Preparing for your pilot interview

You’ve been through the training, you’ve submitted your applications and you’ve just landed an interview with an airline – here are Pilot Career News’ top tips to prepare for your pilot interview

Look smart

It hopefully goes without saying that you should look smart for any job interview, though in an airline setting, attire is particularly important. Airline employers will be looking for candidates who can represent the company in a professional light. More than that, the airline wants to see that the person they’re interviewing is capable of relaying updates and instructions to crew with authority, or putting a nervous passenger at ease. Does he or she look personable, approachable and professional? Clean, well-ironed, professional clothing and a groomed appearance is a great start.

Speak well

By choosing to interview you, the airline has already decided that, on paper at least, you are a good candidate. Now is your chance to show them in person. Use the interview as an opportunity to show that you are capable of speaking calmly and decisively, with a good choice of language and strong English skills. Don’t use slang or idiomatic language, and don’t even think about using any bad language, no matter how informal the conversation might seem on the surface. Harness your confidence and be sure to emphasise your leadership skills, as many airlines are now recruiting with future captains in mind.

Research the most common interview questions and practise, practise, practise

The most common interview questions can be easily found on pilot forums, blogs and career sites, and there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube. There are banks and banks of sample interview questions available online, some available for a fee, while others are free. Something you’re almost certainly going to be asked is, “Why do you want to be a pilot?” Make this your best answer. Think about how your answer will set yourself apart from the other candidates.

Most airlines will be looking beyond a technical skillset and they will want to see evidence of your CRM (Crew Resource Management) skills. They are essentially looking for evidence that you will be able to manage a cockpit and flight crew effectively, as pilots must be able to manage high workloads, work with a variety of people, identify problems and make effective decisions. So be prepared for competency-based questions, such as, ‘Tell us about a time when…?’ or ‘Can you give us an example of how you have…?’

“Airlines use competency based questioning to assess your Pilot Specific Skill Set,” explains Ben Whitworth, Business Partner at Airline Prep. “These types of questions are used by the assessing team to help predict your future performance when faced with a variety of challenging situations. When preparing for these questions, keep your answers simple, effective and relevant. Don’t just ‘tell a good story’, but ensure that the answers you are delivering actually answer the questions you are faced with, and indeed deliver the appropriate skill. Our team at Airline Prep is one of several companies that offer interview prep and other assessment services, so feel free to contact us if you have an interview approaching.”

Revise for the technical part of the interview

There will also likely be a technical portion of your interview, regarding questions on the fleet that the airline operates, as well as a test of your wider aviation knowledge and technical skill, covering a range of subjects across the theoretical ATPL spectrum and perhaps the airline’s fleet.

The best way to prepare for your technical interview is to firstly try and understand what kind of technical interview you will be subjected to,” adds Ben from Airline Prep. “Will it be ATPL theory? Will it be linked to the aircraft type you will operate? Will it be a discussion about the differences between your previous aircraft type and your new aircraft type? Once you have discovered the answers to these questions, you can begin to target your preparation accordingly. Using your ATPL notes, alongside various literature will prepare you well and there are plenty of other resources out there. For instance, we’ve got an app (available at Remember to be honest, and answer what you know – don’t make things up to fill in the gaps in your knowledge!”

As Ben says, if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to be honest and say you’re not sure of the correct answer, but you would know where to find it. You can always go back to the question if the answer comes to you later in the interview, and recruiters would much rather honesty rather than a bungled or blagged answer.

Research the airline, be aware of company culture

Be careful to go into the interview having prepared more than just generic answers. Make sure you have done your research on that particular airline; know about fleet size and type, passenger numbers, its history, staff, key players in their sector, where it’s based, where it flies to – make sure you know past, present and future.

Be ready to tailor answers to suit each airline. For instance, Virgin Atlantic prides itself on being an airline with personality, so you might want to emphasise a more outgoing aspect of your character, while Ryanair has famously tight turnarounds, so you may highlight your awareness of the challenges facing pilots operating on such schedules and show how your own time management skills would fit with the airline. British Airways has a strong reputation for customer service, so they will want pilots who fit with their customer-centric operation.

Airline recruiters will respond to the fact that you’re not just passionate about aviation, but you’re also enthusiastic and informed about their airline and their business.

Think global

Sometimes, if you’re so focused on one task, you can get tunnel vision. But airlines are global businesses and are constantly influenced by factors outside aviation. Make sure you’re clued up on current affairs. Yes, airlines will want someone who’s got a passion for aviation, but they also want well-rounded people who have an awareness of the world outside it.

Interviewing for a UK-based airline? Be ready to display an awareness of how the recent referendum decision to leave the EU might affect their business. Perhaps there’s a current travel warning from the WHO, following an outbreak of disease – does this mean fewer people will be flying to a certain region? Is it a region that the airline operates in?

Plenty of cultural factors, from oil prices, to acts of terror, to volcanic eruptions can have an impact on the aviation industry; make sure to be aware of them.

Remember, an invite to interview with an airline means you’re already halfway there. Most airline recruiters aren’t aiming to trip you up, they simply want to know that you’re capable of doing the job you’ve applied for and that you’re a good fit within their company. Good luck!

Main picture © Nick Morrish/British Airways