10 things to do before Pilot Selection

In this article, Senior First Officer, Technical Instructor and Cadet Mentor Adam Howey shares his experience, putting forward ten important things to consider before you begin the process of pilot selection.

There are no real academic qualifications required to be a pilot. FTOs (Flight Training Organisations) set some academic entry requirements; beyond those however, they focus on their own selection process. Over multiple stages, pilot selection typically involves online application, aptitude and maths testing, interview and group exercises and simulator assessment. Although pilot selection may be unfamiliar, like any job interview, preparation is the key – do not leave any of it to chance. Here are a ten tips that will give you a good start.

1) Why do you want to be a pilot?

It is the one question you will certainly be asked. Why do you want to be a pilot? Why do you want to work for us? Every time you practise your interview, answer this question. Make it your best.

2) Know the job

Many people dream of becoming an airline pilot, but you must be able to give substance to that dream. Think about how you would answer questions such as, “Tell me about a typical day as a pilot?” or “What do you know about the job that makes you want to be pilot?”

Ask yourself what you know about the scheme you are applying to. What do you know about the syllabus or which phase of training are you looking forward to?

3) Get close to aeroplanes

There are other jobs available at airports, either part-time, full-time or as a volunteer for work experience. Airlines require thousands of staff to support their aircraft. Handling Agents such as Servisair employ teams of staff who take responsibility for aircraft on the ground. There can be no better job for a wannabe airline pilot than a dispatcher. Even your local airfield needs its grass cutting. What can you do to demonstrate your motivation to be a pilot?

4) Call a pilot

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who is a pilot. If they haven’t already offered, ask if they would mind you talking with them to discuss your application. Every single pilot I know would help you. Write down everything they say, and if you get a word in, ask them what they like about the job. At interview you might mention you spoke to this person about your application which will further show your interest in the profession and preparation.

5) Research

Accurate preparation is the key to success at selection. Investigate every stage of selection. Use the ATO, internet resources and speak to people who have been through the process before you. Find out every last detail and decide what the ATO is looking for at each stage.

Next, research everything else. The ATO company, their history, the syllabus, the aircraft, their locations. The partner airlines, their history, their routes, their aircraft, their engines, their bases. Everything.

6) Practise

Aptitude and numerical testing can sound daunting, but they are simply hurdles to overcome. Use your research to replicate each stage and practise, practise, practise. It is said that you cannot practise for aptitude tests, but that does not mean leave it to chance. You can still prepare by familiarising yourself with the testing process and sharpening your skills.

7) Proof read

Find someone who reads applications for a living, or even just your friend who got an A in English. Ask them to read your application. You would be surprised at how many applications have spelling mistakes, missing words or don’t make sense.

8) Film yourself

Practise your interview, but do not use a pen. You must practise answering questions out loud. This is the Socratic method. Answering in your head or on paper will not work, so practise – in the shower, in your car and every spare minute. Give a friend a list of questions, ask for a mock interview and then ask for a debrief. Also, in this modern age you could use your smart phone to film your mock interview. Once you have finished cringing at yourself, you are able to scrutinise, improve and repeat.

9) Buy a suit

If anyone attends selection without a shirt and tie as a minimum, they are an idiot. Why wouldn’t you wear a dark suit, white shirt and tie? In a competency based interview, appearance is likely to be a marking criteria.

10) Watch the news

Nobody expects a candidate to have the answer to the Euro crisis, but a very basic understanding of current affairs and its influence on the aviation industry is required. So get reading and pay attention to the world around you.

Adam Howey is a Senior First Officer with British Airways, with additional roles as an Instructor and Cadet Pilot Mentor, and a university lecturer and mentor at the University of Leeds. To read more from SFO Adam Howey, visit http://getstripes.co.uk


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