Someone Please Explain The Airline Pilot Interview Process

Someone Please Explain The Airline Pilot Recruitment Process

“Hey Kirst, how does airline pilot recruitment process work?

How do I prepare for my interview and when’s the best time to start?”

 It’s a triple-barrelled question I am asked on a daily basis.

Obviously there are a variety of ways to prepare. I am going to give you an overview of a thorough preparation, what times lines to expect when applying to an airline, and the different areas you will be tested on.

Apologies, this is a longer blog than I usually write, but there is a lot to explain.


The Full Airline Pilot Interview/ Assessment Process looks like this:

  1. On-line application (resume and cover letter)
  2. On-line Psychometric/Aptitude testing (sometimes this is hands-on, on site for some airlines)
  3. Video Interview, SKYPE or Telephone interview
  4. Assessment Day (includes: Technical Questions / Panel Behavioural Interview / Scenario Based Questions / Flight Planning Exercise and sometimes a Clinical Assessment)
  5. Sim Test
  6. Referee Check
  7. Medical Check

Time Lines

So you’ve applied. Now what?

The waiting period following an application can vary between airlines, some airlines can move quickly if they have a shortage or quick expansion and other airlines are slower due to the large number of applications and a complex screening process.

Not much help is it… but it does vary depending on the airline.

To give you an idea, once you apply you can get a response between 2-4 weeks or 2-4 months, depending on the rate of recruitment and how many pilots have applied.

Many airlines issue time limits for the completion of the Video Interviews and On-Line Psychometric testing as the first two interactive stages. Often that is only 3 days to complete each of those, from the time of invitation.

Therefore getting ready for those processes well in advance is crucial. Especially for those with hectic rosters and not many days off. Remember, if you don’t do well in either stage you cannot progress to the Assessment Day.

Note: if you are overseas or unable to complete the processes within the time lines for a good reason, ask for an extension. Explain your circumstances clearly, often they will agree to give you one.

Video, SKYPE or Telephone Interviews

(some airlines use SKYPE or FaceCruit)

This is a pretty foreign process and not many pilots feel comfortable sitting in front of a screen and talking about themselves, therefore practice is a great idea.

Remember, anyone of the above interviews are still a “behavioural interview” so know the technique.

Here are some suggestions for prepping for the Video Interview:

  • Mac users: you have a built in recording devise on your MAC, it is the PHOTOBOOTH program. Record yourself and play it back to ensure you are presenting with good eye contact, are not seen to be reading notes and are speaking clearly.
  • You can also do a specialised Video Interview Program, where the actual interview is set up for you to practice on- line. The benefit of this is, the time limits are set, and you can get feedback from a specialist third party such as yours truly.

 Psychometric/Aptitude Testing Practice

There are many free on-line practice sites for psychometric testing.

You can request a list of the most common ones from us.

If you have performed poorly in the past however, you may want to consider doing a hands-on aptitude test where you will receive feedback on your performance and guidance on where to improve. We can help you with a hands-on test, using the top of line process that many of the airlines use.

 Understand the Behavioural Interview Technique

Universally, airlines use the Behavioural Interview Technique.

Many airlines rate your answers out of 5 points.

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It is essential that you understand this method especially with regard to how to give an example. If you don’t provide the recruitment team with an example in the right format, you cannot get enough points to be rated highly.

It also helps to understand what attributes and skills the airlines are seeking in a pilot in order to select the right example.

For Example:

A common question is “ Tell us about a time you deviated from SOP’s”.

It’s a tough one but not if you know why the airline is asking this.

 Now you might think, airlines don’t want pilots who break the rules, and you are correct. But airlines know most pilots have been in positions where they had to deviate, so you cannot avoid this question by saying, “I haven’t”.

 Lets look at it from the airlines perspective. What are they actually trying to find out? Well, they are actually wondering, does this pilot have a “Broad Mindset” or the ability to use “Lateral Thinking”. Can he/she see the big picture and find the safest solution to a situation rather than just following the SOP’s with blinkers on?

There are circumstances that are suitable, I can think of around 8 off the top of head. It is not a trick question; it is simply about how you behave. Remember that safety is the only acceptable reason to deviate.

 SIM Practice

Gosh, where do I start? To put it bluntly, this is the biggest regret pilots have. The number of times I have heard “I didn’t do very well in the SIM, I should have done a practice test”…. usually with a few expletives added for good measure.

I know the preparation costs add up, but the SIM is usually the final hurdle, so if you do the right preparation for every other aspect of the Assessment Day and not the SIM, you will kick yourself.

Airlines are moving to “hand flying”. By this I mean taking the automation off the SIM and seeing you hand fly it. Apart from that they are looking at how quickly you adjust in changing circumstances and they will assess you on your CRM skills.

Even if you are coming from a multi crew operation you simply don’t hand fly often, and this test puts you under added pressure/scrutiny. So if you can afford it and have the time…. I highly recommend you do a practice SIM.

 PS: If you have just done a recurrency SIM and nailed it, you will probably be ok. In my mind that’s the only exception not to do one.

PPS: make sure your trainer is top notch, has airline experience and knows what the recruitment SIM assessor expects.

Many of our notes or Pilot Feedback as we call it, include the SIM profiles for a variety of airlines.

Prepare Your Referees

Your referees work for you, so make sure they are ready to act on behalf. That they know what you are saying about yourself and which airline you are applying to.

If you cannot tell your current employer about your plans, select a trusted colleague to act for you who has a position of seniority. I just wrote a blog on this so check out my Blog “Are Your Referees Ready” for more info.

That’s it for now, myself and my team are here to help, so ask us anything, we are always up for a chat.




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