Personality is ‘valid predictor’ of pilot performance, says study

A study released by cut-e, an assessment specialist, has highlighted personality as a key indicator for those considering a pilot career.

The white paper, called The predictive power of assessment for pilot selection, examines the specific abilities, competencies and personality required by pilots and it explains assessment for these attributes using psychometric tests at an early stage of the recruitment process.

“Pilots need to be able to remain calm in monotonous and sometimes stressful situations, make quick and sound decisions under pressure, persist in the face of difficulty and keep control of their emotions,” said Nora Nienhaus, Research Consultant at cut-e and co-author of the paper. “They need certain qualities, for example they have to be tough-minded and independent. Also, the captain’s personality has a significant impact on the motivation and performance of the crew. When selecting pilots, you should therefore assess the personality of candidates to ensure they have what it takes to master the tasks and challenges they’ll face in the role. Successful pilots score high on the interpersonal scales of a personality questionnaire and low on the emotional scales.”

The paper also details the physical and mental fitness needs of pilots. “There’s more to being a pilot than flying an aircraft,” said Nienhaus. “This paper will help recruiters to meet the challenge of selecting pilots who can cope with the tasks required before, during and after each flight, manage the crew and ensure the safety of all passengers and crew members.”

As well as the practical skills required to fly an aircraft, pilots must also display interactive competencies, operational skills such as situational and error awareness, and the correct motivation and self discipline. The study also highlights the need to take pilots’ mental state, their physical health and sleep or food deprivation into account, to avoid impulsivity and hazardous actions.

The predictive power of assessment for pilot selection can be freely downloaded from