Tips on Getting Hired as a Pilot
If your goal is to be hired as a pilot, you want to give yourself every advantage. Fortunately, pilot jobs are plentiful and salaries are high, but you still want to put your best foot forward to land your dream job as a commercial airline pilot or any other pilot job you are seeking. The following tips can help ensure you will be hired for the pilot career of your choice.
How to Get Hired as a Pilot
- Tip 1: Choose a good flight school.
If you have already completed flight training, this will be a moot point. However, if you are in the beginning phase of pursuing your pilot career, choosing the best flight school is important. You want to complete your training at a flight school that has a solid reputation, provides highly qualified instructors, offers a large fleet of training aircraft and simulators, and offers networking opportunities to meet with representatives from the airlines. A flight school that is growing and expanding is a good choice. Remember, the flight school where you train will likely be where you hold your first pilot job (as an instructor), so you want to make sure it’s a good fit.
- Tip 2: Get to know the airlines & aircraft.
Some people know from an early age that they want to fly a particular aircraft or fly for a particular airline. Perhaps a family member flew for Delta or United, and there is already a bond with that company. If not, it is smart to review the hiring requirements and aircraft of any airline you’re considering, from fractional and charter to regional and international. Knowing the hiring requirements and learning about the various types of aircraft ahead of time can help prepare you for the exact airline career you are seeking. Learn about the company values and mission statement ahead of time. Be sure these fit with your own values.
- Tip 3: Be in top physical shape.
Airline pilots must pass a Class 1 medical. This means you want to be in the best possible health to be a top candidate. Don’t smoke. Don’t vape. No one wants to smell that on you anyway. Don’t drink alcohol to excess. Eat healthy, and keep your weight under control. Exercise regularly. Get plenty of rest. Maintain a positive attitude, and strengthen mental and emotional health through relaxation techniques such as meditation. Your health is your most valuable asset in this profession. Take good care of yourself. Your passengers are counting on a pilot who is in good health, well rested, and not under any undue stress. Your employer expects this, too!
- Tip 4: Prepare for the interview.
Once you know where you want to apply, be sure you meet all requirements and prepare yourself for the interview. If you don’t yet have the type ratings you need, try to get them. Or, make sure the airline offers that training as part of its initial hiring and training process. You want to make sure you meet all of the general requirements before you schedule an interview, such as medical, passport, etc. Have your paperwork ready before you go. Walking into an interview without having first met the basics is never a good idea.
Before the interview, familiarize yourself once more with the company. Review the mission statement, corporate values, major hubs, aircraft types, and any recent news articles about the company. You want to be prepared to speak comfortably about why you want to work there and why they should want to hire you. Being knowledgeable about the company will put you at ease during the interview and make you more confident. If you have made connections with anyone at the company, perhaps through a pilot career seminar at your flight school, be sure to mention that. Some job applications will ask if you know someone at the company.
Review technical information daily before your interview.
Don’t cram the night before. Set aside 30 minutes or so a few times each day to review technical knowledge, such as analyzing an IFR flight plan. You’ll be expected to suggest alternate altitudes, discuss weather minimums, and determine which approach to take, among other things. By reviewing technical information a few times each day prior to your interview, you’ll have the knowledge at your fingertips. The technical interview is an opportunity to show off your knowledge and skills. Reviewing and refreshing this knowledge every day before the interview is the best approach. No detail is too small to review.
Practice your responses aloud. Perhaps you can do a mock interview with someone like a CFI. Be prepared to discuss NOTAMs, METARs, TAFs, and all types of airspace. You will likely be expected to decode raw weather data. Try teaching this information before you go in for the interview. The ability to explain these concepts and demonstrate your ability to decipher them can put you in the first position for being hired. Be interesting. When you can answer a question by providing a firsthand experience, you will be more memorable than other candidates.
Review reflections from former applicants who have interviewed with the airline. This will provide valuable insight into what you might expect, especially with regard to the technical questions.
Look your best. Wear proper attire, get a haircut, trim your fingernails, and shine your shoes. People do judge you by your appearance, so make sure you’re clean, neat, and presentable. Dress professionally. Wear a suit. Leave the cologne and fragrance at home. Most importantly, wear a smile.
- Tip 5: Be ready to discuss salary and compensation.
Pilot salaries are at an all-time high. In fact, many airlines are offering signing bonuses along with generous compensation packages. However, to make sure you begin at the highest possible base pay, you should research the current pay rates before you go in for the interview. You don’t want to be offered a job on the spot without being prepared to agree to the compensation you are offered. This is where you have to do your homework. Sites such as Glassdoor compile salary information reported by employees, but there may also be salary information available on the company website. Know before you go. Ask about bonuses, per diem and other reimbursed expenses, vacation, medical, paid time off, etc. Do your research ahead of time so you will be prepared to ask the best possible questions.