Written by Doug Taylor   

There are many sources of information available concerning interviews specific to airline pilots. Some of these sources include "Checklist for Success" by Cage Consulting and "Airline Pilot Interviews" by Irv Jasinski. In my opinion, I think I can sum up the important stuff in a page on my website so I can save you a little reading and some precious money.

Be Prepared
If you're serious about a career in aviation, there are certain items that I'd consider standard:

a. A Good Interview Suit - Going to the "Men's Wearhouse" is just fine, besides I don't think the pilots that are interviewing you would know what an "Armani" is anyway. Standard dark blue or black with subtle pinstripes with a traditional cut on the coat. Black shiny shoes and a tasteful tie. I read a lot of books that had chapters and chapters on what to wear, what colors, et cetera. I think the airlines can care less as long as you look professional. In fact, during my personnel interview with both Skyway Airlines and Delta Air Lines, they both told me it was ok if I removed the jacket and relaxed a little. Take off your jacket and relax if they offer.

b. Proper Documentation - Run a couple of copies of your medical, licenses and certificates and put them into a briefcase so if the company would like to copy them, you've already saved them some time. Also, just as a precaution, have a copy of your birth certificate, passport and college degrees. If you don't already have a passport, go ahead and invest in one because if you wait until you need one, rush orders can be prohibitively expensive. No one has ever asked to see a copy of my college or high school transcripts but be sure to have a copy handy if an interviewer decides to prove me wrong.

c. Know The Airline - I'd highly suggest that you know at least something about the airline that you're interviewing with. What types of aircraft they operate. Their hubs, maybe the pilot bases and just general information about the airline. Why did I say "-maybe- the pilot bases?" Major airlines generally have bases in major metropolitan areas whereas commuter airlines like Mesa may have numerous bases in strange places like Bullhead City, Arizona. There's no use of discussing your dreams of flying a Boeing 777 and living in La Crosse, Wisconsin when you're interviewing for Southwest Airlines.

d. "Get the Gouge" -I'll probably get some slack for saying this, but always try to find the "gouge". Basically, "gouge" is a term used to describe information compiled after interviews from both successful and unsuccessful applicants about what they experienced during the process. I strongly urge you, if possible, to find people that have been through the interview process of the airline at which you're applying to and speak with them at length. A good place to look for airline specific "gouge" would be Will Fly for Food which is a website where people exchange interview experiences. However, do not under any circumstance use "canned answers". "Canned answers" are responses given during an interview where instead of answering the question sincerely, the applicant will give the answer that they feel the interviewer wants to hear, or what someone tells you to say. Believe me, these guys can smell a prefabricated answer like a rotten can of tuna.

e. Always Be Prepared - Unless you've arrived at an airline where you want to retire with, I highly recommend you stay in "interview mode". Always keep copies of your certificates and medical, obtain a first class medical every 6 months (even if you're a first officer), keep your interview suit tailored, keep your logbook neat and up to date and keep trying to make new network contacts. Aviation is "feast or famine" - meaning that either no one is calling for you an interview, or everyone is calling simultaenously. It'll reduce a lot of the anxiety and nervousness that occurs when an airline calls you for an interview if you've kept your logbooks, medical, certificates and interview suit up to date; so instead of rushing around town making copies, arranging a appointment to get a new medical, and perusing through six months of unlogged flight time in your logbook, all you have to do is relax and review.

I can't overemphasize the importance of networking. In fact, I'll say it three more times: network network network (understand?). Commuter airlines see hundreds of applications every month from people who have similar credentials, good grades and a thirst to be hired. Major airlines may have 10,000 applications on file at any one time. During a brisk year, the majors (United, Delta, American) may hire 800 to 1,000 pilots so the only way to stand out as that 1 in 10 pilots with applications on file is having an "internal recommendation". Try and meet someone who works for the airline who you want to work for and have them fax, email, offer a letter of recommendation or better yet, walk an application into the pilot recruitment department in person.

To further emphasize the importance of networking, I'll give you my own example. I was friends with a UPS 747 captain out in California while I was a flight instructor. It turns out that years ago he worked for Air California and flew with a pilot who was now CEO for Skyway Airlines. My resume got to the right hands, I interviewed, did the simulator evaluation and was offered a class date for new hire training starting three weeks later.

The most important thing you can do when you start your job search is to apply! You wouldn't believe the amount of people that I meet that have fantastic credentials but haven't sent an application to the majors because they feel that they don't have enough hours to be considered. This determination will best be left up to the airlines that you're applying to. They'll decide if you're not quite qualified for the job and if you're not, you won't get an interview - pure and simple! A few weeks ago, we had a brand new hire here at Delta that was on his "observation ride" as part of his indoctrination training. This person was 23 years old, had freshly upgraded to captain at Atlantic Coast Airlines (United Express) and is now training to be a 737-200 first officer. He took a chance, applied and was successfully hired. On the other hand, we have new hires on the other side of the spectrum. Some have had late career changes and are in their upper 40's to the lower 50's by the time they're hired at the major airlines.

The Interview
When an airline calls for an interview, sometimes they will provide a non-revenue pass to the headquarters, other times they won't. But try and make travel arrangements to allow yourself time to resort to "plan b" if you miss a flight or there is a cancellation. Also, find a hotel near enough to the headquarters to reduce any transportation headaches.

Airlines vary in the interview process. Some airlines have the applicants do computerized testing, psychological evaluations, simulator testing, etc. There are a lot of people who have made a business out of preparing you for an airline pilot interview. I really couldn't testify whether or not they're necessary (they can be very expensive) because I've never used a preparation service and have gotten both jobs I've interviewed for. If the airline which you're interviewing for has you fly a flight simulator, run down to your local airport and rent a simulator and an instructor for a few hours. It'll be tremendously less expensive than the "prep courses" that some companies offer and you have greater flexibility.

The most important part of the interview is realize that honesty is "golden" and they're evaluating two things: that you are a person who they'd like to fly with on a trip and that you'll have no problems in initial training. You don't need to be Einstein, Chuck Yeager or a hot shot like Maverick from Top Gun. Just a person who'd be a pleasure to fly with, get along with others and do a good job in training.

The Medical Evaluation
The medical evaluation, or physical, is fairly close to what you'll see during a standard FAA class one medical. They don't expect anyone to be medically perfect (is anyone?) but they would like to make sure that they'll get a good few years out of you and evaluate if you'll make it to the age 60 retirement without any major problems. If you have any conditions like high-normal blood pressure, vision difficulties or anything else, it isn't a disqualifier, just be sure to have documentation from a physician to help out the company doctor ascertain your condition. Generally it's a standard FAA physical with the additon of blood samples, a drug test and sometimes a brief psychological evaluation depending on the airline. In general, if you have no problems with the FAA medical, you'll pretty much be ok for an airline medical.

That's really about all there is to it. Aviation is an awesome career with a lot of opportunity and I hope I saved you from weeks of reading and a few hundred dollars in "interview preparation" with the information on this web page. If you have any comments, corrections or input on the information presented here, please feel free to contact me.