is needed. Most unions are quite responsible, but it is the militant ones that make the headlines, as bad news sell well, and the media need to sell papers. This can give a distorted public view of them in general.

The Company

Find out as much information as you can about the airline. It’s history, founding members, aircraft operated, aircraft on order, expansion of the route network over the years, number of employees, and if applicable the current share price, and trends. Be able to identify aircraft in their fleet, current or otherwise. They may display to you a model of an aircraft they have operated, and ask you to identify it.

What made you choose to become a Pilot

One of the first questions from the interview panel. Be a bit more creative than to say “I just always wanted to since I was a baby”. Think about what it is about a pilot’s job that appeals to you. For instance …

The self discipline required to make it to, and remain in the airlines.

A desire to extend your childhood fascination with flight, into reality.

That you like to be a team player in an important role, in an important and challenging industry.

You have a zest for learning new things, and realize that as a pilot you are always learning. Every flight can teach you something.

Your Upbringing and Family Life

Okay, so your older sister stuck a lizard down your trousers when you were a child, do not say that you still hate her for it. Hate, is a very strong word and not one that belongs in an interview, any more than do swear words. Show appreciation that being a parent is never easy, and perhaps reflect that you have not always been an angel. If you were, you would not be looking for a plane to fly now.

During your childhood, your family may have moved from place to place, perhaps due to one or both of your parents being transferred in their job. If this were the case, perhaps touch on the advantages such a move had. For instance, the opportunity to appreciate different cultures directly, or that it meant building new friends, and coping with a new school environment.

Perceived Job Advantages

Think about what you perceive as the primary advantages for you. For example ..

Ability to do what you enjoy doing, and actually get paid for it.

You may enjoy other cultures, and being an airline pilot will put you in contact with many other cultures that are rich in history, and have a different way of looking at life.

The satisfaction you get when you have completed your job to the best of your abilities, or learned something valuable during the flight, that makes you a better pilot.

Able to achieve promotion as time progresses, and become an increasingly important member of a team. One of the few jobs where you become more valuable with age.

If management is your bag, then mention that pilots may be invited to perform vital administration duties later in their career, and this would let you bring the experience you gained in operations back into the company.

If you enjoy instructing, then your knowledge gained as a line pilot will let you expand your role into training others, and let you practice your passion, and in doing so obtain greater job satisfaction. This may extend into a simulator instructor position should you lose your medical at some point.

Job Disadvantages

There are down-sides to many jobs, and one you should identify and portray an acceptance of, is that it involves shift work. Another is that it can mean separation from your family and friends for set periods, and may include postings in other countries, or at least other cities or towns. It may also mean bases that are a little off the beaten track for the early part of your employment, and involve moving house a number of times.

I hope the issues raised in this editorial, assists you in your airline interview. Another editorial on some of the things airlines are looking for in flight crew job applicants will be released soon. You will be advised by email when this is online.

To assist you with aircraft recognition for either civil or military , there are a number of interactive quizzes within the Avfacts website at :


Best wishes

Rob Avery

Author/ATPL Lecturer

Western Australia

Note: The editorial above is the opinion only of the author, at the time of writing. It is entirely generic, and does NOT reflect the views or policies of any specific airline.

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Marty says ... "Goodbye to GA".

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