Monday, May 20, 2013

How to prepare for an airline interview

Many aviation industry observers predict that U.S. airlines are on the cusp of a shortage of qualified pilots. The shortage is the result of a large number of looming retirements at U.S. airlines and a new FAA rule scheduled to go into effect this August that will increase the flight experience requirement for airline pilots. The pilot shortage may present a unique opportunity for prospective pilots who have the required qualifications to be considered by the airlines, but first would-be airline pilots must pass the airline’s interview process.

An airline interview is unlike an interview at a non-aviation company. An airline interview is usually a single event, unlike interviews at non-aviation companies which can involve two, three or more interviews before an offer is made. In some cases, the airline interview may take place over several days and involve multiple meetings.

The first step in preparing for an airline interview is to research the company. The prospective applicant should be aware of recent news stories about the company, have an understanding of the company’s history, and be familiar with the company’s leaders. Much of this information can be found on the company’s website, on aviation trade sites such as Aviation Week, or news sources like the Wall St. Journal. Often, company websites allow users to sign up to receive press releases via email. A directory of sites relating to aviation employment can be found on Learn about the company’s culture as well. An interview with Southwest, Virgin America or JetBlue will require a different approach than an interview with Delta, United or US Airways.

The next step in preparation is to find out what the company’s interview process is like. Several websites offer “gouge,” or details of their experience, from previous interview candidates. One of the most popular such sites is, but other sites such as Will Fly for Food offer interview gouge as well. Job seekers can also use forums on websites such as to ask questions of current employees or others who have interviewed with the company. is a good source of information on many aviation companies and also has forums.

There are two types of questions on an aviation interview. First, there are normal human resource questions. These questions are of the “getting to know you” type. Examples would be “tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” The second type of question to be expected is the technical question. Technical questions include subjects such as systems on the aircraft that you currently fly, the Federal Aviation Regulations, and how to brief an instrument approach.

Some companies concentrate on human resource questions while others tend toward technical questions. In most cases, companies ask both varieties of questions. In some cases, there are even separate interview sessions for each type of question. A sample list of general interview questions can be found online here, but interview gouge sites often report the questions most recently asked of interviewees.

Many companies also put prospective new hires through a simulator evaluation. Normally the sim ride is a simple evaluation of the pilot’s flying abilities to help the company determine whether the applicant would have problems in training. In many cases, the simulator evaluation covers basic maneuvers like climbs, turns, descents, ILS approaches, and holding patterns. Some companies, especially those that require that applicants already be type rated in the airplane to be flown, may have more in-depth simulator screenings with engine out maneuvers. To find out exactly what your experience will entail, check the gouge.

Some companies also require their applicants to take a written test. These tests often consist of basic aeronautical knowledge with multiple choice questions similar to those that might be found on the instrument and Airline Transport Pilot written exams.

Once you have determined what to expect on your interview, the next step is to start studying. A good method is to make a list of questions found on the interview gouge sites. Go down the list, answer the questions and then study your answers. For longer answers, write your answer in outline form. Don’t try to memorize the answer word for word, just remember the points that you want to make. Practice answering the questions out loud. Start in front of a mirror and then have your family and friends quiz you.

Many applicants also choose to go to a professional interview coach. There are several companies that special in helping applicants prepare for airline interviews. These services put the applicant through a mock interview and then critique their performance. Especially if the interview is with a company where hiring is very competitive, the experience of a mock interview can be valuable. Two companies that provide coaching for aviation interviews are Clark Aviation Consulting and Aviation Interview Prep Services. Other coaching services may be mentioned in interview gouge.

Pilots who are not accustomed to flying a simulator should definitely take a simulator prep course. If possible, the sim prep should take place in the same type of simulator in which the interview will take place. Follow the interview simulator profile as closely as possible, especially if it involves a complex maneuver like the ILS approach into Louisville, Ky. with a quick missed approach turn and holding pattern that was used in the simulator evaluation for a major cargo carrier. Again, check the gouge for referrals from previous applicants.

With preparation and study, you will have an excellent chance of becoming the next airline new hire. If you don’t get a job offer, don’t give up. Some companies, notably Southwest and FedEx, like to hire applicants on the second or third interview. As with anything, practice makes perfect and more interviews will improve your presentation. If all else fails, keep trying with other companies until you get your chance to hop in an airline cockpit.

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