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Some Of Our Biggest Airlines Share The Mistakes Pilots Are Making in Interviews

written by Kirsty Ferguson | August 7, 2018

I had the privilege of talking to several members of Major Airlines HR teams recently. They were extremely candid, let’s face it: they are often competing for the same pool of candidates these days so they want to see you succeed. The crux of our chats; you must meet the standard on the assessment day and often it is little things letting pilots down.

It was made clear that they saw many candidates who were a good fit for their airlines but who had not prepared thoroughly for the assessment process. In fact, I was told that they know in the first 5 minutes during the interview if they have had coaching.

What the airlines told me:

  • Most airlines consider interview coaching and SIM preparation a positive.
  • Panel Interviews: In the first 5 minutes of the interview they can tell if a candidate understands how to articulate the SAR or STAR example method correctly.
  • Nerves; they expect that you are nervous, this is important to you and often it has been a long time since you have interviewed. You must get those nerves under control. (There are methods we can teach you to do this).
  • Overseas pilot candidates; ensure you have your relocation plan sorted, we will ask you how you and your family will live in our region.
  • Pilots are missing the instructions on flight planning exercises and losing a lot of points as a result, please read the instructions thoroughly.
  • Group exercises; these are about teamwork, too often candidates with thousands of hours will ‘take over’ and not let the team contribute as a whole towards the goal.
  • Eye contact; pilots relate to other pilots more easily. Often, irrespective of who has asked the question a pilot will make eye contact with the pilot on the panel and address all answers to him/her. Please ensure you answer the person who asked the question.
  • Recruitment Teams; can and do interact with candidates throughout the assessment day(s), your discussions and interactions can form part of your assessment whether in the official stages of the assessment or not.
  • Your SIM test can account for up to 50% of your assessment points; don’t wing it. If you have not been hand flying irrespective of your total flying hours you are unlikely to manage the SIM test well. Even if you are type rated on that aircraft.

With airline assessments running over 2-3 days, it is a big investment in time and money for any pilot. It is also a huge emotional investment as often the airline you are applying to has been a life-long goal.

Don’t leave anything to chance.

It is also great to know that the airlines’ attitude to candidates is a supportive one.


  • Billy the Kid


    Great marketing campaign, Kirsty!
    Unfortunately ever since HR took over the recruitment and created these talent acquisition specialists roles, it has never being harder for candidates to get an airline job.
    I have seen many experienced capable pilots get rejected by the airlines, purely because they did not fit that particular airlines mold.

    I would argue that most passengers would want a highly competent pilot that is able safely handle any emergency situation that gets thrown their way, and not wether they maintained eye contact during a panel interview where you are asked irrelevant questions like tell me a time when…

    Recruitment should not be this difficult. whatever happen to the old days when recruitment was based on academic scores, competence in the Sim , and a one on one with a management pilot to determine if you were genuine. It should not be based on gender quotas, how you interacted in an irrelevant group exercise, or how tactfully you answered a negative question based on a past experience.

    • HI Billy, thanks for your comments. A key role I take in this industry is to support pilots however i can, so when airlines take the time to tell me this sort of thing I am duty bound to pass it on, in fact we do a lot of work behind the scenes to support pilots pro-bono. Recruitment has never been as simple as hiring a qualified person or a pilot with the technical skills and type rating. No industry hires based on those things alone and while the airline recruitment process is complex, they must have benchmarks that ensure they hire those with the right standards, potential and interpersonal skills. Imagine hiring a pilot who broke SOP’s regularly, not a risk any airline can take and the assessment process will indicate those people through the techniques such as examples or as you say “tell us time” questions. A benchmark being a process by which they can make an informed decision based on evidence rather than the feeling or opinion or the HR team. We also must encourage a larger pool of potential pilots into this career, the statistics or evidence is there to illustrate a widening gap in numbers into the future… women are a group that are under represented in the pilot world, so why not market directly to them… while many do not believe in quotas, it is a marketing technique to encourage a specific group into the career path. There are plenty of jobs, it will not disadvantage any one group as each individual still must meet the requirements on all levels. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. Kirsty

  • Great advice Kirsty. If everyone going for Pilot Selection followed your suggestions I think the chance of success for the candidate would be greater.

    • Thanks Andy, preparation in any occupation certainly helps.

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